No I’m not talking about my grandparents…or your grandparents. This is about Rome and Athens.
The say Rome wasn’t built in a day. Well neither was Athens. Which is evident the minute you arrive in the city, even when you roll up in a cab at 5am on a Saturday morning FOB from Santorini in a daze of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, 10kg heavier and carrying more emotional baggage than the average heavily pregnant woman.
I’d never been to Athens before now, but with Liv in tow straight off the island it seemed silly not to take to the opportunity to do so. But herein lies the possible problem, in that after the summer that was, Athens was my first ‘reintroduction into society’ if you will. There were masses of people, cars that stopped at traffic lights and buildings that rose above 4 stories, coffee. I could have been in Sao Paolo for all I knew. Yeah OK, well that is until Liv took it upon herself to guide my vision upwards and point at the historical treasure that is the Acropolis. Perched unassumingly atop a hill in the middle of the city, going about its day, is one of the greatest historical relics still remaining (somewhat) intact today. And its cool to see. Like really cool. (Stop applauding my eloquence its getting rowdy in here)
Having booked accommodation in Monastiraki, in the old part of the city, just underneath the Acropolis we were streets away from one of the busiest squares in the city. With alleys on either side filled wall to wall with tacky souvenirs on one side and alternative clothing and antiques on the other. It also happened to be approximately 5 minutes from the nearest Starbucks. Now judge all you want, but after 13 weeks of the unfamiliar, there is something like relief, that occurs when you walk into a place in a foreign country and you already know the menu. The giant mugs of tea/coffee/orange juice and even gianter (new word) couches were home to us for more than a few hours over our 5 day stay.
So in summation… Athens was a bit of a blur to me. It was a chance to regather thoughts, to process, to calm down, to consider what was next, to remember and recount the summer, to recenter. I spent a day hanging out with the ruins and taking in the history of the place, which mingled with the dirty (Athens is nothing if not dirty) streets and crazy sidewalk sellers and 10 euro shoes was enough.
Perhaps I’ll go back sometime.
So I won’t lie to you, after I left the comforting arms of my faux lesbian lover Liv at Athens airport I was awash with all kinds of emotion. But mainly a ridiculously unfounded, suddenly occurring, all encompassing fear of being in Rome by myself. I figure this was based on the unknown, that notion of it being time to stand on my own two feet again.
Anyway, I landed at the airport and successfully made my way into Termini station, which for the record is relatively easy when all you have to do is follow the neon signs, and into my accommodation which was a charming converted flat in the middle of an area inhabited by Romans, not tourists and I loved it. I loved the giant double bed, the shower that was bolted to the wall, the fresh towels, the TV and the coffee (this is a trend) and that giant breath of fresh independence that blew through the window. ‘Hello World’ I yelled, Rome grunted and went back to its business, but I felt alive. This all before I even left the pensione…what a douche.
So I took my first tentative steps outside that evening in Rome, straight to the grocery store to purchase my first bottle of red for the season and some local delights in the form of prosciutto and fresh bread. That was about all I could stomach for ‘venturing out’ and I passed out relatively early.
Over the next 5 days, without sounding too Elizabeth ‘I’m a twat’ Gilbert about it, I fell back in love with Rome. But this time with the Rome I didn’t get to see on previous visits. The Rome tucked between big streets and the trattoria’s run by little Italian nonno’s. I walked, I walked for hours and kilometers on end, I sat by the river and watched the people. The one thing that always remains the same in Rome is the sheer volume of people. People are everywhere. Italians and tourists fill the streets in hoards, big swarm like hoards and finding a place that isn’t packed with ridiculous people wearing giant camera’s around their necks yelling ‘OONA CAAFEE LATTEY’ at the waitress (obviously when you yell in english at a non-english speaking person they understand more clearly what you are trying to say.) is a godsend.
I went back to the major sites, how could I not, and whilst they are and will remain beautiful and meaningful and awe inspiring this time for me I looked at the Colosseum and it felt smaller than before. Did it shrink or did I just get older and uglier? Either option is viable.
So Rome and I became closer, I felt comfortable there. For anyone that has known me for any amount of time, you’ll know I harbour not so secret desires to become fluent in Italian and live in the country. Again without sounding too ’35 year old woman, rediscovers herself and writes (eats) about it’, I would consider doing that in Rome. It’s a big city and a historical wonderland – aka Augustus was here – its metropolitan, it’s a place I might like to call home.
Next stop Lake Como.