Today was a study in contrast. We saw many amazing things today, but for me, the contrast was most clear.
We set off in the morning for Korinth. Where Paul spent some of his time, making tents, speaking, writing letters, and other Pauline pursuits. First impression: sea sure has subsided / silt sure has risen a good couple miles in the past couple thousand years - the ruins were no where near the sea, although it was visible in the distance. Stood in a few of the same spots that Paul himself did, that was just plain moving, reading from Acts while standing there.
As we were eating lunch outside our van, getting ready to head off for Mycenae, one of the typical Athens taxis pulled up (read: bright yellow Mercedes). Mind you, Korinth is a solid hour's drive from downtown Athens. Four Japanese business men poured out of the taxi and started walking around taking pictures. Chris pointed out to me that the cab driver would make upwards of 300 Euro for the cab fare one-way alone, not to mention the return trip or tip. I guess some people can just afford to appreciate the ruins at that luxury.
The ruins at Mycenae were equally, if not more so impressive than were those at Korinth. For starters, Mycenae is mainly a large fortress of sorts on the top of a hill. There are surrounding famous tombs in the hillsides which seemed so dominant in their size that they somewhat diminished the hills that contained them, but the fortress itself is a sight to behold. The Lions' Gate, the main entrance, itself is quite imposing, these thousands of years later.
Just inside the gate, as we began our way up the paths towards the crown of the fortress, I saw what I can unequivocally say is the shortest living human I have ever seen. This woman would be considered, essentially, a midget to a normal midget - that is to say I doubt she was above 3 feet tall - perhaps not even 2.5 feet. She was walking down the uneven path with the aid of the typical walker-crutches people with these kinds of disabilities have, and almost to where her friend with the wheelchair was able to get the chair up to. And on we moved towards the top of the fortress, continuing our exploration.
An hour or so later we were leaving the ruins, headed off to a dinner in one of the picturesque sea-side towns. About a quarter-mile down the hill from the parking lot below the ruins, we passed the short lady and her friend, who was wheeling her down the road, sans vehicle. We had plenty of room in the van and so we stopped and offered them a ride. They hesitated briefly, as many might, but then agreed.
They were French, of which a few of us spoke a little, but between their broken English and our broken French, we could communicate well enough. As we drove them the mile or so to the main road, we realized that they had taken the bus out there from Athens to the nearest town, which was another two miles down the main road. They had taken the earliest bus out, walked (well, her friend had pushed her) all the way up to the fortress, saw the ruins, and were hoping to make it back to the city in time for the last bus back to Athens. Being as it was going on 6pm, and the last bus was at 8:15, I doubt whether they might have made it.
In the 15 or so minutes we spent with them, we actually learned quite a bit about each other - places they were from that some of us had been, and vice versa. When we pulled up to the bus station we found we had just missed the 6:15 bus, and we were disappointed they had to wait an hour. They clearly didn't share our disappointment - they had an hour to sit and have coffee and relax. I pulled the wheelchair out of the back of the van and Chris took a picture of them with the family.
And off to dinner on the seaside we went.
It hit me later that night, in the quiet of a van full of sleeping people at 120km/hr on an empty freeway, that we were much closer in stature and standing to those business men in Korinth. We have the benefit of our own vehicle, excellent meals, warm beds, and the ability to view the incredible locales at our own leisure.
I just hope that, in our hearts, we might be a little closer to those who, despite their limitations, want so earnestly to appreciate the same things we were there to see.
I'm one who tries to complain as little as possible, but heaven help me if I grumble once more on this trip.
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