Wednesday, May 28, 2014

FAREWELL

Tomorrow morning I fly to Madrid. I'll be there for two days before returning to Chicago.  This Athens stay has been shorter than usual, and for that I am grateful.  It isn't easy for me to stay in the small apartment and not be active with my life but spend the days sitting around with the television on and three women in this small apartment.

I managed to go out and see friends a few times, go to the Benaki Museum once, to a play.  The weather has been ideal - not hot as it is in the heart of the summer.  The elections provided color and excitement for a while.  But not much has changed. At least, that's what the locals say.

Mom is understandably sad that I'm leaving but I know she'll be fine in a day or two. We get used to someone and it's difficult to let go.  She's doing well and for that I'm also grateful.

I plan to return for her birthday in November. 

Next time I write I'll post some photos. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

ELECTIONS AND MORE

Election fever has subsided.  People voted.  Votes were counted.  Some are elated, others not. Life goes on now as before.  I assume.  The results in some countries are not happy ones.  France, Denmark, Austria have elected right-wing, nationalist parties to sit at the European Council.  It does not bode well for the poor, the minorities.  I find it particularly hypocritical when those same Frenchmen, and Danes, and others, criticized, and still do, the United States for example for racist attitudes and behaviors.  Now that the "people of color" have come to their homes, they ain't happy about it.  Anti-immigrat/anti-semitic/anti-African rhetoric and actions bring to light their own racism. 

Last night I had a reunion of sorts - Evelyn, Nadia, and I met for coffee and, later, wine to catch-up, to reminisce, after about 30 years of not being together.  We were all friends in Chicago in the 1970s and 80s.  Then Evelyn moved to Greece, Nadia to California and then Canada.  I've seen each one of them separately but we hadn't been together since the early 80s.  To say it was fun is an understatement.  Between remembering our past adventures and misadventures and bringing each other up-to-date a good time was had by all.  Pictures to follow.

Saturday afternoon I saw Natasha at Monastiraki - a vast street market under the shadow of old buildings.  What a shame!  The riot of t-shirt vendors, jewelry, knick-knacks, restaurants, cafes, with their loud colors ruins the beauty of the ancient and medieval structures behind them.  My eyes are tired of so much gawdy signage, ugly storefronts, chaotic noise, hiding the elegance of the old Greece.  Why do they build unattractive concrete boxes everywhere, crowding streets and alleyways with people, cars, motorcycles?  Even the sky is difficult to appreciate when you look up in the middle of the city.  The only solution?  Get out of Athens.  And many people choose to live outside the city. 

In the evening Mom and I attended a mini-concert at the Syllabi Cafe where the owner - Philipos - sings and plays guitar accompanied by a bouzouki.  It was delightful and intimate - there were less than 15 people.  (The only drawback? Smoke.)

Friday I met Evelyn at Aegli in Zapeion.  Aegli is one of my favorite spots - a large cafe/restaurant in a large park/garden.  It's one of those oases in the middle of the noisy city where you forget the chaos and can enjoy quiet, trees, and open air.

Friday, May 23, 2014

ANOTHER GLANCE AT ATHENS LIFE

It's only been a week since I left Chicago but it feels like I've been gone weeks and weeks.  When we travel time moves slowly because every minute, every hour, is a new experience that takes up more space in our imagination.  One day can be filled with scenery and museums and unusual foods that contrast remarkably with the routine of home where the landscape is the same. 

Today  I went to Kifissia with my cousin and my mother.  Kifissia is a southern suburb filled with huge houses and tall trees.  Once upon a time it was far from the city; Athenians went on excursions or vacations.  Today is just an extension of the city: shops galore, cafes and restaurants, millions of cars, and people living in buildings one on top of another.  There are some oases however in that riot of noise and colors: the bakery/cafe we sat at has a garden in the back in the midst of trees and greenery with the scent of jasmin.  We had scrumptious pies and pastries, drank our Cokes, gloried in the peace of the quiet.

Yesterday I ventured to the Museum Benaki  where I saw the exhibition of Pontian postcards from the 1880s to the 1920s.  Marvelous examples of what postcards used to be and a good lesson from that part of the world and that time in history.  The coffee shop offers a quiet view of Athens from the 3rd floor where I enjoyed a respite again with a cheese pie and a Coke.  (Why do I drink Cokes when I travel?)

For those of you who are not in the news - Europe is gripped in election fever.  This Sunday the entire continent is choosing representatives to the European Council.  Greece also is having mayoral elections.  Athens is awash in marches, demonstrations, flyer-distributing people who engage you in political discussions in a heartbeat.  It is virtually impossible to avoid it. The television is one debate after another.  Mother is tired, missing her soap operas and game shows.

Who will win?  Who will lose?  Sunday will be exciting and probably surprising.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NIGHT LIFE IN ATHENS

It seems that every time I take the trolley to go downtown Athens something (or someone) closes the street.  Today was a political demonstration. What else?

So I joined them.

After all they were carrying red flags.  They couldn't be all that bad.  I took photos and listened to the passionate speeches.  Who are they?  Not anyone you'd know. A new breakout group from the bigger leftist party. Syriza.  A young woman asked me what I think, I said it's exciting. She was skeptical.  Not a fan I guess.

Afterwards I took a taxi and came to the cafe/bar where my cousin djs.  Loud music, loud people, not too bad.  Believe it or not, some of her friends know me already and come and greet me.  Kisses on both cheeks.  What's new?  How is your mom?  They know her too.  We make friends easily I guess.

The beer tastes good right now. And the din fuels my words.  I've been asked to join the group.  I feel like the elder female of the tribe.  After all I'm older than their mothers.  Although I bet I'm a lot cooler than they.  I'm just saying...

ATHENS AGAIN

This time the suitcase arrived with me.  It was raining in Athens yesterday, cool, gray. Today the sun shines again.  It feels like I was just here.  Less than a year ago I spent a month.  This time 10 days.  Too little says mom but she accepts the reality of my life.

Last night we heard the same singer from last year at the garden cafe of the Numismatic Museum - a lovely space filled with greenery.  Mom, cousins and I spent a couple of hours listening and sipping wine.

This morning the traditional visit to the bank.  Never fails. I have to go every time to sign something or take something or just for the clerk to see me.  Mom deposits or withdraws and, in the meantime, I am seen.  I exist.  A somewhat surrealist visit.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Madrid never sleeps

After a long ordeal I arrived in Madrid yesterday.  My suitcase however arrived a day later.  I did not fret as much as I would have earlier in life.  The highlights?  Meyer my high school classmate Marise after 45 years.  Walked all around with her and then by myself.  The city is fascinating.  Went to the Museum Reina Sofia and saw the "Guernica" today.  Took 2 city tours and saw even more.  Ate lots of jamon iberico, tortilla espanola, and had beers.  Weather is lovely: sunny and warm.  

Unfortunately tonight one of the Madrid soccer teams won the championship and the city is crazy with noise, people, cars honking, and general chaos.  Will I be able to sleep?  I can't say.

My hotel is in neighborhood called Huertas - trendy, literary, filled with bars, caf├ęs, restaurants, lively, very lively.

Tomorrow I plan to go to the Prado and Thyssen.  Looking forward to it.  Now I just hope I can sleep.  It's past 1 in the morning and the singing and screaming and drumming does not subside.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

SISTERS OF THE ROAD

It is a surreal picture: in the distance I can see rather a bizarre collection of women, quite a few in dull-colored Victorian garb with a variety of bonnets, sola topis, and veils; one or two in the heavy habits of the Middle Ages (or even earlier) and several elaborately upholstered in glancing satin finery; there are some in shorts of trousers, perhaps men’s; some in medical or military uniform; now and again there is even the odd flowery sun-dress or flash of Lycra to be seen.  There must be well over a hundred altogether, and the noise, although muffled by the distance, is considerable.  Each seems to be hauling or tugging at something: some sort of rope, I think, and as I trace the tangling lines I realize that they are all connected to me, sitting here in the foreground.  I am perching slightly perilously in a fat and complacent armchair and these women, now hazy against the horizon, are lugging me along in it.  I am in, it seems, for quite a ride.       

                        Jane Robinson
                        Unsuitable for Ladies
                       Oxford University Press, 1994.



Listen to excerpts from the travel writings of women throughout history, focusing on American and British women of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. 

                                        
Francis Trollope                                                                 Flora Tristan