Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Buried
A vast concrete world expands on the horizon. The wind is strong on the Aegean and the sun reflects blinding rays from the rippling salty swells. The sounds of modernity engulf the air. Motorized ships, tourist boats, ferries, cruises—the constant movement of a land no longer safe from globalization. The lost world of classical Athens becomes an illusion. As the ferry moves further away from the shore, modern Athens opens up in front of me like an aging tapestry. No longer do the hills appear unsurpassable. No longer does the Acropolis hold dominion over the Mediterranean world. The Athens lying in front of me is crumbling. The ruins of the ancient city lie far beneath the concrete high-rise housing of a country fallen into economic turmoil. Where is Greece? What happened to this powerful ancient city? What happened to the great philosophers and mathematicians and architects? The few dedicated Greek archaeologists, historians, scholars, and conservationists do not hold power against strict austerity measures and are fleeing to other places where they will be offered work for their expertise. What they leave behind is an empty shell of a once thriving land. Greece is dying.
I close my eyes and try to think of what it might have been like to approach the once golden city of the classical age. Piraeus provided a safe-haven port for traders and boatsmen while the Acropolis and its majestic white marble Parthenon stood as an ancient beacon guarded by Pallas Athena. But what is left of this ancient culture? Of course we find traces of philosophical thought and classical architecture all across the western world, but what is left for the Athenians? Why has the world turned their backs on this city? As I gaze upon the concrete structures now huddled together on every corner and niche between the mountains of the Athenian realm, I wonder how to save a place which is already gone. Are the Greeks living in Athens truly descendants of the great Athenians? Or are these people so far disconnected both originally and genetically from their ancestors that they simply do not care about the heritage? There is life in this city. There is hope. But I grow concerned with the thought that modernity has overpowered antiquity. How do you save a city that is already lost? And the most important question: does it want to be saved?