We arrived after sailing overnight from Venice, Italy on the Aegean Sea (eastern side of Italy) into the port of Athens. We came to visit the famous Acropolis which is in the middle of the city. The Acropolis is another world for "top of the hill". At the top is the ancient Parthenon and next to it is another structure which is small is called the Erechtheum.
As I was walking up the stairs to visit this world famous site, I felt a huge mental rush of information that overwhelmed me. All of the sudden I am remembering reading the Classics plus the background about the art and cultures studies of the period while in school and college. All those years studying Greek and Roman mythology. The many history lessons discussing the philosophy of Ancient Rome, Greece and the Mediterranean world is starting to converge together. It's an overwhelming feeling trying to keep all the historical times and ideas in order. There is much of the base of Western Civilization that has its roots to these many sites and the people who built them.
Much of the site is being reconstructed and it's a slow and laborious project. When one visited archeological sites like this one, one is invited to use and expand ones imagination. One sees in one's mind what it was like for the people in those times. One is reminded that the journey is as important as the destinations.
Visiting the Parthenon is a reminder of how much the intellectual thinking of Greeks was the foundation of Western civilization. My pre-college educational years were in a Catholic school and we were immersed in Christian thought which flourished here. I majored in political and economic thought in college and again we were revisiting the Greek Classics. It's incredible that these ancient civilization could impact practically every developmental phase of our current world in science, art, education, law, government and philosophy.
As we are seeing all these sites I am also reminded about how their mythological stories set the tone for our own personal understanding. I am amaze how insightful the Greeks and surrounding cultures were to address the main issues of being human. In their elaborate and complex stories are the representations of our deepest fears. They also addressed the issue of our struggles to take up the role of human gods in order to excel and achieve. Through their creative and unique explanations and views of the world we are each invited and motivated to also ask questions about our purpose of life. It set our logic and perception on a new course.
Having visited Athens provided me with a greater appreciation of their impact and direction in our current civilization. Socrates established that the search and acquirement of knowledge was important. Thus having placed the value of thought and education into the Western world opened up the developments of our European (English and Spanish) based cultures.
As we were returning to our ship we noticed how many small business in the city were closed. We kept hearing stories about the economic crisis the country is currently in. My research on this topic highlights that the unemployment for persons under the age of 25 has reached the 40th percentile (apparently this is also happening in the southern regions of Italy). There were several articles describing Greece's concern that it's educated youth are in increasing numbers migrating to nations throughout the world.
Greece's economic issues rests in large portion to how imbalance their taxation policies and the common practice that persisted for years for individuals and industry not to pay any taxes. The maritime industry and tourism will help Greece economically but it is currently in an economic slowdown that may take many years to reverse.
We, in the US, can learn and benefit a great deal from analyzing their philosophies as well as analyzing their current political and economic state of affairs.
Islands of Mykonos and nearby Delos
We arrived to the small island and about 60 of us from the ship were scheduled to immediately disembark and then get on a small ferry boat that would take us to another island to see the archeological site of Delos. I had not heard of this tiny remote rocky island that is about an our journey. Apparently this was the site where the myth of the god Apollo and his sister Artemis originated. What I was familiar with was the history of Ionians and this site was their religious center. Homer talked about the Ionians in his Odyssey and Homeric Hymn to Apollo (400 B.C.).
When we were approaching the ruins it did not seem in any way impressive but as we walked through the ruins we were surprised how much we could see and learn about them. Delos accommodated 30,000 inhabitants. It was a city that did not put up any protective walls. It was an open city to all and there are structures that support it. Amongst the ruins still stands relatively small statues of Anthony and Cleopatra. They visited here. There are multiple temples still visible that were dedicated to the gods from distinct sections of the Mediterranean region. The ruins still have extensive art work (mosaics, statues, pottery and wall-paintings) from diverse cultures and time spans.
It was quite moving to have walked amongst the partial ruins and have nothing else but open terrain and clear azure sea surround the area. A couple of years ago we visited Pompeii and it was great to visit but is was during the summer and it was crowded. Here there is only a small number and we were dispersed into small groups and went in different directions. I felt a comfortable yet strange sense of serenity sitting on a ruin with no one in sight and hearing a calming silence. As I sat there I began to imagine the sounds of movement of the overall activity of the city back in its time. Ships of different designers entering and exiting the small shallow port. I could imagine items from the region being moved to and fro. I can hear the sailors and merchants greeting and discussing their dealings. It must have been a very busy place where you hear many languages.
The Fall sun was quickly going down and we went back to Mykonos. We had a few hours free to wander through the town before boarding the ship which we now come to regard as our floating home.
Mykonos is very small and mainly a summer resort area. At this time of the year many shops are closed foe the season. Just outside the town are some windmills that are no longer in use but are commonly photographed and exhibited. We walked through the narrow and weaving streets looking for a neighborhood grocery store. We finally found one and got our essential provisions (2 bottles of Greek white wine) to take back on the ship.
That night we prepared to eat dinner and go ballroom dancing. We rested and got ready for our next two ports of call in Turkey. We set off to visit Kusadasi and Istanbul.