Greek Week

I spent these last seven days in Greece, and as I think over the balance of the week, these are the things that struck me the most:

1. Greece reminds me of Brazil. This might have something to do with the large number of Brazilians I’ve encountered here. But there’s more to this feeling than that.

2. For someone like me who loves languages, and who studied Ancient Greek for years, going around trying to infer what signs and ads, and film titles and subtitles meant was one of the funnest parts of the trip. I know, I have an unusual — maybe geeky — sense of “fun”. But there is something about navigating the internet and using Windows, with all those familiar commands in Greek, and realizing they make perfect sense, that could not but make me giggle with pleasure. Call me a geek for Greek.

3. But there were other, more scenic pleasures. The view from the top of Lykavittos Hill, overlooking all of Athens, the Acropolis, the sea, the islands, all in front of your eyes all at once, absolutely breathtaking (the fact that it was quite a climb going up might have contributed to the breathtaking component). Likewise, sitting on the Aeropagos Hill at night, the Acropolis shining right on your shoulder while fireworks filled the sky — how can I describe something like that? Walking around the beautiful island of Hydra wasn’t bad either. And I won’t even get started about the food…

4. Not all experiences were pleasant, however. The two things that bugged me most were a) the repeated feeling of being ripped-off (being wide aware of it, and completely helpless about it) and b) how easy it was to stumble upon situations of unwelcome sexual forwardness, whether prostitution, sexual harassment in broad daylight, or pornography as you browse through newstands during the day, and tv channels during the night. Never before have I felt so vulnerable as a woman travelling alone, and I’ve been a woman travelling alone for a while.

5. As the week approaches the end, I feel I have a lot more to say and do, but that my mind and my body feel overwhelmed. There is only so much you can absorb. Sometimes I feel like I’d like to come and spend a few months in Greece, so that I’d have enough time to soak in, to go and visit all the many sites that I never have the time, the money, the means of transportation, the energy to go and visit in a trip as short as this.

But then again, the thought that Greece, ancient or modern, might sometimes not be as homogeneously beautiful as we fantasize makes me wonder, and doubt whether I’d prefer to cling to the fantasy or embrace reality as is… And in the end, all I can say, is that all that I know is that I know nothing. Or maybe very little.


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