A tale or two : Athens

The Acropolis

The Acropolis

There really doesn’t seem anything better to do in this reluctant Spring of ours other than to retreat into my warm and hazy past. I’ve been delving around in the photo albums and the memories came flooding back.  Perhaps you’d like to share a trip back with me, to one of the most romantic destinations in the world : the Greek Islands.  I’m planning a little series of posts, just to warm me up.  Maybe they’ll hasten the Summer.

The amphitheatre, seen from the Parthenon.

The amphitheatre, seen from the Parthenon.

I’m starting with a tale of high drama.  What better arena?  I spent just one afternoon in Athens- in some respects both the longest and shortest afternoon of my life.  It was to be “the icing on the cake”, but it ended in farce.

I had spent an idyllic fortnight in the Cyclades, and the timeslot before catching the plane back to England was just sufficient to allow a glimpse of the Greek capital.  It had to happen.  I couldn’t wait to see the Acropolis in all its glory.

Nothing ever prepares you for standing on a site like this: the weight of history and expectation.  I ascended slowly and respectfully in the warm day.  Impossible to be alone, of course, but it was still possible to gaze in awe and to stroke the ancient stone.

A bare section of wall invited me to sit and sip at my bottled water, and for one last look.

My viewpoint on the wall

My viewpoint on the wall

Feeling serene, I took Michael’s hand, and headed back down the mountain.  Time was short and I had no definite plan other than to wander and absorb.

“Where is your handbag?” asked Michael.  There was a stunned silence before I said “I must have left it on the wall”.  Galvanised into action, I fled back up to the Acropolis as fast as my legs would carry me, my stomache churning.  My passport was in the bag.

Of course, the wall was naked, though I looked and looked, not wanting to believe.  I had about 2 hours before I had to be back at the hotel to collect my case and the bus to the airport.  At the time, possibly the worst 2 hours of my life.  Have you ever tried to hail a taxi in Athens?  I must have been invisible, because I was dancing about, waving like a demon.

Eventually, the Greek Embassy.  I don’t know what I expected.  A cosy armchair with a cuppa and a rich tea biscuit?  A reassuring pat and the necessary papers produced with a smile?  The reality was a cross between a very severe post office and a police station, where I waited in line, feeling the weight of my transgressions.  And the tick of the clock!  How many times did I look at my watch, yet trying not to do so.  Avoiding Michael’s anxious eyes.

A flimsy sheet of paper was finally produced, with an injunction to obtain a passport photo and return.  Wholescale panic!  Where in the whole of Athens was such a thing to be found?  Why didn’t I carry a spare in my back pocket?  This was before the days of photograph booths.  Out into the street, eventually a photographic studio loomed and I was bundled unceremoniously inside, and dragged back out again, precious minutes later.  Back to the Embassy.  Wait in line.  Got it!  Oh no- not another desperate attempt to hail a taxi!

That magical Parthenon- scene of my woes!

That magical Parthenon- scene of my woes!

Well, I made it, though I’ll never know how.  Fortunately the flight tickets were with the baggage back at the hotel.  It will come as no surprise to you to find that on all trips abroad, Michael now carries both our passports.  I also have him to thank for the photos.  I wasn’t trusted with a camera back then.  I wonder why?

Oh, I almost forgot!  The handbag was returned to me, intact, many months later.  So, that was Athens!  Come with me next time, and we’ll go to the islands.


    1. I was almost resigned to not going home, Sue! There are worse places to get stuck 🙂 I always wanted to climb Mount Lycabettus (wrong spelling but you know the one I mean)

  1. So glad to know it was eventually returned to you! What a nightmare that had to be, trying to get the photograph, etc., in order to catch your flight home.

    Gorgeous photos of Athens! I’ve always wanted to go to Greece.


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it, Lindy. 🙂
      Greece was my first love and photos of the islands still transport me there. Athens? I know we’ll never return, which is a shame because the beauty was astounding.

    1. Hi Joan! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. No, I never expected to see that sad old handbag ever again. Fact stranger than fiction sometimes! Many thanks for following.

  2. Athens seems wonderful, but hte handbag disaster could have been avoided. We all learnt something. I usually try nad have a bum bag round my waist when going to sites, even at home in London. Too many pickpockets around. So glad you got your bag back though! Surely still you remember Athens with awe.

  3. I can totally relate to your adventure. It wasn’t my handbag and passport that was stolen it was Greece in a state of ware back in 1976! I was also on the Acropoles before flying back to Rome when all happened

      1. Came home last night – not snowing but it seems that they are having the March weather that we should be having (apparently the gulf stream has been pushed south) so it was quite cool and damp. Didn’t spoil the trip though and I fulfilled my ambition to see the Semana Semanta in a wonderful little town callled Siguenza.
        When will the Greek Island series begin? I’m not going there this year so I am relying on your posts for a memory nudge!

      2. I’m writing as we speak. Not sure whether to do just one a week. That’ll surely take us to Summer? (or even Spring!) I’m far too impatient for that, though. As soon as I’ve written it, I want it out there, so probably in the next day or three. I’ve lost some photos of Paros and Naxos which is a bummer.
        Semana Santa- can’t wait to see the post!

  4. A nightmare with a happy ending. And I’m sorry it marred this part of the trip. You were so caught up in this historical moment and then a rush against time. Aside from that, your journey back to Greece, through memories and pictures, is a great prelude to spring.

  5. A stomach churning tale with a happy ending… So glad your purse turned-up and that you didn’t lose your camera, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy your gorgeous pics!

    1. Fortunately, Michael was in charge of the camera, Elisa. I think he was using an old Brownie. Those were the days of developing holiday photos and hoping they’d turned out well. (mine seldom did!)

  6. You had me on the edge of my seat when you were scurrying round trying to get a photo for your passport, etc., phew! Glad you got it sorted – by the skin of your teeth. No wonder Michael now carries both passports!
    Great photos of Athens – it’s a magical place to visit.

  7. Athens, an fantastic and mad city .. lived there for 3 months in 1976, lived at Kolonaki Sq – in the heart of Athens. I never returned, wonder why … because it’s fantastic place. Have been thinking about going back … maybe next year. So glad that you got your handbag back, I found the Greeks to be very honest and hearty people, so I’m not at all surprised.
    Thanks for bringing the magic back to me .. have done a couple of post about Athens, just to click on Athen-tag.

  8. What a story!, I thought there was going to be an unhappy ending which you were reminded about each time you viewed your photos.
    How did you get you bag back, was it posted to you?
    I did a similar thing many years ago in Cornwall, dashed back, no bag. Frantically looking around the area, I was tapped on my shoulder, ‘is this what you’re looking for? I was asked, as my bag was handed back to me.

    1. One day, about 9 months later, it arrived in the post looking rather crumpled and sad. The passport was there but not my purse, which would only have had a few coins in. Cards of course, so there was the usual agro cancelling everything.
      I have no idea which dusty shelf it had sat on. I kept it for a long while, but never used it again.

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