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.