Background: The Parthenon
Three days before, we’d arrived in Athens on the heels of a thunderstorm that left the air crystal clear. The first morning as we walked up to the Acropolis we could see islands miles out in the sea. Our first sight of the Parthenon, walking up through the grand entrance of the Propylaea, was of course breathtaking.
There is a certain suspension of belief when one is actually in the place one’s dreamed of for many years. Can those really be the doric columns one studied thirty years ago in Art History, and that have been there for fifteen hundred years? Is that really the same photographer of tourists, with his little tripod and ancient camera, who stood there a hundred years ago and whose tools shine in all the old photographs? Don’t notice the scaffolding, is that really where the Cariatids belong?
My delight in Greek myths as a child had led me to ply my only daughter with the same books I’d enjoyed; for both of us Pegasus and Athene and Medusa and Perseus were more real than Black Beauty or Cinderella or Frankenstein or Superman. I’d taken the Art History courses, read the popularizations like Gods, Graves, and Scholars : I knew how to point out the "greek vase" outlined by the entaisis in the columns. I was prepared. Our plans included many ancient sites: Delphi and Mycenae and Epidauros, and even Heraklion in Crete.
Our focus on ancient history and myth had led us to Greece: what we had not expected was the charm of modern Greece, nor the joy of being, just the two of us, together for two weeks with no set agenda, no plans, free to stop or go as we wished, with no deadlines or homework or people to impress.
The first few days we spent in Athens, staying in the Plaka, wandering in the parks, seeing the Acropolis and the museum and the Agora - the last with a charming gentleman, a guide named Pany, who was most impressed with Jeannette’s knowledge of the ancient world. Now we were in the Peleponnesus, with our rented car.