As the great philosopher Pythagorosticus once said, “it’s all a matter of perspective.”
We’re on our final tour bus for the trip, cruising through the surprisingly dilapidated streets of Athens. Tour guide Effie is regaling us with the exploits of the ancient Greeks. “It was a golden time for Greece. Athens was the first true democracy in the world.” Ok, so half of the three hundred thousand people in Athens at the time were slaves, but no matter, anyone with an Athenian father could vote. My simple grasp of maths and human nature suggests that a fair proportion of these voters may have, shall we say, “mixed” heritage.
Our first stop is of course the Acropolis and Parthenon. This hot barren hill with the ruined temple on top is not only the symbol of Athens and Greece, but is also a sort of melting pot for all the things we have seen and heard on our tour. My paraphrase goes like this – the Parthenon was built by the ancient Athenians, destroyed by the Persians, rebuilt by the Greeks, taken over by the Romans, the Crusaders and the Turks, and finally won back by the Greeks, though we don’t talk about the time of the Dictator. This agrees with the stories we have heard in other ports we have visited, except, for example, the evil Ottomans who “occupied” Greece for four hundred years were “great Turkish heroes” when we were in Istanbul a few days ago.
The temperature keeps climbing throughout the day so, by the time we have visited the museum, had lunch and wandered the tourist shopping strip of the Plaka, we’re all feeling a bit hot and tired. Effie is still pouring out information about her city and her country. Suddenly, the bus jerks to an unexpected stop. “I have asked the driver to stop so you can all get out and see the stadium which was built for the first of the modern Olympics. You must see this – it is very important.” Forty-two pairs of eyes seem to suggest that they don’t have the same enthusiasm as Effie. Ah well, I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.