Thursday, September 24, 2009

Grey Bear Creates an International Incident

So ... where to begin?

Let's begin with Ramadan which ended last Sunday. So, to celebrate, I took the two bipedal attendants to Athens for the long weekend - my god-bipedals were supposed to come too
but they felt that leaving Italy for good and moving back home was more important than spending time with me, so it was just the three of us. I confess that in spite of all my world travelling, Greece is one place I had yet to visit so I was almost as excited as my bipedals were to be visiting the Land of Homer, Democracy, and Tzatzίki.

With some 5,000 years of history - the last 3,400 of which were actually recorded - there was a lot to do and see in 3 days so I'll probably have to write several blogs about our adventures (although I'll skip the bit about my female bipedal attendant's infected big toe - you're welcome!) and, unfortunately, misadventures.

Athens' crowning glory - literally - is the flat-topped rock of the Acropolis which looms over the city and upon which stands, among other buildings, the Parthenon: the temple devoted to the city's patron Athena, goddess of wisdom. Scholars believe that a settlement was there 5,000 years ago and that the first palace on the site may date to the Bronze Age, but the Acropolis, as we know it today, began to take its form in the 6th century bce.

Athens enjoyed a Golden Age in the 5th century and the buildi
ngs on the Acropolis were given a face-lift under the orders of the Athenian statesman and general Perikles. The most famous sculptor of the day, Phidias, and two architects were entrusted with the project and they tweaked and refurbished and rebuilt theatres, sanctuaries and temples to Nike (the goddess of victory, not sneakers), Artemis (the goddess of wild animals - her name may actually mean "bear"!), and Poseidon (the god of the sea) - to name but a few.

Of course, if you visit these days it feels like you just stepped into the 5th century - what with all the scaffolding enveloping the temples and the ongoing construction (well, reconstruction). The site has sustained a lot of damage over the years from the passing of time, earthquakes, a seige by the Venetians (the Italians again!) who also blew up an Ottoman (the Turks again!) munitions magazine, looting by you humans and, of course, pollution.

A Greek temple stood on the hill for almost a millenium, but over the years the Parthenon would eventually be converted into a series of churches (Byzantine and Roman) as well as a mosque under the conquering Turks
, who added a minaret to the building - a minaret torn down when Greece won its independence from Turkey in 1832. For the last 100 years, parts of the Parthenon have sat inside a metal cocoon and visitors have been barred from entering any of the buildings since 1975.

Still, you can imagine my excitement! I'm not just a former international fashion model and freelance Goodwill Ambassador - I'm a bit of a history buff too. So very early Sunday morning, we made the climb up the side of the rock and my bipedals - as instructed - began to take some tasteful shots of me on the Acropolis. I know that by nature I'm rather photogenic, but such a historical and monumental backdrop (it was completed 2,441 years ago!) makes everyone look smashing - except for my female bipedal who, poor thing, is freakishly unphotogenic.

Anyway, just as we passed the east side of the Parthenon, we heard a shrill whistle blow and someone calling out to us. We stopped to see an awful little troll of a man (I know that's not nice but I'm still really mad!) running towards us. Showing us his badge, he identified himself as a secuity guard. He then proceeded to tell us that we had breached the rules of the site by taking photos - are you ready for this? - of a toy at an archaeological site. Me! - a toy!

A toy??!!

He said that we were being disrespectful towards the Acropolis.


He then mad
e my female bipedal scroll through every photo she had taken that day and delete every picture of me snapped on the Acropolis. Every one! I was fuming! Had my female god-bipedal been there she would have kicked his ass! Then my female bipedal asked the guard where it said that she couldn't take photos of me, a former international fashion model and freelance Goodwill Ambassador - clearly this yob hadn't recognized me or had drunk too much ouzo the night before - and he told her that "it" (meaning "taking photos of toys") was clearly marked on all the signage.

I can tell you that I was so angry, I could've spit nails!

From that moment on, I swear we were followed about the site. Every time we he
ard a whistle - I mean, I'm glad that the guards take their jobs seriously and all but still ... - we froze in our tracks. And as far as disrespectful goes, we actually did see people take photos of little stuffed bears and monkeys and no one jumped down their throats! For crying out loud: I'm a fashion icon and a world renowned humanitarian and I get targeted?

So, needless to say, I have no photos of me on the Acropolis - only ne
ar it. I also checked all the signage on the way out of the site and there was no mention of taking photos of toys or anything of that nature - not that I'm a toy. As soon as we left the site I made a mad dash to a phone booth (my bipedals' crap Turkish phones didn't work in Greece) and called the Canadian Embassy. They were both outraged and appalled, and not a little embarrassed (for my sake) at how I was treated. And although they're launching an official investigation - and I suspect that the Canadian Ambassador in Athens will be recalled to Ottawa any moment now - I also decided to pay a visit to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to give them a piece of my mind. You don't f@%# with a bear!! (Sorry for the profanity: I'm still pretty upset).

Not surprisingly, they wouldn't open their doors to me. I suspect they had already been tipped off. I made a point though to tell them (through
the intercom at the gate) that they hadn't seen the last of me and that I hoped that the British Museum never returned the Elgin Marbles to Greece. I know that was awfully petty abd spiteful of me - and hardly acceptable behaviour for a freelance Goodwill Ambassador - but believe me: I was still seeing red.

I felt badly about this whole ugly affair because I was on the verge of allowing that awful little troll (sorry, not nice of me) to ruin our day and our time in Athens. This wasn't fair to my bipedals whose fault none of this (amazingly) was. So we continued on our way and stopped at a little café in the Pláka - the historical and picture-postcard-perfect neighbourhood of Athens with its narrow, labyrinthine streets - and had a cold glass of Mythos beer. It claims to be Greece's ambassador to the world, and after I'm finished with this country, it'll be the only ambassador Greece will still have - period!


Snowflake said...

Oh GB - It IS a good thing your female god-bipedal wasn't there! She would have been thrown in Greek jail over that incident. She knows a few of the 'dirty' words in that language....

Grey Bear said...

I wish you had been there! My bipedals are pretty useless - as you know. Plus, the only Greek they know can be found on menus.

Anonymous said...

Poor G.B. Have you heard from the Canadian Embassy yet?
If you like I can probably get a protest started and march on Parliament Hill or in front to the Greek Embassy. Just let me know.

Grey Bear said...

Dear Anon,

The Canadian Government has offered to sever all diplomatic relations with Greece, but I confess that I asked them not to. Such a reaction - although flattering - seemed a bit extreme. I'll be happy to have the troll at the Acropolis reasigned to cleaning the public toilets on the site.