A funny thing happened on the way to Rome.
For the past two years, Athan and I have been slowly piecing together our moveable life. Thanks to the Internet, we had options to create businesses that were truly mobile. As it happens, what took us first to Athens is not what kept us here, nor what inspired us to lease a place on the near Island of Aegina for the coming year.
This has been a time of serendipity, this spring in Athens, with the blossoming of the hundreds of orange trees that line the streets and fill the air with such sweetness. We rest confidently in the embrace of Life unfolding in it’s own divine timing and plan. As always happens when we trust the universe, the experience is more exciting, delicious, nurturing, exhilarating, beautiful and fulfilling than any mere dream might be.
During the first week here, Athan joined one of our friends, Matina, on a treasure hunt in the National Gardens, a fifteen acre green sanctuary in the heart of the city. Matina, aka the Athenian Muse arranges traditional Greek cultural experiences, meals and excursions to acquaint visitors of the richness of the Hellenic cultural roots. We met Matina last year when we rented her apartment for several weeks. We warmed to each other immediately, especially after her invitation to visit with her and her family on the island of Hydra. We have stayed in touch as we share a kindred desire to see qualities of the Golden Age of Athens be rediscovered by her own citizens and the world at large.
On the tour through the gardens, at various spots, there would be a treasure found, a treat shared, a taste of wine from ancient pottery all woven on the fascinating story of the hows, whens and whys of each. At one point Matina read a poem. This poem has become our poem as we embark on our journey to Ithaca and feel the sweet Aegean winds fill out sails.
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)
We came to Athens by way of three days in Rome, promising Italy that we would quickly dispatch our Greek objectives and return to find our Italian paradise. We planned a few weeks in Athens and then a hop back to Rome, rent a car and begin to explore that gorgeous country from top to bottom until we found the city or village that called to us. A few months of Italian lessons and we would kick back under a leafy terrace overlooking the sea and manage life through WiFi.
However, we were quickly seduced by our Neo Classical apartment with fourteen foot ceilings and billowing curtain, breezy with birdsong. Here, in a quiet neighbourhood of Koukaki, just beneath Filappapou Hill and its monument to the muses (visible from the bedroom balcony) and in view of the Acropolis to the east and the Aegean to the west, we felt little tendrils of love growing for this sprawling ancient metropolis. We go everywhere on foot as we are so incredibly centrally located.
We are between two metro stops and have a quick hookup to the vast network of trains that are super fast and beautifully designed. Many stations, during the construction preparing for the Olympics, have wonderful displays of the artifacts and ancient buildings and waterways uncovered in the excavation. Just riding the metro is an education in itself. The stations are brightly tiled and often classical music welcomes the descent into the station.
More significant than the lure of the many facets of Athens, or the ancient temples that are within short bus rides, the people we have begun to connect with showed us that our place was here on the cusp of a cultural renaissance for a people who lost their compass over two thousand years ago. In the midst of economic distress, bearing the moniker as the ‘weak link’ in the European Community, there is a pulse of incredible independent, artistic, creative, intellectual and entrepreneurial force. On the journey to Ithaca, we have found our first adventure. The Hellenic Revival.
True to serendipity, life is unfolding with lightening speed. There is so much to share – visiting organic olive groves, experiencing the mystical airs of the temple sites, and I will go backwards and forwards until I get caught up!
Geia Sou! (ya sou – the familiar form of hello or goodbye)
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