As for myself, I got off that plane with expectations.
“Greece” in my mind was a world of white – white marble, white houses, white togas. But this real Greece, this true Greece of today? It is gritty. The people, with genealogies old as the land itself, have that intrepid attitude, spirited and bold. Their language, with its unfamiliar alphabet, grates against my unaccustomed ear. The traditional marble, as indicative of Greece as any modern Hassapiko dance, is smooth and slick from countless footsteps — its crispness a memory faded.
And the houses — the vast, unending, crowded conglomeration of houses and buildings in Athens — are not white. Graffiti invades everywhere; there exists no refuge from its presence. These telltale marks of urban sprawl are not, however, strictly in Greek. In fact, English words find home on buildings more often than any Greek scripts. Road-signs and shop-names, too, appear in duets of Greek and English.
This duality of language, of two tongues coexisting juxtaposed, represents the contrast in Greece. All around, contradictions battle for attention, and first impressions rarely reveal the intricate nature of Greek architecture, fashion, traditions, and life. Clashing influences – ancient v. modern, East v. West, mythological Greek polytheism v. the Greek Orthodox Church – have shaped modern Greece. And I had come to experience both these incongruities and harmonies.
More to come, stay tuned!