Sunday, October 4, 2015

Crazy | Beautiful

Two weeks ago my alarm was going off to wake me up to get the airport in Athens. It's about time I downloaded pictures and wrote a post that's not on my phone.

The problem is, I sat down at my computer with no idea of what angle to take. Should I just write a blog post about each place? Except Thessaloniki; all that needs to be said has been said and nothing else needs to be said. Should I go thematic: ruins, beaches, sunsets? That could work, except we're talking about Greece here, which is pretty much entirely ruins, so that would be super long, and I love sunset pictures, as you've all seen, but how many do you really want to look at it in a row? Stymied, I scrolled through my pictures. One theme jumped out.

That theme was: holy cow, Greece is so freaking beautiful I can't even handle it. Allow me to give you a tour of just a few of the postcard-worthy views in this beautiful country.

The Parthenon

 I debated which photo of this beautiful temple to post, because none did it justice. This shows only one side of it, and it's a short side. But it hides a lot of the construction and restoration equipment on the other side and gets a little closer to the pillars and the engravings at the top. The Parthenon is a shell of what it used to be. A fire, Christians and Lord Elgin each did a number on the temple of Athena in her holy city. What's left remains inspiring, however.

This was a surprisingly spiritual experience for me. I do not now nor have I ever worshipped the Greek gods, but looking at this magnificent structure, pondering on what the early Greeks sacrificed to build it, made me think about what I sacrifice for my God today, and if it will withstand the wars, disasters and potentially destructive effects of time.

The Acropolis

I climbed to the top of the Panathenaic Stadium for this view. In it the cranes and scaffolding disappear, as do the tourists that I know thronging the Parthenon. All you see is the hill rising out of the city below.

The beach around Athens

I'm sure there are ugly beaches somewhere, but they just seem built for being picturesque. The sun behind the clouds, the light reflecting off the water, the water making the sand look dark in contrast. At one point the airplanes all flew in formation in front of the sun and I wished I had a camera ready, but I also realized I don't want to experience my vacation through a camera lens. If I wanted to just see pictures of Greece, there are much better photographers taking much better pictures. I want my pictures to remind me of what I saw in Greece.

 The Temple of Apollo in Delphi on the side of the mountain

A surprising amount of the oracle's compound is still standing. There's a marble stadium, a treasury and a theater that are largely intact. This was where the ancient Greeks went for wisdom. I think maybe that was because it was so quiet. It is almost on the top of a mountain, far away from Athens, difficult to get to when you're not on a bus that seems wider than the streets of this tiny town and the others we passed through to get there. This vista is when I realized I missed the mountains -- not enough to move back to mountains, but enough to wish Lubbock were a little less flat.

Getting closer to heaven

Can you make out the monasteries, perched on the edge of cliffs? There's one on the left and one or two on the far right. Can you imagine getting out of bed, looking out the window and seeing this view every day? 

Yup, another sunset. Meteora is pretty much beautiful in any light. If you go to Greece, this is worth the trip to the innards of the country. Athens is cultural and exciting and the islands are absolutely beautiful, but Meteora is its own kind of breathtaking. 

Island living

A small art gallery that used to be a mosque, sitting along the old harbor in Chania, Greece. (I just wrote harbour. Apparently, since I don't know Greek, I just write in British when I'm writing about countries that are not America.)

The sea and sky were a little angry as I walked along the seawall to the lighthouse. It made it a different kind of beautiful. (It also is the reason I saw nude swimmers instead of mountain goats.) 

The Aegean Sea

That's a volcano that, several hundred years ago, created the Santorini we know and love today. (Well, the island part. The Greeks whitewashed their buildings and built swimming pools on the side of the cliff.) 

The cliffside dwellings of the modern Greeks

And you know I'm going to end with a sunset picture, right? It's yet another one from Oia, just before the sun finally dips into the sea. But trust me when I tell you, as beautiful as it is, says the humble photographer, it is nothing compared to actually watching it.