You can read Part 1 here.
A good night’s sleep can really change a lot. Specifically, the view of a city you’ve never been to before. Athens looked much nicer to me after a night’s sleep. Knowing we were only a block away from the American Embassy gave me a sense of peace that helped me prepare for the few days ahead.
We climbed a massive hill, took a train to the top of a mountain. Standing on top of Mount Lycabettus, I saw the entire city. In Athens, the city sprawls outward from the center. They’re unable to build tall buildings there, the ground beneath them often opened to expose ruins from ancient times. Mount Lycabettus rests in the heart of the city, with the Parthenon just a short distance away.
My best friend’s cousin, a native of Athens, offered up an old tale, telling me that the Parthenon and Mount Lycabettus used to touch each other, but that an earthquake split them, and Athens was built between the two. Since then, it has expanded and grown exponentially, of course.
Sitting on top of a mountain, you can see a lot of things. The feeling is similar to that of the view from the top of the Empire State Building or the John Hancock Tower. There are millions of people in this world, and you’re just a tiny little speck. Your problems, no matter how overwhelming they may seem to you in that moment, are problems that so many others have experienced. You’re not meaningless, you’re meaningful. You’re a living, breathing creature in this world. Taking one look at just how many people there are, how many people go through the motions every day, just like they are right before you… It can really change your perspective.
In my head, I was imagining all the people who had come before me. I thought of the people who watched their city be attacked, and all the people who worked to rebuild it. I thought of the way this used to be one of the biggest powerhouses in the world, and now Greece is suffering a severe economic depression. I thought of the people who built temples to gods and goddesses, people who walked the cobblestone streets until they became so worn down that they were mostly just dirt. I thought of what those people would think if they were there to see their city today.
We also stopped at McDonald’s in Greece, which was an altogether different kind of experience, but one that really emphasized a similar point. (To be fair, I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours and was on the verge of passing out, so maybe I was just exhausted.) McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc once said, “If I had a brick for every time I’ve repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them.” He was a man with a dream at the age of 52, a dream that started nearly 30 years before. A chance encounter with the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, California inspired Ray to create the McDonald’s franchise. The first store was opened in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois. Ray’s dream was to create burgers and fries that tasted the same from Alaska to Florida and every state in between. A simple dream, 30 years in the making, that really changed the world. McDonald’s is now one of the leading fast food restaurants in over 100 countries. Ray Kroc’s dream created dreams for so many others, and most people don’t even know his name.
I’m no history buff. I can’t tell you which gods or goddesses are Roman and which are Greek. I can’t even name all the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I was in a sorority, so I had to learn it at one point. The thing is, that’s not what matters. The words we can spout off, the facts we know, those don’t change the world. What changes the world is our dreams, our passion.
So Greece might not have been my favorite place in the world to visit. It was in my top 3 places, I scored a reasonable trip price, and I took an adventure. There were parts I regretted. There were parts I hated. But at the end of it all, I was changed. I left Greece exhausted, but I also left it inspired. I’ll leave you with some wise words from a man who is pretty well-known for things he said.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde