Monday, November 07, 2005

Greek myths

Well, I'm back in Blighty after 6 wonderful days in Athens. I did (fleetingly) consider blogging while I was away but figured that I (and possibly you) deserved a break.

I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow run down of what we did/what we ate/what we saw etc. You can read Michael Palin et al for that. But here are my initial, unrehearsed thoughts on Athens.

1. It looks just like Jerusalem. I feel very provincial (in a Jewish kind of way) saying that. I'm reminded of an old Jewish man who once told me that he didn't bother going abroad (other than to Israel) because Israel had everything the rest of the world could possibly offer. Snow in the north, desert in the south, antiquity in Jerusalem, modern metropolis in Tel Aviv. I tried pointing out that, while certainly diverse, Israel doesn't quite have everything. It lacks the rennaissance art of Florence, the natural wonder of Ayres Rock, the breathtaking wildlife of Kenya. But he was having none of it. That said, Athens is exactly like Jerusalem. The buildings are constructed with the same off-white stone, the rocky mountains in the distance are identical, the pavements have the same habit of suddenly disappearing into a heap of sand half way down the street and then re-appearing 100 yards up the road for no apparant reason. And everywhere you look there are olive trees. Plus, slap bang in the middle, are the ruins of an ancient building, a wonder of the ancient world, slowly crumbling but still a vestige of past glory, now surrounded by beggars and touts selling tourist souvenirs.

2. There are no blondes and no black people in Athens. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was so strange at first, and then it suddenly hit me. No blondes. No blacks. The only blonde I saw in five days was Scrappino. And the only black face was a tourist from the US staying in my hotel. It's the most ethnically un-diverse place I've ever visited.

3. Athens boasts some of the dullest museums known to man. They have yet to discover the concept of the interactive exhibit or education-through-play. We visited a war museum (rows of glass cases containing antique pistols), a maritime museum (rows of glass cases containing model ships and canons) and an archeology museum (rows of glass cases containing rocks). For some bizarre reason, Scrappino loved it. I can almost hear my mother making a "kids today don't need playstation - just give them an empty box and a wooden spoon". Or something like that.

4. All Greek women over the age of 45 look Jewish. I'd thought it was only Olympia Dukakis, but no. We kept seeing groups of Greek women chatting in coffee shops and I was sure they were all out for the Ladies Guild AGM.

5. Athenians love children. Maybe this is just in contrast with Brits, who like their children unseen and not-heard. But in Greece, people were falling over themselves to chat to Scrappino, help him buy his ticket on the Metro, serve him in restaurants. Maybe they were all so amazed to meet a blonde child? Scrappino, obviously, milked it for all he's worth and is now a life-long fan of all things Greek.

And now, after six days away, I'm back in the UK, with grey skies and drizzly rain. I wonder where that old Jewish chap would head for in Israel to capture the feeling of London in November....


Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Welcome back....So what did you do? What did you eat? What did you see?....and what is a tout?

5:06 am  
Blogger tafka PP said...

Hey- I noticed the Athens-Jerusalem thing too! Especially re the Acropolis. Which was closed when I was there, so I consoled myself that the Cardo is nearly as good.

3:55 pm  

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