Athens – A Destination That Reaches One’s Being…
Athens is the legendary place where I yearned to visit.
A 500-mile distance between Athens and Romanian Capital of Bucharest is seemingly 5,000 miles apart for an ordinary Romanian girl like me. In a communist country like Romania ruled by a long-running regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, travelling outside the country was then close to impossibility if you have no strong connections within the ruling government.
Desperation and hopelessness brought me to content myself with reading books as if I have toured around the world. My books on Greek mythology introduced me to the realm of gods and goddesses ruling Mount Olympus where my imagination was fascinated. I fell in love with the strong character of Artemis, fearless goddess of the hunt and Apollo’s twin sister.
Finally, the world has opened to Romania during the fall of Ceausescu regime. Unfortunately, my family could not afford to move out when open society came to us. Gladly, it happened just after I turned 18 so I contracted a job in import/export Company owned by a kind Greek man. The Artemis characteristic pushed me to aggressively perform well. I worked really hard and it yielded promotion from routine work of invoices and inventory to processing of pertinent bank documents. My craze over Greece never faded but has only grown fonder by being reminded of the luxurious items from the West reaching our company in Romania by passing through Greece.
Until wonderful experience came to make me believe that dreams do come true. My kind Greek employer knew the desire of my heart to visit Greece. Surprisingly, our boss awarded other executives with a trip to the land of my dream – 10 days Greece stay over Easter! Recognizing my ambition, I was among those included in the trip. The itinerary was really great, I will set my foot to Athens and we stay in our boss’ family villa at Porto Hydra. How will I ever make my heart beat normally when it is filled with excitement for a dream come true? I felt no fear even if it was my first flight with no previous travels outside our country.
The most awaited moment came… I was off to my first flight but there was no discomfort felt. I was engulfed with eagerness to see Greece were culture and religion were said to be the same as mine yet completely different as I personally witnessed it there.
Mythology flashback in meeting Acropolis, the Upper City…
An ancient place situated in a hill, overlooking Athens. Flower blossoms during springtime that hillside blaze color of wildflowers. My colleagues were very considerate making sure that I saw the wonders of Acropolis. All the scenes changed into the stories of politics in ancient mythology 25 centuries earlier. The place has many buildings and temples dedicated to gods, time has taken its toll but based on the stories I have read, but the past still has semblance to the place. One of the mythical places in Acropolis is Parthenon with Doric columns. I saw the most buildings that survived several Century ago towering over great Athens. This is Parthenon the one included in historic rebuilt of temples after Persian invasion during the Golden Age of Athens with the ruler Pericles.
The travel filled my heart more than I expected. Warm and light hearted people I came across with. I depict no troubles and pain on their faces. Then I thought maybe because they lived in comfort and convenience with access to technology making life easier. Yet, their dedication to gods and goddess never changed. Again, I realized an evident difference between my life and theirs. But still, my love for the place exalted for their dedication to my old friends, the gods/goddesses. This is the Modern Athens…
Ancient Greeks contribution to Modern Greeks never escaped my views. People managed to adapt modernization but successfully preserved traces of their past. Dynamic of life during Era of Pericles, Acropolis, Athens and Agora (a market or meeting place) illustrated enormous quest for developmental changes initiated by Ancient Greeks that mostly shaped our world nowadays. Not only the Greeks but the world heard the Ancient Greek cry for revolt on literature, art, architecture and politics – the democracy. These thoughts kept on playing through my mind as I travelled to Athens.
I learned that Greeks are vibrant in expressing one self. And I still saw it run through his people when we were brought to bouzouki restaurant by our boss. I did not know that there is the need to buy a plate and crash them unto the ground. At first, thinking it was misbehave that I could not give in to the demand of the situation because I was shy then. But I have noticed more than the crashing of plates but not seeing any vibrant street as Athens. Bouzouki coined from the stringed instruments inspires your heart to sing and dance through its music. While at bouzouki restaurant, I had my first glimpse to gardenia, a gorgeous flower thrown by audience to applaud the players on stage. Acropolis also has a stone theatre structure called Odeon of Herodes Articcus found at the southern hillside.
When there are foods not native to our tongue, you may be hesitant to taste. But the foods in Greece were beautifully presented and tastes so awesome like their nuts and honey. The fish, chicken and vegetables mixed with olive oil, herbs and vegetables are the nutritious food I have ever eaten in a lifetime. Yes, alcohol to complete a meal. I tried real strong ouzo…I am not even used to drinking but I got to have a taste of Greece finest.
Walking past Ancient Greece
The rise of civilization in Ancient Greece flashes back keeps on especially when I visited the central Athens where old part of town, Plaka area is located. The lovely feeling is real as I strolled and saw all the shops, cafes and more. Passing by Hadrian’s Arch erected to honor the Roman Emperor at about 131 CE… Walking in Greece will not fail you to recall history of civilization.
From a recently opened society, innocent girl is what I look at myself. Ancient Greece will surprise you with the recollection of past. The effort on preservation of historical events is an option of the community of Greeks despite the exuding demands of the modern day when the shops of Gucci, Chanel and Valentino is also enticing to be visited but I got myself contented by looking at them from the outside. These all seemed like I am Alice in Wonderland and living in a dreamland were all people are nonchalant that filled the air with smiling light moods. Happiness and relaxed feelings of people were contagious. I felt their genuine smiles giving ray of light to each and every person they saw there. Greece never ceased amazing my innocent mind.
Going through the north side of Acropolis
Erechtheion an Ancient Greek temple highlighted on the northern side. Easter season decorated the street like in Romania. There was the fond resemblance of the holiday at home with the colored eggs, ceremonial candles and baked goods seen in stores. The hospitality was also the same when hosts treats their visitors like royalty and gives the best that can be offered.
My first travel changed a lot in me. A flight that honed my being into a totally different person bringing with me all the inspiration I needed to become the best that I can be. Having grown in a communist society curtailed all my insights in the wonders of life. Greece even through reading books has inspired me and being there has changed me. The mythical place of Athens continuously fascinated me as I travelled back there for many times due to work or as a tourist. New experiences struck me with renewed realization whenever I get back to Athens, the place I fell in love with that pushed me to survive by seeing beauty beyond the naked eye can offer.
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