Bookworm’s wrap-up of Greece

I’m somewhat baffled by the fact that I didn’t like our Grecian stops more. Corfu, of course, was nullified by my daughter’s appendix operation. (She’s back on the ship in perfect shape, by the way, after an unpleasant four day sojourn in the functional equivalent of a third world private hospital, setup solely to “serve” sick tourists.) Santorini was momentarily attractive, but had nothing to hold me. Olympia was too broken down even for my imagination to work.  

It was Athens, however, that finally helped me see what MY problem is with Greece:  I don’t have a sense of historic continuity. There’s ancient Athens and there’s modern Athens.  I didn’t see any in-between points other than a dusty, ancient Roman occupation and a distasteful Ottoman period, about which the Greeks do not speak.

In European countries in which I’ve spent my time, every minute of the past is plumbed, and often quite present. London, for example, has vivid evidence of the Romans, and of every era and governance since then, with buildings, art and books abounding, and overlapping each other. The same holds true in Germany or France, or in any other Western European country I can think of. The past is present.

In Greece, however, at least as presented to the tourist, there is a giant chasm between its past historic glories — where men created a foundation of reason, freedom and aesthetics that underpins our world even today — and the current bankrupt amalgam of European sophistication and third world function. (I must say that, from what understand, Athens is much better in this respect than it was before the 2004 Olympics. It was that event that forced the Greek government to drag the infrastructure into the 21st century.)

Much as I love history, spending a few overheated hours (temperatures were in the high 90s) looking at some stone columns long ago stripped of their decorative touches didn’t move me. It’s not just historical ignorance, either. I’ve actually read many books about ancient Greece,so I have at least a reasonable grasp of things, but ancient Greece, unlike Imperial Rome, just doesn’t seem real.

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  • skullbuster

    The main thing I took away from Greece is the impression that they don’t produce anything. 

    That was 10 years ago.  I  have a pottery shard from Delos, which I fount facinating, but you are right.  Tourism is it. 


    They’re quite good at confrontations in any week that has a Tuesday.
    A Sadie story:
    Once upon a time in my youth, I was in Greece. The youth group I was traveling with was bored. We were unable as young women to venture out into the streets in the evening without being verbally accosted. We gathered up our Drachmas and ventured into a local hair salon. If we couldn’t enjoy ourselves, we were determined to ‘improve’ ourselves.  In 1964 for $7.00, a half dozen of us decided to get our hair frosted (I think they call it tipped now). Six brunettes in and six brunettes out with varying degrees of blonde strands to contrast our natural hair color.
    When I got back to the US friends kept asking me about the new color/s. Excitedly, I explained to them it was a bargain at $7.00 and I had it done in Greece. A shudder came across their faces – owww – no wonder, it was cheap …owww, you had it done in grease!
    True story and true punch line.

  • Charles Martel

    The Greeks are kind of like the Morlocks in H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine.” They’ve fallen very far from their glory days and are now content to hunt and eat Eloi (better known as “Germans”).

  • Danny Lemieux

    As Book and her family wander around the rubble called “Greece”, I have to wonder if they aren’t witnessing our future.

  • jj

    “Rubble ” is it.  Never got Greece myself – except some of the islands are great.  But – it’s a third world country sitting atop some busted up old stuff.

  • Caped Crusader

    Bookworm, had I known the details of this folly I could have saved you all these frustrations. You would have been informed that the REAL Parthenon is located in the modern city of Nashville, Tennessee. Seriously, located in Centennial Park adjacent to Vanderbilt University and less than a mile from  the home in which I grew up is located a full scale reproduction of the Parthenon in perfect shape. Unfortunately it is not publicized enough and no one should go within 200 miles of Nashville without seeing it–AWESOME. As a child I played on the steps and between the columns many days. Nashville is known as the “Athens of the South” due to the many universities located there. And the fact that country music originated in Greece-kidding about that one! Little Bookworm could have had the best of medical care at Vanderbilt University Hospital while the family took in the Grand Ole Opry, the longest running radio program in America and you would have been in one of the reddest states in the USA.

  • Ymarsakar

    I was wondering how a country with the tradition of Athens could be so non-influential and asleep at the international helm, if they had truly inherited the will of their forefathers.

     Well, obviously they inherited something else other than that will. Socialism perhaps. 

  • Charles Martel

    Caped Crusader, great post. I haven’t been in Nashville in years, but I remember passing through in 1969 and treasuring the few minutes I had to romp around its Parthenon. As a kid, I was in love with the Greeks, and to see this wonderful recreation of the best Greek building of all time was a dream come true.

    Fast forward the many years and my son, the drummer in a rock band, tells me of the times he’s passed through Nashville on tour. He loves the place. Music, history, a great river and real people. He’s seen enough of America to know the genuine stuff, and Nashville ranks way up there on his scale.