Athens, My Home Away From Home
There's something strange about comfort zones. Everyone has a certain perception of comfort that will rise or lower depending on setting. Perhaps the majority of people feel most comfortable when they are home--the place they know best, where they grew up, learned about life, had safety and security. But sometimes, we have more than one home. More than one place that sparks some element of home. There are two places like this for me. First, there is no other place in the world I would feel more comfortable than in my home in the mountains of the United States with my family. And second? Athens, Greece. This may seem an impossibility since Athens has such a harsh reputation as of late as a place of crisis and despair. But, you have to go to Athens to understand that the government may be in shambles, but the city and the Greeks living there have not changed. I have lived in Athens and returned several times over the last three years and each time I come back, it feels like home. There is nothing that really attaches me to the city, but I can walk through the winding streets and narrow alleyways as if I belong. I love the culture, the people, the food, the chaos. I hate cities, but there is something that draws me to the disorder of Athens. Perhaps my attachment to the history draws me in, but it's also the people. Greek people are the nicest, kindest, most hospitable people in the world. Though there may be stereotypes that Greeks don't work and are too lazy, perhaps they have it right. They're happy, relaxed people. They know their coffee, and they take their time enjoying it. Five times a day, no less.
Today as I wandered along the streets of Plaka under the acropolis, I noticed how effortlessly I navigated perhaps some of the most twisted alleys in Europe. This is my comfort zone. Perhaps in heritage, it takes time to truly enjoy something--until you can find comfort in the area and take the time to look around and enjoy the place in more detail. Each time I come back to Athens I discover something new. Today as I stood in front of some Roman ruins that stand in the shadow of the acropolis, I noticed an old man sitting on a stool with an easel, paint, and canvas. I stepped closer to see his work and I was amazed by his perception of the scenery. Though the Parthenon sat high on the hill above us, he was focusing on the trees, the Roman ruins, and the modern buildings surrounding it. He was painting the reality.
After focusing on the main tourist attractions in a place, take a few days to develop some comfort so you can be like the painter and see more of the reality of the landscape and everything it has to offer.