4-1, 7:30 PM, Athens
So we arrived OK. After a long, cramped ride from Chicago to London, I settled in at British Airways’ executive lounge, where Rachel arrived shortly after I did. It was good to see her, and she looked all pro with her backpack and whatnot. We had a long layover, and boarded our plane to Athens around 9:45 PM. We’d tried to talk about how things were going with us [our relationship] in Heathrow, but I was very tired and kind of annoyed so it didn’t really go anywhere. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get my mind off of “my troubles”–made worse in public places, where there are hundreds of girls for me to be constantly evaluating–not sexually or anything, just… [hmm, this one is kind of hard to explain sensibly…]. So, the peace of airplane solitude was definitely broken.
On the seat in front of us on the flight, there was a young Greek woman, and I realized again how attracted I am to foreign girls. Something about speaking other languages just makes them infinitely more beautiful…I wonder if that’s something that would wear off, if it’s something I should really care about or look for…I don’t know. Is it true mystery or just surface mystery? Probably depends [just like with women in my own culture] on the girl.
Anyway, our flight got in on time, and Rach and I found the bus to Syntagma square alright–10 minutes later, and we were waking up the receptionist at our hostel! The room was small but we were tired, and it was after 4 AM. The next day we slept until about 2 PM, then braved the ancient Athens streets for the first time. I was pretty amazed by how close our place was to the center of everything–the Acropolis, the temples, etc… Rach and I found a grocery store and got a loaf of bread and some chicken salad for lunch. Not quite gyros, but cheap. Then we proceeded to get ourselves lost until dinner, taking in the maze of old streets, the views of the agora [the ancient agora] and the acropolis which promised an enjoyable morrow. [Even though] tired, we decided to walk across town to the Lykebatos hill, on which was a church and some awesome views of just-past-sunset Athens. Food there being too expensive, we walked all the way back to our hostel and ate at an estiatorio [restaurant] next door around 9 PM–the meal, which was excellent, lasted till 11 or so!
This morning, being Saturday, the 1st, we woke up relatively early to go on our walking tour. It was as you’d expect such tours would be–a lot of walking interspersed with some ancient monuments. Being some of the most important ancient monuments in the world, it was an incredible experience. In the space of 15 minutes I’d stood where Socrates had taught, and sat where Paul had preached in the Areopagus. So much history I was overwhelmed by it–but the hundreds of other tourists there didn’t seem to be–talking, laughing, smoking, littering…on the Areopagus, the stone smelled of cheap beer from a recently-broken bottle. It made me angry at humanity, both specifically for littering there, and more generally for creeping with its ugly modernity over and into places which should have been kept holy as monuments to the more important kinds of progress–philosophical and religious, for example.
In my opinion, to be in ancient Athens and to be anything but in awe is to be disrespectful of our own nature–all that God has given us to be. So in that sense I’m actually quite glad I don’t live here–these monuments can thus stay mysterious and far-away, otherworldly. The chattering tourist mob still kind of ruined it for me, but at least my imagination could still conjure up the sights and smells of a bygone era, when people were probably exactly how they were today, in terms of forgetting how to be in awe. Even then, better to have been the pilgrim from a distant village than a desensitized resident of the Acropolis. Well, I’m rambling–I should get Rachel and find a place to eat dinner. Tonight we pack, for tomorrow we leave very early for the boat to Santorini, where we’ll spend the next 3 days!