Thursday, April 29, 2004

Beth says: How can I be already writing about Italy when Greece is barely a memory? Greece was unforgettable, somehow blending in with the Greek ruins we saw in Turkey, and the good times we had with Gordy, Lynda, Jamie and Henry. But the transition from Greece to Italy took a lot of stamina -- first a 4-1/2 hour ride down a mountain, then a rush to catch the overnight ferry from Patras, Greece, to Bari, Italy, then another good 4 hour bus ride to Naples. As the Greeks would say, "Know yourself."

So, here is Allen's summing up -- in the form of a letter to Rachel and Nick, our kids.

Allen says: Dear Rache and Saint,

We're in Delphi but it's raining so the oracle wasn't available for questions. This place is really lovely but it's time to say goodbye to these lovely mountains and jump on the ferry for Italy and that means it's time for my monthly summing up letter.

I find Greece hard to sum up but here goes. Greeks in some ways remind me of Jews. Both groups tend to be loud and a bit argumentative. Just as we gave monotheism to the world, the Greeks gave the world many of the basics of our Western culture - everything from democracy to philosophy to literature to drama to science. Both Greeks and Jews often feel a sense of ingratitude from the world, a feeling that tthe world owes them something. Modern Greece feels cheated out of its patrimony.

Here in Greece this shows up in many ways. Just as in Israel, the Greeks live as if the past and the present are one. And just as in Israel there is a reasonable rationale for their viewpoint. Athens, for instance, would not be the capitol of Greece were it not for the Acropolis. Athens real raison d'etre is the Acropolis. Otherwise it would have been a small village bypassed by the growth of modern Greece.

Constantinople (Istanbul) and all of Asia Minor were once Greek ( the Byzantine Empire descended from the eastern Roman Empire and over a million Greeks, heirs to Alexander the Great, lived in Asia Minor until the 1920s) and Greeks believe correctly that their expulsion from Asia Minor was the direct result of Western imperial machinations.

The sense of a betrayed present and a proud past seem to inform Greek character. Ah but what a wonderful place this is and what a wonderful past it brings to life. I felt like I could almost touch Agamemnon and Orestes in Mycenae. At the theatre of Dionysus in Athens I could almost see them performing the tragedies of Sophocles and hear people laughing at Aristophanes political and dirty jokes. I even got to stand in the spot where Socrates taught his students. Wow!!! As many times as I've seen the Parthenon, it will always be an amazing, overpowering place. Then there's Knossos, Sparta, Olympia, and Delphi - just the names are enough to hint at the awe I experienced in seeing them. I actually stood in front of the helmet Miltiades wore when he led his soldiers to victory at the battle of Marathon.

But ancient Greece was only a part of the magic of this place. We spent a day climbing up and down the side of a mountain exploring the Byzantine ruins of Mystras. We explored Venetian forts at beautiful Napflion and Rhodes. In Rhodes, we also got to explore its still lively medieval old town. And then there's Crete with its wonderful memories of my somewhat wild youth. Crete is different today but it's still beautiful and its museum is great. Actually we saw about a half dozen wonderful museums all over the country. Finally, there's the food. It was great - moussaka, baked squid, veal in lemon sauce, and greek salad loaded with feta cheese. Of course, it's still not Turkey.

It seems this letter is more travelogue than analysis, and it's a light travelogue at that. So be it.

Love, Dad

P.S. Enjoy The Brothers K. and your new place.

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