Fontaine Family Foray in Europe – Installment #5
Yet another spectacular, sunny warm morning was there to greet us as we awoke aboard the MSC Poesia in Athens. This was my first-ever visit to all three of our stops in Greece and I must admit it is the one I was looking forward to the most.
The first thing that strikes you about this mountainous city is how none of the buildings are above eight stories high. This type of density appears to have unnaturally forced the sprawl of this city high into the hills and beyond. Yet with their uniform white buildings affixed with solar panels it makes for one amazing site.
We planned another off-boat excursion for a tour around the city including a special stop at the ancient Acropolis located atop one of the “seven hills” surrounding the centre of Athens. You can actually see the Acropolis in the far distance from atop our ship, but it is up close when it becomes much more impressive.
Having studied a bit of Greek history many moons ago, the Acropolis and Athens has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. To be able to see first-hand the genesis of our modern democracy is nirvana for politicos.
The Greeks proudly boast of their development of the first court with laws protecting individual rights, politicians who represented a large constituency, currency, the alphabet and the list goes on. They have either invented or contributed so much for which we use and take for granted each day.
This is not lost on me as I travel the streets of this once mighty nation of conquerors which now struggles to keep its economy afloat amidst a sea of stronger and more economically vibrant nations who form the European Union.
Our tour guide remarked that the Greeks were under the oppressive regime of the Ottoman Empire for a period of 400 years. However, he said his people fought it at every turn with Athens at the centre of that resistance. The ancient Greeks had a saying “living one hour in democracy is worth more than 400 years living in slavery”.
Far too often we take for granted all the democratic privileges we have bestowed upon us as a birthright in Canada. The right to vote, a Supreme Court and the assumption of innocence are all but a few of those.
A visit to the Acropolis is a healthy reminder that these things did not come easy – and are a challenge to maintain. Even in this modern age, sadly there remain leaders and nations who see oppression, tyranny and dictatorship as a more superior system as compared to western democracy.
It felt like a blink of an eye, but our tour of the Acropolis was over and we began our descent down the many marble staircases which are lined with olive trees. If you’ve never been to Athens, I’d highly recommend you put this on your “to do” travel itinerary.
Unlike many of the other European cities we visited, the price for everything from a Coke Zero, touristy trinkets and a restaurant meal are much more reasonably priced. In fact, when you do the conversion, most of the goods and services appeared on par with Canadian prices, or even a bit reduced.
The local topography is also something to behold with the mountains surrounding Athens and the Aegean Sea. While similar to our other two visits to Mykonos and Katakalon, Athens is very arid, but it also has placed a particular focus on building many public gardens throughout the city which help to temper the feeling you’re living in a desert.
The ship leaves port as we now head toward Albania with a weather forecast of thunderstorms and rain. After the many days of sunny hot weather, a bit of cooler temps will probably be welcome – at least for one day!