We disembarked the ferry around 10pm and by the time we got out of the port, onto the metro, rerouted to a different metro stop since ours was closed, to Syntagma Square, we still had a fifteen to twenty minute walk to our hostel, where we were greeted by a morose young man who should not pursue a career in guest services. We had not eaten dinner, but luckily there was a place right across the street ready for us.
The waiter, like most other waiters in Greece, complimented Boris on his Greek, and the waitress insisted that he must have Greek parents. Upon discovering his true heritage, she also insisted he teach me Russian so we could speak “in his language.” I’m working on it.
The next morning we relocated to the hotel where Boris would meet up with his work, which happened to be a fancy place right by the Acropolis. Two pieces of luggage lighter, we wandered up the hill to the ancient Acropolis, joined by many other strangers longing to see the famed site. To be a hundred percent honest, the Acropolis was not what I expected. It was a thrill to see the Parthenon and the Erechtheion, but I hadn’t pictured it all with scaffolding supporting it and modern attachments everywhere. The romanticized image of the Acropolis from textbooks and postcards had unbalanced my preconceived notions of it, and after all was said and done, we didn’t really spend much time there. The view of Athens from the hill, though, was remarkable.
The agora was just next door, so we explored there for a bit, too, although the heat was hard-hitting. A blast of air conditioning was welcome as we entered the Acropolis Museum, and in our tour of the place we saw lots of sculptures that had once been part of the Acropolis. Over lunch in the museum restaurant, however, we discussed the fact that so much from Athens is now housed in the British Museum. Cultural heritage and a city’s modern relationship to its past was the main topic of discussion, and in the end, neither of us could really figure out what was fair or right or just. I think it would be interesting to discuss the matter with people on both sides of the issue: should the British Museum give back the Elgin Marbles? Why or why not? Is it truly important for a city or a site or a population to have such ties to its past? How are we really informed by our past if nothing in the future will ever share the exact same circumstances? Does the material culture part of it even matter as much? We shared a lot of interesting ideas, and I would be curious to discuss these issues, too, with many of you.
That night we dined, together with Boris’ friends from Brown who were all running the summer program, on a rooftop terrace with an illuminated night-time view of the Acropolis. My flight left the next afternoon, and I have to admit that it was hard to leave Greece for many reasons. My experience there was unforgettable, both because of its beauty and because I could not have asked for a smoother trip in every aspect. I am already thinking about where I would want to go for next summer…and, I suppose, I have another language to learn in addition to Russian: modern Greek.