Ellie’s elegant friend, Katerina, met us at the airport, piled us into taxis and took us into the center of Athens, where our hotel sat situated in the middle of everything. The Titania is a block away from the national library, and then it is an easy walk through history from there. Past buildings called “the university” and “parliament”…all very recent construction for a country as old as Greece, but ancient to our eyes.
But we don’t see any of this right away. A nap is no longer a “nice to have.” It is a priority. I am not sure how anyone else slept, because I fell into a coma. When I woke up, Haley, who has fought sleep since she was a baby, is sitting up telling us that we missed protestors marching by the hotel in the street. I am thrilled she got to see them…and anxious to get going so that we might see them as well.
Our first walk in Greece was sweet and exciting at the same time. We walk past the national library and Grant runs through the pigeons at the foot of the stairs. We walk past the University and see a lean-to built as a form of communication…Afghans petitioning for political asylum. We walk past vine swept buildings between pastry shops and watch stores. Along the way, everything is tagged and stenciled…but somehow, at least for me, this adds to the scene rather than detracts. This is a place where people can speak and they do.
After just a few blocks, we are at the parliament building. We hear it before we see it. Protestors chanting and singing, line the streets and sidewalks in front of the building. The sidewalks are tagged with images of, what I assume to be, members of parliament…with lines slashing through them. This group is angry about the economy. They want something done about it. They are demanding something be done. But these crowds are not like the ones in London last fall. The protest, while serious, is actually peaceful enough for our family to walk through. The only fear I feel is that I will lose sight of the kids in the big crowds…which I don’t, of course.
Further down, we see Zeus’ original temple, still in excavation, and in the distance…the Parthenon. It is too late in the evening to make the trek there tonight, even though it is enticingly close, but we will get there tomorrow.
But tonight, we make our way back to the hotel, through the same crowds we encountered on our way out. It is dark now…and there is something more dramatic about the protests, not threatening…dramatic. The lighting of this city, a city that knows something about drama, makes everything beautiful. There is a concert in front of the University now…next to the lean-to made for Afghani asylum seekers. In Greek and English, they are singing songs about freedom.
And I remember that we are walking the streets that brought us democracy. And here, in Athens, it is good to see how alive that spirit is.