The Prison of Socrates

On our last day in Athens, we have one prominent place left to visit, the Hill of the Muses. As we make our way around the Acropolis through zig-zagging streets, we pause for a moment to watch an organ grinder. An old man wearing a bowler hat pulls the crank while lighting up a cigarette, and an unfamiliar song begins to resonate outward. The organ itself is really the attraction, with fringe, jewelry, flowers and old black-and-white movie-star photos decorating its sides. A young boy runs around with hat in hand collecting money, replacing the traditional monkey.

With our day quickly passing, we continue our walk up the Hill of the Muses overlooking the city. Our first stop is the Prison of Socrates, where the philosopher was supposed to have been jailed before they forced him to drink deadly hemlock. He had been convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens with his philosophical teachings. This is also the site where, during the Second World War, all the Acropolis’ artifacts were hidden from the Nazis. I’m not that interested in drawing the site but my dad is insistent, so I pull out my gear and give it a shot. I’m not sure what I should include in the drawing. I know its historical significance, but the hill seems uninteresting and flat. I step back a bit to let the tree trunk cross the image and give the drawing depth. Now it starts taking on new life, and I’m glad my dad recommended drawing here.

Akropolis from on top of the Hill of the Muses

When in Athens, it’s impossible to miss the giant mountain of rock called the Acropolis. It’s especially impressive in the areas of town where the Parthenon can be seen crowning the top. One of my favorite vantage points is on top of the Areopagos. When I first arrived in Athens, I climbed up the slippery rocks to the top of the hill and watched the full moon rise above the Parthenon. Unfortunately at the time, I was unable to see well enough in the dark to draw.

Today on the last day of my trip to Greece, I found another great view while climbing down the Hill of the Muses and with the afternoon sun behind me, I was able to draw. From there, I could see the Acropolis in all its splendor, dominating the city below.

Dream Drawing of a Hidden Reality

During the night, I had a dream that I was walking through one of my drawings of a Greek city, maybe Plaka in Athens. This alternate reality slowly transformed, revealing the actual town underneath the dream-drawing, as if it was a hidden structural reality upon which life is based.

Mykonos, a Town on the Edge of the Sea

At the edge of town, I find a row of windmills and begin to draw, but soon stop. The arms of the windmill are not drawn well, and overall, it looks off. Since I drew a good windmill the day before yesterday, I turn my attention to another subject, the nearby bay. I start the drawing on the left side of the paper and detail each building as I move across the page. I’m running out of room, so I skip a few buildings to fit the curve of the bay at the bottom right. This helps the overall composition. I’m also finding that I don’t have to draw the horizon line anymore, as the islands themselves hint at its whereabouts.

I head back to the hotel to collect my bags, pick up my dad, and we set off for the docks. After one of the fastest cab rides I’ve ever experienced, I have a little extra time to draw a cargo ship before our ferry arrives.

Mykonos From the Ferry

On the ferry, we find seats on the top deck, but a rainstorm kicks up, so we retreat to the warm indoors near a coffee shop serving everything from sandwiches and soup to beer and coffee. The ferry keeps a steady pace and rocks gently as it pushes through waves. Fortunately, it’s not enough to upset my stomach. Sitting next to us, a large group of people keep the place lively with jokes and uncontrollable laughter. It will be a long time before we reach Athens, so I browse over my completed watercolors and sketchbook drawings.

After hours of sitting, I feel the need to stretch my legs. I put on my jacket and climb the stairs to the upper level. A cool breeze rushes by as I step onto the wet deck. The rain has stopped, at least for the moment, as dark clouds still threaten off in the distance, dumping rain into the silvery sea below. I hear a low, pulsating hum from the engine that keeps tempo with the splashing of seawater against the boat. The rhythmic weaving of sound provides the perfect soundtrack to the moody weather. I enjoy this meditative state until it gets too dark to see, and climb back down to the warm glow of the cafe below.

Sketch of Plaka, Athens

Finally, after our long boat ride from Mykonos, we arrive at the docks of Piraeus. We collect our bags and wait below deck with a crowd of people to exit the ferry. A grinding vibration from the engine coupled with the sound of rushing water echoes against the steel hull as we inch towards the dock. When the gangway finally lowers, a rush of fresh, humid air blows against my face. We step out into the port town of Piraeus and hop on the Metro for a short ride to our hotel in Athens. After settling into our room, we head back out for a double scoop of gelato and a walk around the familiar city streets, enjoying the buzz of this world-class city.

Mykonos Cafe

We wake to the sound of rain. Today is our only chance to see the archeological site on the nearby island of Delos, since we will head back to Athens tomorrow. But as I peek outside, sunlight breaks through the clouds. We take our chances and head to the dock. Sure enough, the ferry is running, so we purchase tickets. The ferry departs at 9 am, which gives us about an hour to get breakfast. Surprisingly, it’s hard to find a bakery open at this hour, but eventually we locate one with an available outdoor table. I order the same custard filled pastry I’ve ordered at other bakeries. I love the outer flakiness dusted in powdered sugar. Topping it off with a Greek coffee makes my morning.

Boat Called “The Margarita” Takes Us to Delos

As we head back toward the docks, the smell of fish and sea water reminds me how close we are to the bay. When we arrive at the dock, our boat, the Margarita, appears filling with tourists within minutes. We are among the first onboard and choose seats with a view out the side window. The boat ride is short, less than an hour. I had worried that the storm might roughen the water, but don’t feel even a tinge of seasickness. Looking towards the bridge, I see the captain at the helm and think the scene would make a good drawing. But I feel myself resisting because too many people are milling about. A bit later, the woman nearest the bridge rises from her seat and heads out on deck to take a look around. Here’s the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, so I grab my sketchbook, and half-kneeling on her now-vacant seat, sketch the captain at the helm as the boat putters on towards Delos.