November 9, 2017. Athens, Greece.
They hid the Acropolis.
I don’t know what they stand to gain from it. I think maybe the only way they could convince people to go through the Plaka. Apparently, it’s a beautiful, idyllic village, and one of the oldest towns in the world. It seemed to me like a whole lot of lame graffiti and narrow alleys full of outgoing grifters with friendship bracelets, all of whom happened to love my Barcelona shirt and sought to vocalize that.
The Plaka is a labyrinth that might wind up saving me the trip to Crete, and what few signs exist are in Greek. I asked a tiny goth girl on the corner if this was the way to the Acropolis. Her eyes got big for a second, but then she realized I was not trying to beg for money, give her friendship bracelets, or sell her drugs, and she became very helpful.
“All roads lead to Acropolis,” she said in some of the best English I’d heard out of a local, “But I think that one over there is easiest.”
“I’ll take easiest,” I said, and did. It’s possible she was a grifter plant, and by easiest she meant “most dense with people calling you MY FRIEND, giving you garbage bracelets, explaining how hungry they are, and inviting you to an African dance festival in the square”, but unfortunate dentristy aside, she was too cute for that to be her job. She could’ve been a waitress, at very least. Especially in America. Goth chain restaurant food service workers are the sultry, emotionally damaged specters that haunt every young man’s dreams.
I wove through the Plaka uphill, up stairs, up more hills, more stairs, small cafe owners giving me shady looks as I cut through the stairs that they somehow set up tables and chairs on. When I finally got to the top, I discovered all of the humans.
I later found out there’s an Acropolis metro stop, which is probably how all these fat old Americans beat me to the top. No one’s more confused by my aversion to obvious tourists than I am, considering it’s usually pretty obvious I’m a tourist, especially in Europe. I’m a foot and a half taller and 50 – 100 lbs heavier than everyone except the Nords, and none of them even lift. I think part of their socialism is they all decide on one guy who lifts for Scandinavia, and that guy is The Mountain.
All these little purple-lipstick hobbit women keep looking at me like I escaped a genetic engineering lab, and the international perception of Americans can’t be helping. From what I’ve gleaned in drunken hostel conversations, most Europeans and Australians seem to think America is a post-apocalyptic spaghetti western where we’re all looting in all the major cities and open-carrying AR-15s in case President Immortan Joe sends his death squad drones to Build the Wall.
As I approached the Acropolis, a one-eyed man on a Segway wearing a laminated SEGWAY TOURS sign cruised up to me and said, “You goin’ to the Acropolis?”
“Yes indeed,” I said without eye contact. I don’t want a Segway. This is a goddamn pilgrimage. You think I came around the world to irreconcilably demonstrate to Athena that I’m a li’l bitch?
“Well, you better hurry,” he said in an unexpected show of non-hustling candor. “It’s closing in an hour.”
“I thought it was open til 8.”
“They changed the hours. They start kickin’ people out at 4:40.”
Well, it was 4, so it was go time. I thanked him and charged up the hill, dodging around enormous Asian tour groups and lines of geriatric Central Americans walking 5 abreast to make sure no one could get past them. Everyone was shouting, all the time, forever.
I swung off the path a few times because it was easier to just climb the rocks than navigate the teeming sea of human vermin, paid the 10 Euro to get in, and climbed up toward the Acropolis proper.
You know in spy movies when there’s a laser grid the protagonist has to cross, so they do gymnastics and cartwheels to avoid hitting any of them? Imagine that, but with cameras and selfie sticks. No matter where you went, you were photobombing somebody, and still, they were screaming. Everyone was screaming so much at the silent hilltop archaeology temple, and making faces for the cameras like they’re in a cheap photo booth, and forcing me to hate them.
The Old Temple of Athena was devoted to Athena Hygieia, which pertained to health and medicine. This was probably my favorite part.
The olive tree planted on the west side of the Erectheion symbolized the original olive tree that built the world as we know it.
In the ancient days, Athens was already booming, but it wasn’t called Athens. King Cecrops almost single-handedly dragged Greece into civilization, introducing ceremonial burial, marriage, and literacy to his society. It’s arguable that this was a mixed bag, but eh. After seeing all the thriving, he decided that what the city really needed was more thriving and issued an open invite to the gods to have one become the city’s protector and patron. Immediately, Athena and Poseidon both laid their claim.
Athena suggested to King Cecrops that a contest be held, and he be the judge. Now, Cecrops must have been shitting bricks, because every time the gods hold a contest someone gets turned into a cow or raped by a goose or something, but you can’t tell Athena “that’s a terrible idea” because then you will definitely be getting flayed alive every day for the rest of eternity, so the king said, “Yeah, totally. Let’s do that.”
Poseidon had it all figured out. He knew what Athens needed. He stabbed the earth with his trident and brought a flood right up to the edge of the city. The people had water, now! Poseidon brought water, what a surprise! It was really practical and convenient, right up until they discovered it was seawater and drinking it would kill them.
We can assume that Athena shook her head in disgust before presenting Cecrops with the olive tree, or rather, seeds to it.
“Plant this and wait,” she said. “You’ll see.”
Seed they did, and see they did. Olive oil became a staple for everything in Greece, in ascending order of importance: fuel, wood, shelter, food, and lube. When the trees finally grew, Cecrops faced the music and declared Athena the winner, and they just kept building her temples after that. If you read up on the mythology, Poseidon got the shaft pretty often. Probably why he was always so salty (ha haaaaa).
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus. They still do performances here, unlike the Theater of Dionysius, which was far too ruined and roped off for me to sneak in and honor Diogenes’ memory by poopin’.
The plague of humanity was becoming too taxing. I was getting snippy. A dude’s just trying to honor his personal patron goddess. Did I yell in your church? Well, okay, a little outside of the Basilica in the Vatican, but that wasn’t on me. God started it.
I shimmied down a hiking path to get back to center city. On the way down, I saw a scrawny girl wearing boots with 6 inch heels, trying to navigate the slippery rocks and loose gravel that made up the entirety of the hill.
“Heels to the Acropolis, huh?” I asked her. Her boyfriend was not thrilled at my casually outgoing nature, and sneered a “Yuh” at me, as though he were the one wearing heels to the Acropolis.
She giggled. He didn’t. I slunk back into Athens and went back to the hostel to spend happy hour writing. My Greek bartender friend tried to hit me up for that 4 Euro beer because happy hour didn’t start for another 3 minutes. I gave him a dark look and said I’d wait it out. When the clock rolled over, I got two smaller beers for also 4 Euros, but it was a net gain I could abide.
Outside on the terrace, I met four excitable Australian lads. We got drunk and compared cultures, and they taught me a lexicon of Aussie slang that I knew most of because of the internet. We were joined by a guy from Michigan whose accent was, to me, more pronounced than anyone else’s, and the Austrian tagger I mentioned yesterday. You can check out his work here.
“All right, mate, let’s hash this out,” they asked me. “How in the FUCK did Trump happen?”
“Bible belt, man,” I said. “The news you see coming out of America is all left-leaning media from metropolitan areas. New York, Boston, Philly, D.C., anywhere in California. The majority of America is middle America. Impoverished, living in the boonies, voting straight Conservative every time cuz “we gotta stop that therr abortion, mm-hmm”. The left is louder, but the right is definitely more prevalent. Not to mention, more likely to vote.”
“So, like, is it that bad? Is he really gonna build the wall?”
Me and the dude from Michigan both laughed.
“No, dude. There’s no wall happening.”
“He’s a joke,” the Michiganian said. “He just goes up there, and says things. But there are people behind him in the government that have to allow him to do these things, and they don’t.”
“Right, because they’re impossible and stupid,” I said.
“I think he just says things for attention. And that keeps getting him attention, so he keeps saying it.”
“So let’s get to the kangaroo thing,” I said. “Are they like deer?”
“They’re just like deer,” they said. “They’re everywhere, and all they do is jump in front of your car and fuck it up.”
“Yeah, that’s what deer are for.”
“Down in the bush, ya go shootin’ roos. Ya shoot a lot of things in Straya, actually. The ecosystem is wrecked from all the species the Europeans introduced, so if you shoot one of the poisonous toads and bring it to the municipal, they’ll give you 8 dollas.”
We drank our drinks, then I said, “I saw an odd thing, the other night, allegedly pretty common in Australia. How prevalent are shoeys?”
Immediately, they all started screaming in joy like I just said the secret word on Peewee’s Playhouse.
We hit the streets, inhaled some 2 Euro gyros, and attempted to find a bar. Instead, we found a hookah bar that claimed it was 5 Euro a hookah, but was actually 5 Euro per person smoking a hookah. That, my friends, is how they getcha. They blasted reggaeton the entire time we were there, which kind of clashes with the intended ambiance of a hookah bar in my ever humble opinion, but nobody asked me.
After that, the impetuous Australians went to buy drugs from one of the shady grifters in the square. Apparently, friendship bracelets aren’t the only thing they’re selling. They picked up 6 gs of Grecian weed for 50 Euro, and then pledged to us that they’d meet us up on the roof terrace with it. It wasn’t going to make or break my night, but we gave them a half hour and they never showed. Ghosted. Too savage. But, you know what they say: Ozzie come, ozzie go.
Off to the rest of the sights. Talk soon.