Saturday, April 4, 2009

The story so far

Athens is an incredible city, I've been here for just over a day but I am mad about it. Everything happens at once, time melts. Great big chunks of the ground are open ruins behind wrought iron bars, communist and anarchist graffiti is scrawled on everything, '70s style apartment blocks sit right alongside nineteenth century townhouses and typically gruesome European fashion stores. for all women for all time and Shirtaninly a Man, being the best examples.

The surrounding streets at the bottom of the hill (on which sits the theatre of Dionysius) are populated by embassies, tavernas and abandoned buildings. Too precious to be torn down, and too old fashioned to be made into apartments more suited to the contemporary market and sold on, these beautiful houses are left by squabbling families to fall in on themselves, overgrown and crumbling.

I live at the back of the Acropolis, and it is a strange experience to live in the shadow of antiquity, even in the bright Spring sunshine the city is phantasmagorical and smells inescapably of orange blossoms. My balcony overlooks and archaeological dig and two streets over is Athens' biggest gay club, the plexiglass of history is shattered. Even grocery shopping is a pleasure, since the capital's most famous bakeries and most magnificently stocked green grocers sit on my doorstep. I'm honestly rather overcome.

Last night, walking through the park that surrounds the Acropolis by the light of the moon, we got a little lost (as drunken wanderers in a new city are want to do). As we disappeared deeper into trees and further away from the roads, enveloped by the night, we felt something of a flash of fear. Nobody would wander like this, through an empty, unlit expanse in New York or London so late at night unless they were looking for something nefarious. Aware that were we taking a wrong turning, blindly into the indigo foliage, with the wild dogs of Athens howling all past midnight, we stopped on the spot. Jeffrey said, "Could I express something like fear?" and a very clear snapping of twigs answered us from behind. Then, like so many incantations and folk tales, a huge white horse appeared, out of the pitch blackness,silver, an apparition. Only barely out of the reach of an outstretched hand it whinnied, shaking its mane like moonbeams falling. We moved towards him as directed and walked straight back onto our lost pathway, descending the hill with the growlings in the trees now behind us. To the left, above our heads, like a full moon sat the temple of Athena.

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