My husband and I are following our mad-about-Greek-history-and-myths 12-year-old around Greece. So, after a day of sightseeing, you end up in the hotel pool instead of the bar. But that’s okay, since it comes after she’s impressed the professional tour guides we’ve hired (we don’t want to run afoul of the Greek Ministry of Culture for using an unlicensed guide) that one has offered hire her as his assistant.
When our flight touches down in Athens, she tells us how Athena beat Poseidon in the quest to become the city’s patron. (Poseidon struck his trident atop the Acropolis and a salt-water spring gushed forth. But the Athena won with the gift of the olive tree and pottery. And, points out our daughter, the Athenians became a great sea power even without Poseidon).
At breakfast in the rooftop restaurant of the Grand Bretagne, we gaze at the Acropolis and talk Pericles (who built the Parthenon) and Persians. Shecurls her lip at the Persians, who thought they could easily overcome Greece and make their way to Europe, an arrogant miscalculation that cost the Persians multiple defeats and freed up the Greeks to lay the foundations for western civilization.
But actually being here introduces our daughter to contemporary Greece. There are the skateboarders in Constitution Square, which she can watch from our hotel balcony. And we can also watch the changing of the guard in front of Parliament.
When we wander the neighborhoods at the base of the Acropolis, the Plaka and Monasteriki, we get to see the ruins of an entire Roman market or Greek agora (open marketplace) up close.
The streets are packed with tourists, even though we are still a few weeks away from the start of the true tourist season (2014 is up 15% so far for tourism over 2013, which itself was up 35% over 2012). We settle down for a mixed grill of meat and fish and watch the parade of people and peddlers that pass us by. All have to squeeze aside for the occasional sightseeing train trundling down the pedestrian pathway, along with the odd motorbike. Just beneath us, running between our bustling restaurant row and the reconstructed Greek stoa (basically the ancient Greeks’ version of a shopping center) in front of us, runs an actual train. Its cars are covered with what, to my New York eyes, is classic 1970s graffiti of bubble fonts and geometric patterns. It’s street theater of the absurd.
The sun sets and a nearly full moon rises over the Acropolis, which we can see from our table. Gradually, lights illuminate the Doric columns of the Parthenon; we leave for our hotel and an evening dip in the pool.
Tomorrow — the Acropolis up close!