Athens conjures up classical images of pillar and stone, philosophers in togas and of course, the acropolis. Beyond the conjured images is the real athens. A trapped athens, overcrowded, over polluted, infested by thieves, drug dealers and prostitutes on every corner. Sometimes the same corner. Sometimes the same person. Get your drugs, get your sex, but lose your money. The thieves will take it. Beware, the thieves don't take back syphilis. The acropolis is a sad battered once great thing of wonder, now people swarm over it like ants over a corpse. The ants are not conducive to that feeling of age and history and grandeur. The magic of the corpse.
There’s a hostel a couple of blocks north of Omonoia Square. I’m buzzed in and take the two man metal cage lift up to the hostel. The manager is an aging man holding onto his youth with all the strength and vitality offered
by a black mop top wig. It shines like a disco ball in the light. I am asked immediately if I am Australian. “No” I reply, and regret is apparent on the face below the wig.
Unsure of which room to put me, he opens a door and turns on a light to wake two sleeping backpackers to ask them about the third and final bed next to the door, but not before enquiring whether or not they are australian. Confused at being woken to ask after nationality, one replies still asleep, “No, we’re french.”
“oh, okay.” and then gesturing to the third bed. “Is this bed free?”
The french backpackers are unsure, they don’t work there, but they believed it was indeed free and thus it became mine. It was more of a military fold up camp bunk than a bed. The metal in the back was a give away.
Later, in the reception-rec. room combo, Black-wig-mop-top gets out of his chair, looks around at the backpackers there gathered, adopts the pushup position on the floor, and proceeds to not do pushups but instead humps the said floor with mighty pelvic thrusts. Up high, down low, wig shining brightly, face haggard like a dead, weathered squirrel. Chatter amongst travellers had ceased, unsure of what to say and riveted to the spectacle at their feet. His breathing grows heavy, he jumps to his feet sweating, claps his hands together and says in his smoking ravaged, ragged and accented voice, “Got to keep up my stamina, you know.”
Welcome to Athens, where a lot of things are possible if not at all probable, especially when they wear long black wigs and ask anyone and everyone whether or not they are australian.
Don’t worry about what that is sticking into your back when you’re sleeping, that bed is not pleased to see you, it’s just a metal cross piece.