Today, we take the metro.
Athens’ metro system is new and wildly easy to navigate. We buy 24 hour passes and off we go. Toward Demitrious on our way to the Acropolis and toward Antonios on our way home. Clean, fast and insanely efficient. No need for a car because the city is incredibly walkable.
The Parthenon is a temple to Athena, or not. That is how it is referred to, but archeologists document that the structure never hosted the cult of Athena, and was probably just a grand setting for statues, as well as the place for the treasury.
But this is not what it is for us.
For us, it is a discussion on how inconceivable it is that this marble was brought up the hill we just climbed. It is looking out over the city and understanding why this spot was chosen, you can see everything from here. It is looking out onto a neighboring hill and wondering what it is that stands atop that hill and deciding to figure out the next day. It is noticing that the structure is all marble, because we are having to choose our footing carefully and still we are sliding. It is hearing languages from all over the world swirl around us and through the crowd. It is watching men on scaffolding carefully tending and repairing this beloved monument. It is standing to one side, looking out over all that still remains and imagining it all as it once was.
I don’t know why I had always thought the Parthenon was stone. Well, marble is stone, of course, but this is not what I had expected…at all. And I guess that is why people stream into this gorgeous place. We stand incredulous. These walkways were once walked by people in togas and sandles. The people who constructed these columns that we would later name doric columns and the marble stairs that look like they might have been carved out of marble only yesterday…they could not have imagined what this would be like thousands of years later…people from all over the world walking their hallways. We are tourists here. This was a usable structure in their time.
At night, we walked through Plaka looking for a restaurant we had heard of that had a view of the Parthenon lit up at night. Each restaurant, with white linened tables lining the narrow streets, would have made for an impossibly romantic dining spot. The candles on the tables and lanterns on the wall on the exterior of the restaurant created a scene worthy of a Hollywood movie. Surprising to find it here though, these streets look like what I imagine in the streets of Venice or Rome.
We find the restaurant, and sit on a tree shaded deck with an incredible view of the dramatically lit Parthenon. They take great care here to light their history well.
There is a Greek flag flying to one side of the monument, a recent addition. Ellie explains that Athens was occupied and this pole flew the German flag. Two Greek men, incensed by the claiming of something so clearly belonging to Athens, snuck into the encampment and replaced the enemy flag with a Greek one. They were eventually caught and executed. Their story is proudly captured on a plaque next to the flag.
There is a long running joke that Greek people insist that everything was invented in Greece. “Give me a word and I will tell you the Greek word that it comes from,” says a character from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” But in this place, where the buildings themselves are centuries older than any construction back home, the point is well taken. Looking into the dark sky at the dramatic majesty of the Parthenon, I can feel the birth place of democracy. I can feel the stretching of the mind by Plato and Socrates. Sitting here, I believe in this moment, that everything was invented here.