Sunday, June 21, 2009

Letter from Greece, Part 1 of 10

This travelogue from my trip to Greece is not structured chronologically. So this, Day Three, is actually the beginning. I'll post the rest of the parts in the coming weeks.

Day Three: Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion

The American woman stands near the southwest corner of the temple, waiting for her husband to steady the video camera. She is blonde—dyed and teased into a helmet—big shiny nails, maybe seventy, probably retired, probably used to taking these sorts of vacations, where you ride a big modern bus through old, crumbling towns in Europe. “This is the place where, uh, honey, what is it called?” She clears her throat. Her husband is wearing a loose Hawaiian-print shirt, and white socks pulled up to his knees. “The Temple of Poseidon,” he says, loudly. “Right, okay, I’m ready.” she says. He pans the camera behind her, over the gleaming white columns, across the base of the temple, and back.

She begins: “Here we are at the Temple of Poseidon. The ancient Greeks would come here to worship him, and to honor him, and to make sacrifices of lambs or other animals, maybe burn something and send the smoke into the air, whatever else they wanted to do.” “But never as tourists,” she continues, “the ancients only came for worship. Oh, and this, where we are, is the southernmost point of mainland Europe.” These are all things the tour guide told us.

The wide Aegean spreads out behind me, dark, turning in the distance to a thin grey haze which blurs the details of the islands, the waves, the horizon, cut by thin trails left from passing ships. I turn back, still listening, watching the Italian tourists take pictures in pairs and foursomes, changing groupings, trading cameras. “But there are no ghosts here anymore. You can feel the lack of energy, and the long history of the energy. They were here once, they were very many, but their business has finished.” A grouse standing on the corner of the temple begins its rough, guttural call. She smiles, glowing, as if candlelit from within. “Now,” she says, “they’re all gone.”

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