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Tales of the World

Greek Vision
Paul Otteson
Stories Home

In Athens, not long ago, I sat near the summit of Likavitos Hill and surveyed the city. I was exhausted after long, hot hours pounding the pavement and seeing the sights. My feet throbbed. My weary body sagged like an old balloon. As I rested, the sun slipped into a haze beyond the Acropolis, and the last of my energy drained away into the cooling stone. What a day it had been -- long and splendid in the dusty wind. I heard glasses clink softly at a nearby café table. Someone laughed. A very Mediterranean evening was underway.

The daylight dissipated, the wind calmed, and the land quieted. Smog, sprawl, and city crowds all faded from awareness, melting into the dusk. A few lights began to shine out from the darker dells and winding streets of the metropolis below. Minutes passed and my mind emptied, the swarming thoughts from an eventful day settling down for the night. My eyes lost their focus; I slid gradually into a trance of fatigue and wonder. As still as my stony perch, I waited for nothing in particular.

Perhaps my sun-baked brain simply generated a waking dream -- maybe it was something else -- but as I sat entranced, an image of ancient Athens grew and took shape before me, spreading from the shadowed remnant of eroded ruins below. The fallen stones of vanished years seemed to knit themselves together. Broken columns reassembled and stood tall; scattered rubble gathered into ghostly structures; phantoms of long gone buildings rose from the bare earth. The temples, roads, markets, and homes of democracy's birthplace shimmered in my presence, worn but whole. Plato was down there somewhere. I sighed... The tenuous mirage dissolved at the clang of an arriving cable car.


Shaking out the cobwebs, I wearily rose and went to join the happy voices at the umbrella tables. On the road, there's a time for mystery and a time for souvlaki and beer.