Athens, Greece. Bhaktapur, Nepal. Goddesses and Perseverance of Spirit

Athens, Greece. Bhaktapur, Nepal. Goddesses and Perseverance of Spirit

Having just visited Greece, people asked if it was noticeable that the country is in a financial crisis. On the islands and in the villages life appeared to be the same as it has probably been for hundreds of years, but in Athens things were different.

Athens was named after the goddess Athena. Civilizations have lived there for more than 3000 years. Here shows some of Athens’ ancient past and how it’s survived:

The Parthenon, in the Acropolis

The Parthenon, in the Acropolis

Detail at the Acropolis

Detail of goddesses at the Acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek inscribed in marble

The Acropolis was built in honor of Athena when Ancient Greece was a thriving civilization. Greece has gone through its ups and downs for several thousand years. As recently as 2004, Athens hosted the Olympics. Now Greece is deep in debt and can’t afford to pay it back. Despite having marble curbs on the street, and some nice neighborhoods like Plaka, Athens has other areas full of abandoned buildings. The thing that struck me most was the graffiti everywhere.

IMG_4371

At least some of it has a sense of humor

At least some graffiti has a sense of humor

That said, daily life in Athens goes on and looked more like this:

Olives at a local markt

Olives at a local market

Inside a Greek Orthodox church

Inside a Greek Orthodox church

Ancient buildings in a modern city

Ancient buildings in a modern city

Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard

The Acropolis up on the hillside

The under construction restoration of the Acropolis up on the hillside

Interesting graffiti

Interesting graffiti

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis looking down upon it

Street musicians at Monastiraki Square

Street musicians at Monastiraki Square

More graffiti

More graffiti in an abandoned building

Roasted peppers, pita, taramotsalata, salad, saganaki, souvlaki, Fix beer, and a little bit of lemon

Roasted peppers, pita, taramotsalata, salad, saganaki, souvlaki, Fix beer, and some lemon

Sheep heads.  10 year old Julian said he didn't want to eat these because he didn't want to think like a sheep.

Roasted sheep heads.
10 year old Julian said he didn’t want to eat these because he didn’t want to think like a sheep. I don’t blame him. I didn’t want to either.

Airing out the tanks on a rainy Greek Independence Day - March 25, 2015.

Airing out the tanks on a rainy Greek Independence Day – March 25, 2015.

On the way up to the Acropolis I noticed these caterpillars.

On the way up to the Acropolis I noticed these caterpillars doing something interesting…

They formed together for safety and made themselves look like a snake.

They formed together and made themselves look like a snake to fool would be predators

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strength, and the arts. In spite of the current financial crisis in Greece, with the aforementioned goddess power at its back, and 3000+ years of history, the beautiful country and its hospitable people will survive.

 

Flying over the Himalayas

Flying over the Himalayas

On my recent flight from Chiang Mai to Athens, I took in this view of the Himalayas and was reminded of my trip to Nepal 15 years ago.

In October 2000, I landed in Kathmandu at midnight and was met at the airport by my dear friends Megan and Jeremy (the same friends who I was just with in Greece). We headed directly to Bhaktapur where we stayed for a week before going to Pokhara for our trek on the Annapurna Circuit.

In Bhaktapur, I have the distinct memory of waking up the morning after I arrived and looking out my guest house window. It felt like being in a living museum. The women were doing their morning puja in vibrant saris, amongst the ancient temples – it was awe inspiring.

Bhaktapur is an ancient city, that was founded in the 1200s, and is full of beautiful old temples. The three of us wandered around that small city and ate ‘king curd’ at the rooftop cafes in Durbar Square, while watching the local people prepare for the Dashain Festival.

The Dashain festival is celebrated for 15 days in September-October all over Nepal to honor the goddess Durga. She is worshiped with offerings, pujas, and many animal sacrifices – from which the blood bathes her statues everywhere. Durga has many manifestations, and her name can be translated as ‘the one who eliminates sufferings’. 

My pictures from that time were taken with film, not a digital camera, so I cannot show you the vibrant images that are forever etched in my mind. Bhaktapur, Nepal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so there are loads of pictures online. It is one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited.

This is more or less how I remember Bhaktapur. Image from google images.

This is more or less how I remember Bhaktapur. Image from google images.

On April 25, 2015 Nepal was struck by a 7.9 earthquake.

And now...

And now…this is some of the damage in the Kathmandu Valley.

According to the BBC, “In Bhaktapur, which had been the country’s best preserved old city, initial reports claim half of all buildings have been destroyed and 80% of temples damaged.”

Thousands of people have died, or are homeless. It’s unimaginably tragic. Then I read that in 1934 there had been an earthquake there that had destroyed a third of the temples. Bhaktapur was still incredible in 2000, perhaps all is not lost.

Nepal has the goddesses Durga ‘the one who eliminates sufferings’, and Annapurna, which means ‘full of food’ in Sanskrit, watching over her. Nepal and its kindhearted people will survive, but now they need help. 

I thought about those caterpillars that formed together to make themselves appear to be a snake for protection. When people, or animals, group together, they can gain strength, support, and safety. Now is the time to join together and support Nepal.

Click to find organizations of where to donate. Click Charity Navigator: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving to check out those organizations.

I will be forever grateful to the kindness of strangers I have met on my travels around the globe. It’s time for me to take action and give back to the country whose acrostic is:

NeverIMG_4527

Ending

Peace

And

Love

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