Memories Greece, memories Turkey
(This has been written in a low-energy state, please judge my writing on my other piece on Fukuyama)
I decided quite hastily to take a trip to Greece. Why Greece? Well, why not.
Alas, I landed on the 13th(?) of June in a sunny Greece. From the airplane I must say the view quite reminded me of Algeria. Red soil, mediterranean vegetation, white buildings. Is there a better place on earth than the mediterranean, I think not.
The first of my visits was Athens. Let’s begin with Acropolis, the location of the famous Parthenon. Acropolis, and Athens, hold a special place in the memory of the West. You’ll see examples of it in the of the White House (inspired by the Parthenon) and UNESCO logo and in neoclassical architecture more broadly. By the entrance to the Acropolis, you will find a sign which says:
“The Acropolis of Athens as a symbol monument holds the first place on the list of European heritage”
The theme continues, because the EU has set up an exhibition in the Agora, the public square of the Acropolis, tracing the milestones of treaties which, in the end, have allowed me free entrance (✌️) to this history, allowed me to use the data plan I have in Sweden in Greece (✌✌️️), and travel to the country as easily as I travel within Sweden (✌️✌️✌️).
How authentic is the Euro-American claim to Athens? I don’t know and it is way beyond the scope of this piece. But hear here the words of Christian Meier, in his book on Greece of antiquity, writing about enlightenment thinkers as they faced the challenges of their day:
“Whenever people undertook to bid farewell to their own world and find a new one beyond their previous horizons, writes Werner Dahlheim, they turned their gaze backwards towards the faraway land of Antiquity”
(Curiously, the Muslim world was also quite influenced by Greek thought, funny the impact it’s had.)
(aaaahhh, this is taking more time than I thought, I’m gonna go to gym and continue it later.)
The second city I visited on this journey was Meteora, a city by a towering rock formation from another planet, with monasteries perched atop. Walking up under a searing sun, given relief only occasionally by a passing cloud, you could occasionally hear the bells and chants from within these monasteries. And as the day drew to a close, we were treated first with rain, and then a torrential downpour (plus some thunder and rainbow) enough to flood the streets of the small town. A helpful Aussie-Greek gave me a ride down from the mountain, and that was good for me cause otherwise I would’ve been drenched.
I share with these monks their love of views. Here there is ample room to search for awe and I said some prayers of my own.
As my sister said, Istanbul is a city where every street speaks history.
We visited Topkapi Palace. This is where Ottoman sultans had their seat. We visited Dolmabahce palace. Here too, did Ottoman sultants have their seat. And here’s something interesting, Topkapi palace has a very Turkish style, with pointed minarets reminiscent of Turkish Mosques. But Dolmabahce palace is starkly different with a strong influence European influence. Rococo (would’ve thought this was a bird if I didn’t know it as an architectural style), baroque, and neoclassical styles mix with Ottoman and Islamic elements.
In this palace, a European interior is mixed with a room for Arabic Calligraphy, and for Quran reading. The jewel in the crown is the reception hall, where the Sultan received European kings and statesmen, under its golden pillars and glistening chandelier. Its dome, however, is unlike European domes, instead of angels and apostles it is painted with motifs of flowers and patterns.
Were I to say it myself, this is a Euro-Islamic palace.
Though they are close geographically, it’s interesting to note the different worlds that the two countries have absorbed. In Istanbul, together with Turkish, written with Latin letters, there is sometimes also Arabic, and Farsi. This is in contrast with Athens, whose cosmopolitanism seems ghettoised and far less comfortable than that of Istanbul.
If you shall visit Istanbul, do not miss the princess islands. There thou shalt find great repose from the bustling ferry stations of Eminönu. You will also find a happy yellow mosque a few stone throws away from the harbour and a model for what cities ought to look like: flowered, and run on electric vehicles.
Ok, so what do I conclude from all of this. I don’t know really.
No, actually, I really don’t know.
Well, perhaps something about the richness of the world and its myriad cultures which will always offer something interesting to see and new to taste. A great blessing.
Yeah, that sounds right.