Although I am in Greece it’s still sad that I am not going to get together with dad and grandma and Larry for a typical Cuban meal like we do most Christmas eves. I headed back to the Acropolis this morning. I thought I was early. I got back to the lookout point and was blown away by the daytime view; an ocean of white, stained by splotches and streaks of green and grey. Just as I got done taking photos, one by one people from a tour group marched up cluttering the view. Before they left I hurried up and left so I didn’t have to wait behind them if there was a line. Along the ascent there is a tiny Byzantine church; There are several of these around the city but this was the simplest I have yet to see. There are four columns in a square, an arch connects each pillar. Above the square that is formed there is a dome which was nearly the only source of light. Only 20 or 30 chairs fit in the nave. Around the four plilars some walls were built to encase the structure.
When I got up to the Acropolis the gates were closed and there was a crowd of people, some shouting in various languages. Behind the gates several “workers” were standing around; one was at the gate yelling back at the angry tourist.
I would generally laud this attempt by Greek workers to get what they demand, but their strike hampered my ability to see one of the main sights in Greece. (Their strike is actually pretty effective… the only way businesses (and the government) understand these things is when you hit their pocketbooks. I would estimate that there were around 250 people today when I was there plus imagine how many more came throughout the day. If you multiply that by the 10 Euro ticket fee it’s a significant sum of money.)
My only saving grace may be that I am here for a few days some people’s itinerary only has them in Athens for one day. Before things got too riled up one of those people was so determined to get a view of the site that he scaled the gate and made a half-hearted run for it. Some Spaniards I started talking to were rocking the gate and many others were highly agitated. There were 5 people working, if 20 hopped the fence at least some of us would have made it, but I really didn’t feel like winding up in Greek jail for the rest of my trip. After about 15 minutes they opened the gate and threw the fence hopper out. I’m uncertain whether any action was taken, but I never saw cops and he seemed unfazed.
One of the funny moments of the whole ordeal is when one of the Spaniards was filming the strikers and a dog slipped through a small hole in the gate and the Spaniard yelled “you are going to let the dog in but not us!” The Striker and several angry tourists laughed. In an attempt to get a view of the Acropolis I searched out the highest point I could see in the distance; a HUGE hill / mountain. I climbed back down and headed in the general direction of the hill.
Really I was looking for the university; I had been planning to find the big hill, Mount Lycabettus, since last night. In the neighborhood called Exarhia, a student/ University area, there was some really cool, well done graffiti. Crossing some plaza I turned the corner and passed an unopen kiosk of some sort and there were three shaggy looking people one lady was squatting on the floor holding a syringe. Where I am staying is tourist town; where I was BIG CITY: noise, trash, smells (good and bad). I gave up on the university and just headed for the big mountain. I figured that as long as kept heading uphill I would wind up there; miraculously it worked. Most of the way up there is a parking lot as big as a football field for taxis and tourist. Like some Wild West showdown, a guy built like a barrel comes walking straight at me. Smoking a cigarette, arms bowed out at his side like a tough guy, black leather jacket. I veer to the right just enough to put a few big steps between us. I had the sun to my face so I already had my brows furrowed but not in anger. I made eye contact for a second or two then kept watching him out of the corner of my eye. When we were about to cross paths (like two cars on the interstate- we had space between us) he jumped at me. I just kept walking, leaving him standing there like the goon he is.
At the top of this mountain there is another of those tiny churches, a house (if you could call it that) and a little café. The city goes on even further than I thought; I could see all the way to the sea. After spending a while taking it all in I headed off trying to keep in mind which way was “home” but before long I had lost my bearings.