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Visiting the Acropolis: A Dream Realized, a Meeting, and a Marble

It’s a sunny day with only a slight chill — feels like spring — a perfect day for visiting the Acropolis.  The weather is nice for me but even better for the homeless refugees stuck in Greece without proper shelter or clothing.  Athens has upwards of 20,000 homeless people, many of them refugees who do not have the funds to move on or are waiting for paperwork to be processed which will allow them to move on or be deported.  This can take months.


Wanting to avoid the streets, I opt for the subway which is efficient and relatively clean.  In minutes I’m in Syntagma Square (Constitution Square), the home of the Greek Parliament and the beating heart of Athens.


Ermou Street in Athens, Greece.

Ermou Street in Athens, Greece.


My feet carry me down the clean, pedestrian-only Ermou Street which is lined with high-end shops, making it a shopping mecca for well-heeled tourists.  That’s not me though.


No.  I’m on a mission.  Mission Acropolis.


This is the third time I’ve climbed the hill towards the ancient monument.  Today, finally, I have success at the ticket booth.  For 12 euros I get to realize a dream.  Deal!


First glimpse of the Parthenon

First glimpse of the Parthenon.


Moments later, I’m standing before the 2,448-year-old Parthenon which is under reconstruction.  It’s surreal to stand before a building you’ve seen in books since childhood.  Somehow, I never realized that Acropolis means “high city” or “city in the air” and also never realized when looking at pictures that the Parthenon was atop the 7-acre acropolis which rises 150 meters above the city.  Way up here, the views of modern Athens stretch on forever.


View from the Acropolis

View from the Acropolis


Before I left home three years ago, a friend gave me marbles and asked that I disperse them all over the world.  I’ve been doing that and photographing their landing spots.  Today I try again.  A marble is placed on a small rock mound. To get the shot, I’m crouching, contorted and squinting to keep the bright sun from blinding me.  After several minutes of looking like a freak, a man approaches from behind.


“What you do lady?”

Surprised, I turn my head like an owl. I realize he’s a guard.

“I’m taking pictures of a marble. I take pictures of marbles all over the world.”

He smiles slightly. No comment. He stares.

“People like it,” I say trying to justify myself.  My voice echoes.

“People like it,” he repeats. “Where you from?”

“The U.S”., I tell him.

“The U.S.”, he repeats.  A man of few words.

Hoping to redeem myself: “I’m here because I love Greece and I’m going to Lesvos to see if I can help.  It’s very bad there, yeah?”


At this point, I’m scared, because for three days I’ve been watching the news which reports so much hatred towards refugees.  I’m prepared for a hateful response.  But guess what?  I’m reminded that the news tells the worst.  Which incidentally is a good reminder because it’s been making me really depressed.


He says: “Ah, we have many problems…but, it’s ok….many people they come.  We try to help.  What to do?  What to do?…it’s ok.  We have little food…but, it’s ok.  We have economic problems but they come.  Ok!  Ok!  Now Europe want us out…it’s ok.  This is the one life.  We try to help.  The God is big, eh?”


And this answer sums up why I love Greek people. Big-hearted, hospitable, and chillaxed in the face of adversity.


Yes, sir.  The God is big.  All the anxiety I’ve been feeling about Greece momentarily lifts after hearing this local’s perspective.  I don’t know if this relaxed attitude comes from deep in the Greek psyche — I mean being a child born in the cradle of western civilization would kind of give you a boost of confidence, no?  Plus the fact that your culture has survived nine-majillion invasions, wars, famines, plagues, earthquakes, and tidal waves. And look!  Still here!


I walk on.  With the sun shining, most people have relinquished their jackets.  I haven’t because my jacket holds all my valuables and I can’t risk forgetting it somewhere.  So I walk around, sweating like a pig and taking pictures of marbles from different standpoints or more accurately crouchpoints.  Like a normal person.  Because people like it.


This is for you. Marble at the Parthenon.

This is for you. Marble at the Parthenon.


At one point I balance the marble on a “keep out” pole.  As marbles do, it rolls, and drops and then disappears into the grass beyond the pole.  Unable to find it and trying not to look suspicious, I leave it behind.  As I stroll and ponder how amazing the Parthenon must have looked in its heyday, I ruminate on the lost marble.


I am worried that a fastidious weed-wacker might hit the marble and it might ricochet off the Parthenon causing damage before causing said weed-wacker to lose an eye.  I worry that the marble is found by an archeologist and thousands of euros are spent trying to determine its age.  More practically perhaps, I worry I might get fined or arrested for littering if a camera caught the act.  And then I worry that I can’t publish the resulting marble picture or they will find me, the culprit, and punish me for degradation of the Parthenon, which, yeah, seems pretty unlikely — but my life has been a string of “pretty unlikely” so I can’t play that card.  I’m pretty nuts sometimes.  It’s not traversing the world solo that worries me, but these things.


And so I go back to the spot, crouching and looking.  A guard is watching me closely so I try to explain.  Just my luck, she speaks limited English.  “A marble,” I say, showing her an example, “I dropped it”.  She stands over me as I dig through tufts of grass behind the barrier, feeling like a lunatic.


“Found it!” I exclaim.

Bravo! Bravo!” she says.


The things I do for you people.


The Old Temple of Athena

The Old Temple of Athena on the Acropolis


Usually, I leave the marble, but in this case, I deposited it outside the gates so as not to confound archeologists at some future time.  It could happen! 


A 48-hour ferry strike ended today and within minutes a second 48-hour strike began.  This means I won’t be able to move on to Lesvos Island until next week; an inconvenience for me but another terrible situation on Lesvos Island where already 7,000 refugees are stuck in winter weather and unable to move on to Athens. More arrive every day.


“It’s ok. God is big.”  I’ll try to hold on to that thought.


For detailed information about visiting the Acropolis and tours, see Matt Barrett’s excellent


Visiting the Acropolis:


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