wandering amphibia

The Temple of Poseidon: bliss on the Aegean Sea, and Shirley, you can’t be serious?!

In the last post, I cheated slightly – I omitted one part about the tail end to my day – I wrote that I went straight to the hotel, but that wasn’t entirely honest. I actually came across a Sixt rental station as I was walking, and a new idea was born: since I still had a Sunday in Athens, and none of the meetings I wanted to have were doable on a Sunday, I needed a way to spend it. I decided that to further explore the myriad of mobile phone shops and semi-abandoned hotels was probably not the best way to spend a day in Athens, simply because I can do that more or less in any city, and I’ve seen Lycabetus and Acropolis by now. I’m obviously not suggesting that there’s nothing else to see in Athens, but at the same time… well, there’s other things to see outside Athens, as well.

One of the things I really wanted to see was the temple of Poseidon. Funny story there; Xerxes, when he came to Greece and defeated the Athenians, razed pretty much everything as punishment to them, including the temple of Poseidon. Later, the Athenians fought back and defeated Xerxes… and they were so pissed with him that they took an entire battleship of his (well, a trireme… maybe a little bit smaller than a battleship, but a big deal back in the day) and propped it up at the temple as a huge middle finger back to Xerxes. None of that remains but the tale, but it still speaks to the importance of this temple that was originally built during the golden years of Athens.

To get there, though, I needed transportation. I could have taken a bus with a bunch of tourists… or I could do it my way. The “my” idea was born when I saw a Sixt branch on my way back to the hotel. I typically take no prisoners and do not moderate my ridiculous requests, which makes it all the more fun the 1% of the time that they do work out, so I walked into the branch and basically asked with a completely straight face: I’m a Diamond member, I need a car that can fit a giraffe and my posse and a helicopter pad (this is a reference to a very famous travel video), and I’d like to pay nothing for it. With a completely straight face, the agent replied that they are happy to have a Diamond customer stop by, and they really will give me anything I want if I book the cheapest car on the lot. With a straight face, I asked if they can get me an S-Class; “yes we can, though it won’t be the latest model”, came the reply. “Very well, then,” said I. “I shall immediately go book a Volkswagen Up!,” and so I did.

12 hours and $31 later, I was at the Sixt branch bright and early, waiting to see what miracle they would pull off for me. To my complete and utter amazement… they really did have an S500 for me!!!!! Now, let’s moderate our expectations here: it was a 2006 model, and it had 140,000 kms on the odometer, so it wasn’t exactly the latest model (as the guy promised), but frankly, between that and the VW Up – especially in a country that can appreciate a huge black Mercedes, this was pure paradise on wheels.

Yep, let’s exercise that Canon lens!

The drive to the southernmost point of Attica is only about 60km, and takes you along Highway 61, basically going along the Aegean Sea the whole way, ending at the southernmost point.

Obviously, I was going to be guaranteed spectacular views – and considering I was lazy and left late, I was basically dealing with an afternoon/setting sun, which just added a layer of pretty.

You can see the road cutting around the mountain there.

The sun was beginning to set slowly, as I made my way down to the Temple.

Soon enough, it appeared in the distance, lit up by the evening rays.

Some random little islands in the sea.

Sunset was imminent, so I made my way to the temple as fast as I could, after parking the car. Of course, it was also a good time to grab some food, so figuring I had just enough time to have a late lunch and then go see the sunset, I camped out at the restaurant by the side of the temple for some delicious local food.

Some food…

… beer …

… and local wildlife attracted to …. well, food and beer.

Soon enough it was time for the main show. The sun was getting low enough for this to be spectacular.

I walked up to the hill where the temple was.

Obviously, I was far from the only one with the idea of hanging out here at sunset. Fair enough, there is no more solitude in this world (despite everyone being desperately alone in the end).

The light show created this fuzzy amalgamation of air, clouds, water, I don’t know what, but it was absolutely nothing like I’ve ever seen before in my life. The camera does not do it justice. It was so … delicate, and it was so quiet, despite there being a good couple of dozen of people, that “mesmerising” is the only word I can think of to describe it.

A small tree made for a good juxtaposition opportunity. The perplexing thing was, the fuzziness in the distance was so elegantly delicate that whether I shot with full depth of field or with bokeh, it came across as this dreamy overlay on the image.

I didn’t even know what to shoot, since everything was being slowly enveloped by this dusk, so I just kept shooting.

The temple gained a very commanding presence at this point. I really did feel like I was in a different time at this point.

I continued shooting the horizon.

Something happened at this point, though, that I’ve never experienced before.

My idylly was shattered. It wasn’t broken, it wasn’t disturbed – it was broken with the force of a drunk triceratops barging into a china shop and demanding a refund of a bottle of whiskey that he bought down the street. I can’t think of a more nonsensical description, I tried, but just go with me here.

“Excuse me!”, someone called out to me.

Awakened from my reverie, I started looking around. I finally saw a woman perched on the stone to the left of the picture you see above. She was wearing oddly nondescript clothing, and so somewhat blended with the landscape, so much so that I didn’t really realise she was there. Not that I realised anything specific was around me, to be fair – the state of mind I was in at this point was so timeless, so weirdly abstract, that I didn’t particularly see anything specific. I’d almost say something was in that beer that I had, but really, it wasn’t, it was just the perfect temperature, the quiet ocean, the spectacular sunset and the feeling of being at a place of great history. So no, I didn’t see the woman. I turned to her, somewhat wearily, and said, “Yes?” – expecting that she would ask me to take a picture of her with the mind-blowingly beautiful vista behind her as all solitary tourists tend to.

But no.

“Excuse me,” she continued. “Please do not take pictures of me.”

The circly gears in my head began to turn. They started to slowly raise me from memories of time I never knew, where I thought of the Greeks raising the trireme of Xerxes onto this hill to demonstrate the world how powerful they were, and how determined they were to throw the Persians out, into the sad, sordid reality of today where I had to somehow process what I just heard. It was my turn to apologise. “Excuse me?”, I said. This was turning into a purely Canadian conversation, where the point wasn’t being got to because of a disagreement on when people would stop apologising to each other for speaking first.

“I said, please do not take pictures of me. I do not feel comfortable with this.”

At this point, I committed one of the worst mistakes of my life. You must realise: I have by now reached a point where I finally processed this uncontained stupidity, I have confirmed I was not hallucinating, I also confirmed that the person in front of me was neither a clown, nor a stand-up comic, nor an aspiring deadpan comedy actor. In other words, she was serious. I thought of asking her, “Surely, you can’t be serious?!”, but I wasn’t convinced she wouldn’t think I was suggesting her name was Shirley, and on the off chance it was, things would get that much more weird. I was, however, absolutely sure that she was a spectacularly narcissic idiot, who thought that her grey, unnoticeable persona was anything but a nuissance to the surrounding landscape, and if anything, rather than taking pictures of her, I was taking pictures around her, as she was frankly and simply polluting my otherwise magical experience with her grey, sad presence. Sadly, the mistake I made was that I failed to inform her of this. I was still so shell-shocked that all I could muster was a disdainful “What?! I’m not taking pictures of you! Look around, I’m taking pictures of everything around here!!!” But the moment was lost. Xerxes’s trireme ignominiously sunk back into the Aegean sea like a giant turd, the Greeks went on about their business of drinking and being supposedly democratic, and it was time to shoot the dying rays of the sun and GTFO back to town in my luxobarge.

With that, the dream was gone, and although the experience ended up being far less pleasant than it could’ve been, at least it made for a great story. Where else have you met such a self-centered, entitled person? I sure as hell haven’t!