Athens under construction…use caution

There has been quite a lot of construction on my street lately.  It started about three weeks ago and not much progress has been made.  The sidewalks are being ripped up for new ones.  This makes walking to school, or anywhere in my hood a little complicated.  Before the construction I already consistently felt in the way walking down the street.  Passing seated old men who take up the whole sidewalk or gossiping elderly woman always requires awkward maneuvers.  Do they think they own the sidewalk? Well yes.  And walking around them is never really an option because that means walking in the street where cars drive the wrong way, buses will run you over, and motorcycles speed like bats out of hell.

 Construction is ever present here in Athens.  Even the Parthenon is having work done.  The reconstruction of the Acropolis began in 1983 and from what I can tell it’s not exactly nearing an end soon.  There is a lot of scaffolding that most tourists voice their distaste of.  Understandable, as no one imagines seeing such an international landmark covered with bars and stairs.  But, if you can look past the scaffolding, and beyond the tourists you can see the Parthenon for what it really is-a timeless piece of architecture.

 Other areas of Athens are ridden with construction.  Often, taking longer than planned because of newfound ruins, which halt progress.  However, Athens was not built on a city plan of any sort; very reflective of the culture.  Planning is just not a concept that most Greeks take to heart.  They don’t plan out their days or their city.

 While I walk down my street that is full of construction I often find myself looking down to watch my step.  And sometimes I loose all of my other senses in the midst of my navigational concentration.  I miss seeing the butcher who I always wave to.  I miss smelling the aromas of my favorite bakery.  I miss hearing the very public conversations of my neighbors.  All for self-preservation-but then that’s not really living.

 My wake-up call came Sunday night.  My roommate and I went out with some Greek friends.  I thought that Sunday was the day of rest, internationally?  Well in Greece rest is easily found all week long.  Not to mention that a considerable amount of Greeks don’t work on Mondays.  Anyways we were having a great time enjoying the atmosphere when suddenly I was being pelted in the head by something?! 

 The bartenders had put out roses (just the buds) on the bar and our Greek companions immediately grabbed them to throw at us.  OK, this is a different way of getting flowers?  Turns out everyone else in the bar was doing the same thing.  I asked what was going on and one of our Greek friends replied, “it is a tradition; a Greek thing to throw them.”  When I asked what the significance was behind this rose throwing business I was told, “Just because, it is what people do.”  Well I guess that’s reason enough.  I immediately grabbed the remaining roses and threw back.

 Walking up to my apartment, I was still finding rose petals in my hair.  As I shook them out, I realized that my street was a lot easier to navigate at night without all of the construction.  And I started to notice things that I had been missing.  The butcher shop had Christmas decorations and the bakery was full of traditional holiday cookies.  I guess it took getting hit in the face with roses to really wake up and smell the flowers. 

 Now when I walk down my chaotic street of endless construction I remember to notice those small things again.  To pay attention to my neighborhood through all of the street work.  Because in a way we are all under a little construction.  Some of us are temporarily blocked off, sinking into a manhole, or under reconstruction.  But that’s ok because underneath the cement and past the caution tape is something great-something worth preserving.  It’s always important to take caution when navigating through the chaos that is life, but it’s even more important to look around, smell the roses, and maybe even throw one or two-just for fun at someone you love.  After all, life is sweet.




One Response to “Athens under construction…use caution”

  1. Kat Says:

    The Monastiraki station was under construction so long that my friend’s grandfather turned out to be right when he said he’d die before it was finished. Everything is under construction all the time because no one understands the meaning of deadlines.

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