Ruins and ruination

April in Paris is nothing like the song. I read somewhere that the lyricist would have preferred to call it May in Paris, but he needed two syllables. In general, it’s rainy and chilly and then chilly and rainy, not to mention windy. Wouldn’t that just make you want to go south? It did us. We had planned a trip with friends from our old neighborhood, Keith and Meghan. Somewhere with blue skies and at Keith’s request, somewhere he could wear shorts. We kicked around a few ideas until we landed on Greece.  Sun, that particular shade of Aegean blue, seafood, and ruins sounded like a winning combination.  Spoiler alert: it was.

Athens struck me just as so many people have described. Incredible ruins surrounded by a shabby city. The ruins didn’t disappoint.  Nor did the city, as I wasn’t expecting much. Upon our return, I read a new post by a blogger I follow that has made me realize there’s much more to Athens and that I didn’t give it a fair shot. Now I need to return.  Damn. I can never cross anything off my list, it only grows.

The Acropolis, Porch of the Caryatids, for you art history nerds.  Blue to die for.


View of Athens from the Acropolis



The tower of the winds.  This is considered the world’s first weather station.  It had a weather vane, sundials, and a clepysdra, or water clock.  The bas relief friezes around the top depict and are dedicated to the eight gods of the winds.  Being as how I nixed living in Provence after experiencing a 10 day mistral, telling Mark I could never live where the wind has a name, it’s a pretty safe bet we won’t be moving to here.



Greece has so many extraordinary sights and ruins that you could get jaded from the sheer overload.  That in mind, I won’t overload you either.  But my favorite spot might have been our trip to Ancient Olympia.  It was beautiful and quiet and somehow easier to picture it as it once was, despite the fact that few buildings remain standing. Or maybe it’s just more fun to imagine naked, sweaty guys throwing discus.







From the museum




If only I could be this bemused with someone chomping on my arm





Most days we had perfect weather.  This was not one of them.  But the site more than made up for the gloom.  Mycenae is thought to have been continuously occupied since the neolithic and reached its height during the Bronze Age.  Its destruction is subject to speculation, my favorite theory being that of invasion by the mysterious Sea Peoples.  This makes me think mermaids attacked.

The famous Lion Gate, the largest sculpture of its kind and age, 1250 bc ish.  It was never buried and thus was always known and not rediscovered.


The royal shaft grave burial site.  Meghan said this whole site felt sacred to her. I had to agree.



However, rather than imagining the ruins of ancient cities as the once were, I like to imagine our present cities as ruins. Not in an apocalyptic way, but in tens of thousands of years time. How does this happen? Successive catastrophes, societal collapse, disuse, and dust. Lots of dust. Earthquake. Fire. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all Ozymandias on you. Nevertheless, despite being rather unsentimental and for the most part accepting of disorder, decay and entropy, I’m in no hurry to see this in my lifetime.   Returning to Paris and witnessing the near destruction of Notre Dame as we did last night was something I might not ever be able to articulate.  All I can tell you is that the silence of the crowds streaming towards it, and then standing and watching was a moment I’m not likely to forget.  It didn’t feel like disaster voyeurism, it felt like collectively bearing witness.   As of now, they think the structure has been saved.  I’m left with vague thoughts of the chaos of history and how without change there’s no room for new things to emerge, even as my mind is saying, okay yes, I get it, that works for the ancient world but please, not Paris.


Notre dame.jpg