Today, on a walk fueled by freddo (frozen) espresso, while stopped at a crosswalk, I saw a familiar sight: a bus built to resemble an old-timey train. The bus was filled with a species of mammal called tourists, known for their fanny packs, Michelin Guides, and a sharp ability to recognize the recognizable. While the bus took a swift turn, in what could only be called the "caboose,” a woman aimed her point-and-shoot at the Panathinaiko Stadium, the location of the 1896 Olympics, as if it were a skeet target.
The tourtrainbus is antithetical to what I hope to gain from our stay. Of course, the diatribe against the tourist culture is an easy one for the self-important student abroad, and I do not intend to go into that direction this afternoon. I realize how lucky I am to be able to read a book in the shadow of the Stadium rather than photograph it from a moving vehicle. Given the longer-term nature of my stay, my “first impression” of Athens has been most notable in the particulars. There is no sense of urgency in my experiences.
The city is orange, hazy, and loud. We live next to a six-lane road with a more-than-adequate number of motorcyclists with modified mufflers. It has been endlessly hot while we’ve been here. The heat doesn’t seem to come from the sun, but from the pavement itself, scorching first your shoes as the wave ascends and permeates your body; shade is made irrelevant by mid-morning.
The traffic marches with the force of the armies of Patton and Napoleon, stopping only to eat, and leaving the wounded to fend for themselves. One must cross the streets with caution, but also with confidence. Hesitation may be mistaken for weakness, and Darwin did not forget about Athens.
This is my snapshot.
Having not done the standard monument tour as a group yet, it has, I think, forced us to view our surroundings in a less-touristy manner, which has made it much easier to feel like a resident after only a week.
To the woman in the trainbus: skeet shooting did not become an Olympic sport until 1968.