“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
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).
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.