A sunny and peaceful Saturday morning… and we were driving our way out from Athens. Our destination was the Gereneia Mountains in the west border of Attica; however, there was only a tiny portion of all the distance separating us from our destination we got to cover, after all. As the car was rolling along the highway by the outskirts of the city, that rolling of it started to meet resistance; and then, loads of white smoke were spat out from its right rear wheel, manifesting the source of the resistance… The brake pads were in contact with the plate; and the hotter they got, the more they were pressed against each other, till the wheel could hardly revolve at all.
The situation was bad. It was Saturday: a day when workshops in Greece are normally closed. A sparkle of hope was, however, generated when, while meditating upon the issue, I observed the workshop right across the street being just opened by that guy. I rushed and explained to him what the problem was; but he only let me know that he’s unable to do something at the moment, and advised me to come back after about an hour, when his colleague was expected to come. So I did: bringing myself forth to that guy as soon as he arrived. ‘Good morning’, I said; to receive nothing in response. I proceeded, anyway, with explaining my problem, once again, to him. Without uttering a single word again, he pondered on what I had just said for a few moments, he stooped over the wheel at issue as to examine it, and finally spoke: “Sorry man, nothing I can do. I will send you over to another workshop.” “Are you sure it’s going to be open today?”, I inquired. “Sure, he’s there right now. I was just having coffee with him.”
Abiding carefully to that guy’s directions, and praying for the plate to not heat up enough to completely immobilize the vehicle, we managed to make it to the right workshop – just as far as its shut entrance, basically. I called the number written on that paper put on the door… only to remain wondering for what a reason would anyone ever need to call the office number of a business when standing right outside of the business’s office, as I started to hear the device ringing from the inside of the closed workshop. We decided to wait for a while and see if by any miracle the owner of the workshop is going to show up; and, just before giving up hope, he did show up. He took a look at the car and let me know that he could do nothing about it before Monday. That was when the plan of getting to Gerenaeia Mountains that day had to to be relinquished.
But I came up with an alternative plan on spot. My mind being exclusively occupied by the car’s well-being theretofore, I hadn’t paid any attention to what happened to be right on the opposite side of the road from the workshop: a forest: a forest belonging to the foot of Mount Aigaleo. That’s a small mountain defining the southwest verge of Athen’s metropolitan area. It surely wasn’t as exciting a prospect as the initial plan, but it was the only thing immediately accessible and would definitely do for a pleasant morning walk.
There was a wire fence separating the forest from the road; and the closest pass was a few hundred meters away. Accompanied by the shrieks of that old lady who came to her balcony to scold us and threaten us with calling the police because of taking a rather ‘not normal’ –in her understanding of things- shortcut, with the assistance of a tree we climbed and jumped over the fence, and started ascending straight up the slope through the fragrant pine forest.
The forest soon gave out, and we were steadily gaining height over the rocky slope. Upon reaching the slope’s purview, we encountered a little road which we took after jumping yet another fence which separated us from it. The road guided us through that small shepherd settlement which lied there, and led us up to the mountain’s ridge and along with it towards its southwestern parts. The view to the entire, vastly human-manipulated basin of Athens with the metallic water-tanks shimmering like stars from the top of its buildings, the haughty mountains surrounding it, and the Saronic gulf vanishing into the south horizon… was splendid. Taking our time to spot the best viewpoints by the ledge of the mountain, we kept moving along the road. We soon passed by the mountain’s highest point where a small military outpost stands prohibiting access the top.
As we kept walking, we ultimately ended up on the western side of the mountain, where the view of the city got lost and replaced by an epic view of the Straits of Salamis: The exact same view king Xerxes of the Persian Empire had in 480 BC while, from that very spot, he was witnessing his mighty fleet -together with his aspiration of subjugating the Greek mainland- perishing in the depths of these waters – Imagine what a spectacle! All those hundreds of ancient battleships; built over who knows how long a period of toilsome ancient labor; packed in these narrow straits like the sardines in the tin box; and each one of them, in its turn, packed with many hundreds of enslaved human beings consisting their crews… All reaching the inhospitable bottom of the sea within a matter of a few hours!
The view gradually disappeared and we found ourselves back on the lower levels of this world. We’d ended up at Schisto Camp, by the southwest foot of the mountain, where the highway and the buses to the city pass through.