Day 16 – Athens

Today I decide to take a tour of the ruins underneath the Acropolis Museum. Builders placed the columns holding up the museum in areas to avoid the ruins as much as possible.

The ruins show centuries of use, from 5th century BCE to the Byzantine period.

An interesting room is the symposium, a room used by male guests for drinking, carousing with women, like geishas, educated for that purpose, and discussing great philosophical topics, such as “what is the good?”

Outside on the lawn, turtles (or tortoises?) walk about in the sun.

I decide to visit a weaving studio and pass on the way a ceramic shop with some interesting pots in the window.

The weaving shop is small but full of vintage implements for processing wool. The shopkeeper said that her mother, owner of the implements, had taught her everything about weaving..

She dyed these linen skeins with almond husks.

Next I took a tour entitled Athens Social and Political Walk. Without internet and google maps, I had trouble finding the meeting place near the Parliament building.

I walked over vast areas looking for any signs, street or otherwise, that would offer clues to the destination. While roaming, I passed the guards in front of the Parliament.

Later on with the group, other guards passed us on the sidewalk across the street from the house of the Prime Minister. Fascinating shoes and marching steps.

We walked through the 40-acre National Gardens, built by Queen Amalia, wife of Greece’s King Otto in 1839. They were first opened to the public in 1923.

Our guide Isaac is a Spanish political scientist who is obsessed with Greek politics.

He gives us a brief overview of Greek political and social history to help us understand the current situation in Greece.

Police guard street corners in the Exarchia neighborhood where anarchists hold frequent riots and disruptions. The police protect property and stand alert to catch misbehaving citizens.

Some police stay in this bus playing video games on call in case they need to load the bus with demonstrators. Our guide tells us there is at least one riot with arrests every week.

The neighborhood displays graffiti on every wall.

This mural depicts a 15-year-old boy who was shot by the police in a demonstration.

Our guide describes how the anarchists resent tourists as the growth of short-term rentals is shrinking the supply of long-term rentals and raising rates. Gentrifying the neighborhood means fewer places to squat.

We pass the Athens Polytechnic University where in 1973 students revolted against the military junta. Tanks ran through the gates of the university killing forty people. This monument stands in memorial to the event and its victims.

The flag of Byzantium is venerated by some of the anarchists and appears frequently in graffiti.

It’s hard to disagree that capitalism is flawed when seeing the growing gap between rich and poor, the people sleeping on the streets on Athens, San Francisco and so many other places in the world.

But something better to replace it?

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