Greece: Where democracy began

The Parthenon is almost 3,000 years old.

Although we cannot be sure exactly what occurred two, three or four thousand years ago, it is generally agreed that what we know as democracy, began in what is now Greece. And, even in hard times, the people of Greece still have a democratic government.

This year, Carolyn and I joined about 20 others associated with West Kentucky Community and Technical College for a tour of Greece, including three of its islands. In the past 10 years, we have taken several trips abroad with the same group leader. Some of the same people usually go each year, but there are always new people to meet.

Of course, the hardest part of these trips is getting there, and getting home. Short flights to eastern Europe just don't exist.

We drove to Nashville, flew to Atlanta, to Paris, and then to Athens. Returning was even longer as we came home through Minneapolis.

Athens is a city of almost 1 million people. Our local guide said it grew very rapidly after World War II without proper planning. Narrow streets run every direction making visitors feel lost most of the time.

But it has its good points. From the top of our hotel, we could look across the city and see the Acropolis (highest point in a city) and the Parthenon on top of it. It is especially beautiful lit up at night.

The next day, those of us whose legs held up, climbed Acropolis Hill to see the Parthenon up close. It is surprising that in a country with frequent earthquakes, much of the Parthenon is still standing. Like most ancient sites, constant repairs are being made to maintain the buildings on Acropolis Hill.

The Parthenon was built in the 840s BC to honor the goddess Athena.

If you would like to see the Parthenon, but don't want to travel all the way to Greece, go to Nashville. The recreation there, lets one see what the structure looked like in its heyday.

As we have read in newspapers or heard on television news, Greece has suffered financially in recent years. We could certainly see evidence of that on a bus trip north of Athens. We were on a modern four-lane highway, but along the road were many buildings, which had been abandoned. Most of them were concrete structures which appeared to have been small manufacturing plants, car or implement dealers, service stations, and some homes. The owners apparently ran out of money and could not complete them.

As we went further north the mountains became taller until we could see snow on the tops of them.

In the mountains we passed a huge statue of a Greek man with a rifle. It is a monument to the guerillas who fought the German soldiers who were trying to concur Greece in World War II. The guerillas won a major battle against the Germans, but the Nazis retaliated by wiping out a nearby village.

Our bus took us to one of Greece's most historical sites -- Delphi or Delfi. The old city is famous for its Temple of Apollo, where according to legend the god Apollo communicated with mortals. Delphi was an important city from 800 BC to 400 AD.

Unfortunately, the temple could not withstand time or earthquakes and its large stones are on the ground.

Our guide explained that in ancient times, princesses lived in the basement of the temple. For donations or gifts they would accept visitors and give readings in such gibberish that people felt the words mush have come from the gods. Following an earthquake everything changed. The princesses no longer talked in strange languages.

Experts believe that the basement where the princesses lived was an exit point for gases from below ground. The earthquake changed that and the princesses became normal.

Visitors no longer came to hear the "messages from the gods" and the temple could not support itself finically and went into ruin.

I think we have seen that same thing in TV preachers over the years.

Next: Off to the islands

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