Saturday 24 October 2015

Athenian observations

  •  Hadrian's Arch sounds a lot less impressive when you say it with a Greek accent, leaving off the H.
  • The original Caryatids from the Erechtheion on the Acropolis, now safely installed in the Museum below, are arranged in the same formation, with an eloquent gap where the (best) one that Elgin took belongs.
  • The stray dogs here are all registered and neutered, wear collars, and are, if anything, too fat - people put food down for them everywhere. But they're dirty, matted and look depressed, poor things, with no-one to love them, or to love.
  • Stray cats, in contrast, are left untouched, are still fed, and look perfectly well-adjusted.
  • Perhaps as a result of all these peaceably marauding cats and dogs, there is no other sort of wildlife (other than birds) to be observed around the streets and parks - besides, that is, one tortoise.
  • Athens is a surprisingly small city, only 300,000 inhabitants, and the central area is easily explored on foot.
  • Greece must be the last country in Europe where you're allowed to smoke inside - and also, one of the hardest in which to get a lungful of clean air anywhere in the city.
  • Homeless people can frequently be seen sorting through rubbish bins, extracting all the plastic - presumably, for paid recycling. But also drinking coffee dregs from the cups they find.
  • Blackened, sooty marble statues are cleaned by restorers using laser technology, that looks just like what you might find inside a beauty therapy studio. (I'm guessing.)
  • 6pm on a Saturday evening, and the Orthodox Russian church in Plaka suddenly and inexplicably bursts into loud and lively chimes and peals - and then, as suddenly, falls silent again, after no visible sign of activity.
  • There are 26 differently-sized Evil Eye charms on the wall opposite the bed in my New Hotel room, which can be made to glow in the dark at the press of a switch, leading to a somewhat less soothing ambience than the designer presumably intended.
  • Choose apple pie on a café menu here and what you get is cake.
  • Hazard warning lights apparently confer immunity to all traffic regulations, especially those regulating parking. Double- and even triple-parking are common in the narrow streets, and I've even seen a double-parked Vespa.
  • Zebra crossings mean nothing to drivers.
  • Waiters and waitresses, guides, shop and counter assistants, even beggars, all seem able to swap between a handful of languages with chastening ease.
  • There is no order on footpaths: even assiduously keeping right will not prevent blocking and side-stepping.
  • If you're in need of a wind-up gramophone, white 60s telephone or Olympia typewriter, the Monastiraki flea market is the place for you.
  • Watching New Zealand play South Africa in England in the Rugby World Cup, on a TV in Greece, with a German commentary, seems curiously appropriate (even if the game is just as silly as always).
  • Corner kiosks sell newspapers from all over Europe from first thing in the morning, which is impressive, and saves on forced breakfast conversation.
  • A restorer using a power grinder to smooth the stone on a Doric column on the Parthenon makes you wonder how the original builders got the marble so smooth and finely fitted together.
  • There is no sense, logic or conformity in photography regulations inside museums.
  • The graffiti that defaces, and occasionally decorates, the entire city is apparently a fixture and not inspired by the current economic crisis.
  • The guards by the Unknown Soldier's tomb have studs on the soles of their pom-pommed clogs, which they scrape on the ground as part of their puzzlingly ridiculous stylised posturing - and they've worn grooves in the marble by doing so.
  • If you listen hard, you'll always hear the clack of worry beads coming from somewhere, swung and flicked usually, but not always, by older men, often as a non-smoking coping mechanism.
  • Gleaming gold, intricate and delicately decorated icons crowd the windows of shop after shop in Plaka and must surely exceed demand.
  • There is infinite variation in the plumage of pigeons, the world's most successful bird.
  • Flashing green crosses everywhere: there's a curious preponderance of pharmacies on the city streets.
  • On Sundays, the honour guard outside the Greek Parliament wear their white kilts and turn up mob-handed at 11am. The dogs sprawled on the parade ground sleep through it all.
  • The New Hotel has unreasonable expectations of guests regarding the end of Daylight Saving.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...