Returning to the city is a little bit like an electrical shock to the system. Cicadas are replaced by car horns, and footpaths becomes subway tracks. The journey from a remote village in Crete to the center of Athens is overwhelming. Where museums cost ten times what they did on the island, and people travel from across the globe to see fractured sacred goddesses, not lounge on Cretan shores.
To say I was prepared for a weekend in the city would be a flat out lie. After an exhilarating and nauseating voyage on the Minoan Lines Festos Palace, an overnight ferry a kin to a Vegas hotel, that rocked me to various states of dream land, in and out of waking, the ancestors crossing the seas of mystery deep within my bones, the arrival to a city of commerce was not welcome.
Like most cities, people rush in subway stations. They text while walking down the street. They have internet, for crying out loud. They’re in the heart of sacred human history, climbing marble rocks with floral umbrellas, praying not to slip. But there is a lack of ease in living so present, even in Heraklion, the large port city of Crete. The oppression of the economic state, the need for tourism, the hunger for a legacy less trampled by outsiders. It must be hard for a Greek to see the signs that say their marble statues are on display in Britain. Not on loan, but on nineteenth century plundered theft.
Athens is a city drawn over and over again by various dominating cultures, today littered with street art and graffiti, that seems to say, “layer to create our new identity, it may change at any moment.” There are no street cats saying “yes come stay here at my doorstep, you may sleep in my town,” or locals crying “Ella Ella Cafe!” begging you to a sit a while under a sycamore tree for a frappe. In the Acropolis Museum, people stare as much at one another as they do at the monolithic bodies of the great goddess Athena, but just an eight hour boat ride away, across the moonlit sea, no one even notice when a young woman bawls, tears soaking down her white cotton blouse, in front of an ancient Minoan goddess, a snake brandished in each hand.
Is it happier, the life outside of the city? Maybe for some. Today, it’s a little hard to tell.