Lee has been out visiting us in Athens for the past week or so. Today, we weren’t completely sure what we could do that was cheap and worth seeing. We had debated going in to the city centre to kick around, but the weather wasn’t too great. Instead, we found ourselves down on the coastal part to visit an old warship from the 1920s.
Here I am recreating a picture we found below deck.
This is how I would like to be remembered once I am assassinated at the height of my soon-to-be-established empire.
I’m not a big fan of anything military related, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t interesting. States, flags, and the interplay of power and authority is something that I think is pretty fascinating – even more so when you see it from the side of a country that you weren’t brought up in.
Not to mention the fact that being on such a large boat that’s actively been used for a specific purpose other than tourism is pretty weird. It was hard to wrap my head round the size of the guns (cannons?) on board, and how one shot from them wouldn’t sink an enemy immediately.
One of the things they didn’t seem to mention too much in amongst all of the proud displays of the officers’ uniforms etc was the darker side. How many ships did this one obliterate? How much active service did it see and take a destructive role in? What was the living conditions like of those on board? A lot of the stuff was in Greek, so it’s entirely possible this was covered, but it didn’t seem to be too high on the priority list. Maybe it was because it was still run by the navy that it focussed more on the glory, though I could be wrong about that.
Across the way was a much newer ship called the Velos.
It was a bit weird, as there was literally nobody about, and we just sort of wandered up and onto the deck. There was a sign on a sort of ticket booth nearby that said admittance was free, but it seemed like someone should have been there. Maybe there would be during the summer… but once again you never quite know what the hell is really going on in Greece.
There was a brief explanation of when the boat had become a museum, though it really seemed like it was still a functioning warship from the way it was set up. One of the most interesting things was that this ship had apparently become world famous during the country’s military dictatorship, when its captain refused to return to Greece – instead offloading in Italy. There’s a bit more about the story here – another example of the fiery spirit of resistance that I love about the Greeks.
Rather than get the tram the whole way back we meandered along the coast. Some bits were pretty dilapidated – with formerly swanky bars sitting abandoned right on the edge of the water, with rubbish strewn over the sand. We spotted broken lights and homeless people sleeping right next to some of the fancier marinas where million pound yachts were still sat. Lots of beautiful buildings seemed to have slipped into disrepair, and it was hard to believe that they could just be sitting like that in such a wonderful place. I don’t remember it looking like that when I was last here many years ago., and whilst other bits of Athens has started to pick itself up from the crisis, it didn’t appear to have happened down here. Hopefully it will soon.
I wonder what it will be like to come home and not see cats everywhere we go.
or graffiti over every available wall space.
…even right next to the unbelievably blue sea.
The combination of all of this is what makes Athens such an amazing place. The juxtaposition of the beautiful and the dirty, the ancient and the new, the rules and the exceptions. Contradictions are just part of how things are here, and presumably like how they always have been.
Even with all the hardship that they’ve gone through in the past few years, the Greeks seem to take it in their stride. Greece has the feeling of a country that’s been around far too long to be fazed by things like the rest of us might.