Ancient Hellas

You come to Athens and you find chaos. Worries. A future shrouded in doubt. But that's not the picture I had of Greece before the crisis struck. Greece is the place where western civilisation was born. The cradle. The place where culture, language, rites developed. The place I learnt about at school. Dates about battles. Emperors. The development of democracy. How was it with the Romans and the Greeks? The Persian wars? And Alexander the Great? 

And then you come to these places. To the Acropolis. The hill where over 3000 years of history were written. And you share it with about 5000 tourists in the searing sun (stupid idea to go there at lunchtime...). :-)

It is fascinating to imagine how people lived here in 500 BC. And you wonder how everyday life might have looked like in those days. The ruins don't tell you very much. 

And then your personal guide (thank you Anna, thank you so very much!) takes you to the Acropolis Museum. And to the Museum of Cycladic Art. And you find explanations. In these museums you find descriptions of how the old Hellenes were educated, how marriage looked like and how they were trained in sport in order to become warriors. 

And the Spartans. Men and women were educated to defend their city. Both genders were involved. An ancient place of emancipation. 

It helps to have a historically savvy guide. But all museums have very good explanations in both Greek and English language. And if you like you can go deeper and go to education sessions or ask historians that are available at the Acropolis Museum. 

History turned alive. I loved it. And I want more. 

And here are some links to websites around ancient Hellas in Athens:

http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acropolis_of_Athens 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenon

http://www.cycladic.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=node&cnode=1&clang=1

 

Olympic Grounds

Greece hosted the Olympic Games in 2004. And as usual plans were made, infrastructure was improved, a new suburb was created and architects had the opportunity of fulfilling their dreams and wishes. About 10bn Euros were invested in buildings and infrastructure.

And already in those days people in Greece were sceptical about the outcome and the question if this huge investment was worthwhile. And after the games, 10 years onwards not very much is left of the impressive architecture and the benefit that politicians promised their people. 

The Olympic buildings are not being maintained. When you walk the grounds where the games happened you find deserted buildings, weeds and decay. And you wonder why not even the attempt was made to maintain at least some of the sport grounds.

A whole velodrome is crumbling. Inside seats are waiting for visitors and spectators that never come. Swimming pools are full of water that nobody ever uses. Archery targets are rotting in the sun with weeds spreading all over the place. 

You wonder why these grounds are accessible at all. They don't give you an impression of the games, of the atmosphere and of competitions that athletes were striving for to win. This is decay and the symbol of a country that is struggling to survive. I was sad and angry when I left this place. 

Athens

I am in Athens. In Greece! At the cradle. Where our culture started. Where the wars were fought that determined how the occident looked like over centuries. Where museums and ruins tell the stories of ancient splendour and power. And where people now worry about every single day, every single week to come. 

What a discrepancy. Here the powerful heritage that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. And there the worries and utter despair of a country that is facing economical disaster. 

And yet life is wonderful here. The climate is exceptional with warm days and mild nights that invite us to stroll the city and spend evenings in cafes outside on the trottoirs. People are friendly and inviting and full of humour and warmth. And the city is buzzing with vibrant life. Yes, it is noisy and chaotic and sometimes puzzling. And if you don't speak the language (like me) it is not always easy to understand first hand what is going on. But everything is interesting and everything arouses my curiosity. And everywhere are new discoveries to be made. 

Yes, I love Athens and I find it fascinating.