flashback to Greece

Parthenon at dusk

Yesterday’s post with its emphasis on sunshine reminded me that this time last year I was in Greece as part of the first World Conference of Screenwriters. I was running the conference blog and social media, and it was a wonderful, if exhausting, few days in Athens.

The above picture is of the Parthenon at dusk on the opening evening of the conference. It’s one of the cluster of ancient buildings that make up the Acropolis – which is perched on a flat-topped outcrop 150 meters above Athens. Our international group of screenwriters and Guilds representatives was extremely fortunate to get a private tour of the Acropolis just as twilight descended upon the Greek capital.

It’s quite an experience to visit such an old and revered spot, with the sun descending into a scarlet dusk, towing an indigo-black night behind it, and to watch the lights of Athens turn on below you.

There are temples, shrines and monuments all over the city, and it’s hard not to be reminded every couple of minutes of the country’s legacy. And every Greek tour guide will happily inform you that Greece is the originator of all that is great in Western civilization (with no mention of the bad). They are justifiably proud of their achievements. On the bus ride to the Acropolis we drove slowly through the heavy traffic while our Guide pointed out the sights and told us their history.

Unfortunately, being a rather chatty bunch, and since it was the first night of the conference, there was rather too much conversation going on for our guide’s liking. With a strict reprimand she quietened our congregation, and intimidated several of our members. I didn’t mind the ensuing silence, because I enjoy learning history.

Theatre of DionysusOne of the first places we saw once we had climbed up to the main section of the Acropolis was the Theatre of Dionysus.

It’s perhaps not the most exciting location for many people, but when our delegates were told that this venue had premiered work by the likes of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes there was a hush of reverence.

It was a balmy night by my standards, and after the lowering of the Greek flag on the Acropolis by the soldiers we were free to wander around. There were a few Alsatian watchdogs penned up nearby to guard the area, but there were also a number of roaming dogs that occupy the site. Freelancers, I guess. One friendly, mature yellow Labrador kept an eye on us the entire time we were on the site, moving between our various groups, as if representing the spirit of the Acropolis.

Old temple of AthenaA short time after nightfall we picked our way down the broken and uneven steps in the darkness with the aid of intermittent lights, and began the short trek down the sloping avenue to the oustanding New Acropolis Museum. We were going to a reception at the museum with the Greek Minister for Culture.

By the time we descended from the Acropolis our spirit dog had summoned a pack of fellow mongrel agents and they took it upon themselves to guide us to the museum. They were entirely friendly to our group, running and sniffing alongside us, but they did warn off a number of Greek locals who had the temerity to walk their dogs too close to our human-dog pack.

When we reached the New Acropolis Museum they considered their job done and dispersed – probably to find some other group of strangers to welcome.

It was a magical start to the conference.

I loved Greece in November: the locals were huddled up in scarfs and coats, but it was like Irish summer weather to me – which included a terrible downpour on the day we left. Yet, most of the days were sunny, with clear skies and temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, I was so busy with the conference itself I had little time to enjoy the sites, but that evening on the Acropolis is a fantastic memory.

There was another memorable evening where a large group of us walked through the city’s streets (dodging the ever-present motorcycles and scooters) until we found a restaurant in a square close to the Acropolis – the floodlight ruins were visible from our tables as we ate heavenly food and drank red wine outside in the warm night, listened to traditional Greek music and discussed writing, history, politics and laughed a great deal.

Ah, those are the memories you dwell upon fondly during a cold winter night in Ireland.