Chapter 3: The Riders of the Zodiac.

At six o'clock in the morning, still dark outside, the Hellenic Seaways ship docked in the Athenian port of Piraeus, from where we had set sail five days ago. Boy, just to think that on that place, close to where I was, in the Saronic Gulf, between Salamis and Piraeus (Athens), was the site of one of the most incredible naval battles of all times, where the Persians were funneled and took a big beating from the Athenians, again, and Xerxes was so shaken that he had to retreat back East with his tail between his legs. Then Sparta, which was nearby there as well, who also took part in the battle, joined Athens to expel the Persians from Greece for good. Just thinking about it made my armpit hairs stand on end! But that union that would bring about Athens-Greece's heyday would also, further on, seal its own division and that of Greece itself. But since I don't believe in reincarnation, I have nothing to do with that, I grabbed my things, took Nhanderecó outside the ship, got on her and cycled to the nearest bakery to have breakfast while waiting for the sun to rise. Around 8 AM, we carried on towards Athens, which was about 11 km away from the port.

And the plan was: head for Meteora, up in Northwestern Greece! There we would visit the huge mythical monasteries, spend a night, and then return to Athens to enjoy it at last! Θα σας δούμε σύντομα / See you soon! What a surreal place! The region's first inhabitants date back to the 11th century, when there were still no monasteries built, so they lived in some sort of caves, and as we walked along, we could see huge holes dug into the side of the mountains, probably those were the said "caves" I read about; I would have no problem camping there! But when the Ottomans started to invade Greece and strike fear into the country, those monks needed to protect themselves and started building their monasteries from the 12th century onwards, in places only they could reach. Several monasteries were built over time, but only a few of them were still operational, and they're divided between monasteries for monks and convents for nuns, all being from Greek-Orthodox origin.

Having rested from the previous bureaucratic day, it was time for some official Athenian tourism, the final days of this European odyssey! Now officially without Nhanderecó, she's gone, dismantled, packed, and sent by post to Ireland, all I could do was pray for her, to arrive intact.

Having rested from the previous bureaucratic day, it was time for some official Athenian tourism, the final days of this European odyssey! Now officially without Nhanderecó, she's gone, dismantled, packed, and sent by post to Ireland, all I could do was pray for her, to arrive intact.

Good thing we went to the museum first, before anything else in Athens, because it explains everything and shows the whole history of Athens and Greece, from then on, everywhere I went I remembered seeing and reading about it in the museum. We spent several hours wandering like children through that sea of history! Around 6 PM, we left and went over to the Areopagus, right there on the hill at the foot of the Parthenon, which was lit up and shone even more after nightfall. The Areopagus (hill of Ares) used to serve as a justice court or council, it was - and still is - outdoors and played a crucial role in the politics and religious matters of the country in the past, it was there that many philosophers discussed and debated on topics such as science and education, for example. A lot - and I do mean a lot! - of talk and a lot of bullshit used to be said on that hill of Ares. At that very moment it was Bruno and I who were there, talking about our recent and past stories!

 good night's sleep and no rush to wake up. For Sunday, we decided to walk through the area of the Athenian Agora. Long story short, we spent a whole Sunday at the Agora and it was worth every second of it! Greece was proving to be worth every penny!

So, after hurting my brain by reading and trying to imagine the past, it was time to relax a little and move on to the bohemian side of Athens, which was right there in the vicinity of the Agora. We wandered aimlessly about and got lost in the alleyways and stairs of the Monastiraki quarter, many restaurants used the outdoors stairs as a seating area, and so people would gather in tiers, and then you look up and see the Parthenon presiding over the city, what a sight! 

Another day in Hellas, and it was time for the icing on the cake, the grand finale, the masterpiece! Located at the top of the city - which isn't even that high - the Parthenon is a maximum example of the survival and perfection of Greek architecture of that time! The temple was built at the request of Pericles, an influential statesman, orator and general of Ancient Greece, the main contributor and mastermind behind Athens' power, back in 438 BC. He wanted to send a message to the world that Athens was supreme, the capital of a new empire! And one of his ways of showing it was through buildings, so you, my little friends, can already guess what he had commanded to built...

Me and Bruno, Bruno and me, continued on our journey walking through our central Athenian surroundings and headed towards the region they call the Pnyx, which was right there to the side. The "Pnyx" is a hill about four hundred meters tall, where the Athenian assembly or Ecclesia met. That's none other than the place where democracy is said to have been born, the cradle of democracy, yeah, that's right, the same one we still have - or pretend to have - nowadays.  It's true democracy as conceived by, say, Plato, is quite a bit different from what we see out there. Important speakers and politicians frequented and walked this hill, such as Demosthenes, the same Pericles that I spoke about earlier, Themístocles, and so on...

And nothing better to end our adventure than with one last Greek-Latin-Tupi-American alcoholic toast! This way we ended at a bar called Beer Time...

τέλος - Telos
The End

Wanna know what is like to cycle and venture across Europe? Find out all the details of this adventure with the book "Into the Corners of Europa", now on sale in major bookstores and digital platforms!

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