Hubris

Room with a View

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“The other night, lying in bed at the Hotel Herodion, I saw Andrea get up and pull the curtains. I have seen this before. She is a light sleeper and, when she wakes up for whatever reason, she focuses on something external that is not allowing her to sleep. Maybe it’s a streetlight outside our window, or a blinking diode on a computer or a battery charger, or the face of a clock, or the sound of water running through the pipes, or the air conditioner or a fan. I can sense her anger and, even though I am awake, I pretend to sleep in case the thing that is keeping her awake happens to be me.”—Matt Barrett

Nothing At All to Write Home About 

By Matt Barrett

The Parthenon at night. (Photo: AussieActive via Unsplash.)
The Parthenon at night. (Photo: AussieActive via Unsplash.)

Author’s Note: The following is excerpted from a collection of my essays to be found on my Greek travel site. Follow the blueline here to read more pieces on my blog, email me with questions and comments, or join my Greece Travel Facebook Page. If you like this story, please share it with your friends on Facebook (and everywhere else).

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CARRBORO North Carolina & KEA Greece—(Hubris)—January 2024—The other night, lying in bed at the Hotel Herodion, I saw Andrea get up and pull the curtains. I have seen this before. She is a light sleeper and, when she wakes up for whatever reason, she focuses on something external that is not allowing her to sleep. Maybe it’s a streetlight outside our window, or a blinking diode on a computer or a battery charger, or the face of a clock, or the sound of water running through the pipes, or the air conditioner or a fan. I can sense her anger and, even though I am awake, I pretend to sleep in case the thing that is keeping her awake happens to be me.

So, as I see her pulling the curtains, I know she’s annoyed because there is a light that is bothering her and keeping her awake. I know right away what the light is that’s disturbing her sleep. It’s the Parthenon. The symbol of our civilization, mankind’s greatest architectural achievement illuminated in all its glory so that the whole of Athens can see it. A beacon to the rest of the world that saying “Come to Greece, for this is where it all began” has been reduced to the status of a barking dog or a buzzing mosquito. It has become an irritant. Like many things, the Parthenon is getting on Andrea’s nerves.

In a way, it’s symbolic of our lives. Here we are in a beautiful hotel with a view so fantastic that I can lie in my bed and see the walls of the Acropolis with the Parthenon itself just slightly above so I see pretty much the whole thing. Lying on my side with my head on two pillows I can see where they have replaced stones, the new ones so white as to make it obvious that they are replacements and I wonder how far the archaeologists will go in their efforts to preserve history. Will they rebuild the Parthenon completely?

For 30 years, I have watched the scaffolding make its way around the building and it’s now on the southwest corner where the Franks built a small fortification tower within the Parthenon, proper. Will this tower be dismantled to preserve the purity of the original building? I can see that two columns have been removed and are now being reconstructed in the section that would have faced the brunt of the cannons below. Will they fix the damage caused by Venetian cannon balls back in the 17th century? I look at the building from my bed and try to imagine the night when a lucky shot hit the ammunition that the Turks were storing in the building and the cataclysmic explosion hurled giant stones (and humans) for miles. The night they blew up the Parthenon must have been the most unforgettable event in f Greece since the explosion of Santorini. Was anyone on the Acropolis left alive? What did the Venetians think when they saw the building explode? Did they cheer or did they look at each other and say, “Oh my God. What have we done?”

I look at the ruins of this great building, and I don’t care what other people think: the Parthenon was and still is humankind’s architectural pinnacle. There is no building more influential.

I think about Greece in its current economic crisis and right next door in Turkey it’s like the California gold rush. Could there be a better time than now to approach the Turkish leaders and the good people of Turkey and say, “Remember about 500 years ago when you were using the Parthenon to store ammunition and it blew up? Well, you never really paid us for the damage. Do you think you could help us out? We would ask the Venetians, but they don’t really exist anymore and the Italians are almost as f’ed as we are. We would settle for a mere 400 billion euros (not TL) paid in easy monthly installments.”

When you can lie in your bed, look out the window and see the Parthenon, it’s easy to imagine solutions for the problems of the world.

Meanwhile, Andrea has fallen back asleep. I get up and quietly open the curtains a crack. Just enough so I can see the southwest corner of the Parthenon but not enough that it wakes her again. I’m thinking that if Andrea’s been kept awake all night by the Parthenon, she’ll be intolerable tomorrow . . . and this tiny sliver of history is enough for me.

After an unspectacular career as a gifted songwriter (and a less than gifted guitar player), Matt Barrett began his Greece Travel Guide website in 1996, one of the first travel sites on the internet and a blog before the word was invented. In the years since, he has written hundreds of articles about Greece and his websites have helped millions of people visit (and even move there). Matt’s works have been published in . . . well, actually, this is the first time any of his stories and articles has been published anywhere except on his website (not including the many articles that have somehow found their way onto Chinese travel websites.) His E-book Spearfishing In Skatohori has sold dozens of copies on Amazon. Matt has never won any awards or, if he has, nobody has told him about them. He divides his time among his home in Carrboro, North Carolina, his house on the Greek Island of Kea, his daughter’s apartment in Kypseli, Athens, his sister-in-law’s house on Lesvos, Greece, and a few other places best left unmentioned. Matt has two more unpublished books: In Search Of Sardeles Pastes and I Married a Lesbian. He lives with his wife and four cats, none of whom particularly likes him. (The wife does, sometimes). The best place to find Matt is on his website at www.greecetravel.com (or at Yannis Kalofagadon Taverna on Kea).

4 Comments

  • Di Drymoussis

    I always enjoy your pieces Matt and am pleased that you now contribute to Weekly Hubris.
    I am married to a Greek and live in Athens. Not only have I used your website countless times over the years to get info for myself but have circulated it to numerous friends and acquaintances and suggested they use it as their main guide to Greece – and continue to do so. I am full of admiration for the breadth and depth of info contained therein. Thank you!!
    And may I wish you a Happy New Year and that 2024 will continue to bring you prosperity, but also good health, joy, peace and endless blessings.

    • Matt Barrett

      Thank you Di. I love hearing from people who enjoy my writing and my website, especially when they tell me they live in Athens and send it to their friends and family who come to visit. Thank you for your support and your comments. Have a Happy New Year too.
      Matt

  • Danica Oparnica

    I loved reading this. I lived in Greece and practiced as a psychiatric nurse practitioner (before there was such a thing in Greece) in a multidisciplinary practice for three years. I loved every moment and would have stayed for the rest of my life if I could have. Reading this blog has brought so many memories back and brought tears to my eyes so many times. Next time I am on Lesvos I will visit this taverna. Thank you.

    • Helen Noakes

      What a wonderful column, Matt. It brought back so many memories. I stayed at the Herodion years ago, specifically because I could see the Acropolis from my room’s window. Your description of the Parthenon’s current state and its fraught history was evocative. All the barbaric efforts at its destruction and exploitation (and I include Elgin’s theft in this) did not and will not destroy it. L9ng may she stand!

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