Apart from buying groceries and cooking, we've spent the majority of the last week cooped up in the apartment staring into our respective computer screens, working away. In a welcome change of pace, we decided to put down our projects and head out bright and early to go sightseeing in Athens this morning.
On our way into the center of town we passed a square absolutely filled with pigeons. Tyler ran through the flocks, encouraging them to fly in my direction. Birds flapping towards my head is one of my fears, but I faced it valiantly for the sake of photo documentation.
Heading past Omonia Square, we saw that the fish and meat market was in full swing. Always a fan of food markets, we ran across the street to investigate. We were greeted with these:
…and lots of these:
Fishmongers shouted, gathering potential customers, and expertly wrapped octopuses (octopi?) and all manner of fish into newspaper for those who purchased them. There was a gigantic fish (a shark maybe?) half hacked into steaks, and buckets of writhing crabs and cuttlefish.
A friendly young monger spotted our camera and backpack and asked us "where are you from?" We told him we were from Minnesota and he said he had relatives in Wisconsin. It's a small world!
Moving on to the meat market, the fishy smell was replaced with the sight of blood. Lots and lots of blood. It reminded me of being in Tunisia for Eid al-Adh or "The Festival of Sacrifice" where we saw sheep being slaughtered in the streets.
Butchers shouted just as the fishmongers had, reeling in potential customers while hacking away at flesh on wooden blocks with their giant cleavers. Several meat grinders squirted ground beef out of one side, reminding Tyler of a playdoh toy he had as a kid where you could extrude a scalp-full of stringy playdoh-hair for a plastic man.
We love a good market! Done with food, we left the fish and meat stalls to make our way across town to the Monastiraki Flea Market. Immediately we spied numerous tiny shops filled to the gills with random junk. Many of them had their wares haphazardly piled in delicately-formed stacks that seemed to be as old and untouched as the items themselves.
Outdoor stalls sold antique chairs, and various items from dishes to jewelry to old books.
Tyler enjoyed trying out all of the monoculars and binoculars:
After being in awe of the sheer number of quirky, fun things to look at, we settled into a comfortable pattern for an hour or two: Tyler became obsessed with old cameras…
…while I delved into a stack of vintage postcards written in French.
I have always loved old family photos. Whenever I visit my grandparents I take the box of black-and-white pictures from the basement and pore over them, getting sucked into their every detail, wondering what their lives must have been like. What did they cook? What did they wear? What made them laugh? Was life hard? What did they love?
I was equally enthralled with these postcards: the old photos of Salonica (Thessaloniki), and the incredible handwriting people used to practice so hard to achieve. And most of all, I was drawn to the writers themselves, many of whom were soldiers far from their homes on French soil.
I became especially involved in the story of a man writing to "My Dear Marie." There were dozens of these postcards, written over a period of a couple years; each letter of their correspondence was numbered. The small, homey details the man wrote about were touching, as was the sweet tone of the letters.
Here is an excerpt I roughly translated from the one postcard I bought:
March 15th, 1918 No. 36
My Dear Marie
Until now, I've never left you so long without news, but you see, I have lots of work at the moment… I have very little free time, only at night, and when the urge for sleep takes me, I am forced to begin all over again in the morning. And so it happens that seven days have passed without writing to you…
…I received three letters from you at the same time at my new address, I am at No. 45 and yesterday the package arrived. All was well, thank you my darling, it was a great pleasure to receive. The canister of cocoa must have taken a beating in transit, though, for the powder escaped a little onto the handkerchiefs…
I briefly considered buying the whole stack and writing a book about it, but prudently decided that I have neither the time nor the space for another project at the moment. Instead, I contented myself with one, extricated Tyler from the cameras, and we made our way home.
As we walked hand-in-hand back to Miwa and Sergei's, I was distinctly thankful he was here with me and not somewhere far away at war.