To balance all the old stone, here's today in animals:
Cats (naturally) – flitting around the narrow pathways that climb up the Acropolis, between white and grafitti’d little houses, flowers and trees. The Hop on, Hop off bus here also provides a free photography tour once a day, when those interested can follow Natasha through Plaka past umpteen ruins as she points out good angles and shrugs apologetically when she can’t answer questions, since she’s not a guide, but shows us places we’d never find by ourselves.
Tortoise – making surprisingly good time beneath the trees beside the path as we followed the shiny marble road up to the Parthenon and assorted other ruined temples. The Parthenon is, inevitably, somewhat swathed in scaffolding, but it’s still a marvel; as is the Erechtheion beside it, with its fake caryatid thanks to Elgin swiping the original one third from the right.
Dove – sitting above the remarkable Theatre of Dionysus where drama began in the 6th century BC, with women in the audience confined to the back rows right at the top. What we would call ‘the Gods’ today, ironically (or not).
Butterfly – providing an ephemeral contrast to so much antiquity, where Roman ruins don’t count as ‘ancient’ and even the Metro stations have their own museums of sites and artefacts, uncovered when the tunnels were dug. Athens is literally littered with ruins, modern city life swirling around them.
Terrapins – piling up on each other in unconscious mockery of the silly t-shirts showing old frescoes of athletes wrestling, with the caption How Ancient Greeks Did Sex. They were in a pond in the Botanical Gardens, and I’m still a bit concerned about the one that had managed to run itself aground on the highest point of rock in the middle of the pond, and was vainly waving its flippers trying to get off again.
Pigeons – dozing on the flagstones in front of the Greek Parliament, disturbed on the hour, every hour, as the new guard marches in to relieve the two men who have stood completely motionless beside the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Not only is the uniform crazy (400 pleats in the skirt, one for every year of the Turkish occupation – since the soldiers have to iron them themselves, way to foster resentment) and the shoes particularly daft, but the ceremonial moves are patently the inspiration for Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.
Cats (again) – still lurking around the brightly-lit lanes of Plaka after dark, cruising underneath the tables of all the pavement restaurants, batting a walnut around the bottom shelves in a souvenir shop selling Santorini paintings, golden olive wreaths, red and blue model fishing boats, jokey t-shirts, decorated dolls and bottles of olive oil. Make one miaow by unwrapping your saved bit of chicken souvlaki and they’ll pop up over walls and from behind things in all directions.