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Phespirit goes to Greece
Athens     March 2012

"As this Greek tragedy unfolds ....." - outside the Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, Phespirit witnessed the glamorous reporter of an American TV crew use these very words to introduce her closing piece. He thought that if the Greeks were given one euro each time that particular phrase had been used since the public unravelling of their economy began in 2009 they would have long since been out of debt. As it is, "tragedy" remains on the lips of the world's media, along with "crisis", "turmoil" and above all "austerity". But no-one truly understands the Greek economy or any other nation's economy for that matter. Phespirit certainly doesn't so he spent a week in Athens for an altogether simpler purpose: tourism.

It might be assumed tourism in Athens would start at the Acropolis, but Phespirit was patient. His first day was a Thursday, and as the Benaki Museum is free to enter on a Thursday he started instead around the various museums and galleries to the north and east of parliament. The Benaki's antiquities and other collections were a highlight of day one, along with a late afternoon walk up Lysicrates Hill for perfect 360° panoramic views across the city.

So Friday was Phespirit's Acropolis day. The gods had looked kindly upon him as it proved to be the only hot sunny day of his whole week. Bothersome wind and tedious rain would blight his latter days but this one was just fine. Even so, it surely can't be possible to reach the top of the Acropolis without feeling a twinge of disappointment. A certain amount of scaffolding for restoration work is to be expected but in truth the area of the Parthenon is still one grand building site. Once over this initial negative first impression, Phespirit whiled away an excellent day slowly wandering everywhere permissible: on the plateau, its slopes, down to the Areopagus, to the ancient agora, and finally to the Acropolis Museum.

After another two days spent visiting Greek ruins, Roman ruins, sacred hills, churches, museums, galleries and the port of Pireas, Phespirit then set his sights farther afield. First by bus to Cape Soúnio, the southernmost tip of Attica, where upon a stark windswept headland stands brilliantly white marble columns that were once the Temple of Poseidon. It's an impressive sight still. Then the following day by bus to the plains of Marathon. Here the archaeological remains are well spread out, bisected by a busy road and surrounded by mundane businesses, dwellings and small holdings. Phespirit's ultimate reward for much trudging between them was a private viewing of the Middle Helladic Tombs - a surface complex that is otherwise kept concealed in the locked darkness of a purpose-built warehouse-sized building. It was a fine treat with which to end his Greek sightseeing.

"..... maybe even the United States." Back outside the Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, the glamorous American reporter finished her reportage by speculating that other countries could see their economies follow the path of Greece. Given the size of the U.S. national debt, it could be argued that Greece is already a rich nation in comparison. It's too hopelessly absurd for Phespirit to contemplate. He expects his own path will take him next to a nice beach, leaving all such concerns behind.

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