We are all presented with choices in life. Which path to take? These paths or roads taken can be found in many forms – fast highways straight forward, slow meanders, intriguing detours or mysterious labyrinths into the unknown. Then again, some might be what the British charmingly call a cul de sac – the blunt American ‘dead end’ – where you have to go back to Go, as monopoly rules stipulate, and begin again. At any point along the route you have the chance to be surprised by what you discover. For me, it is the little things on the journey that make you want to laugh, give you a thrill, make you think, wrench the heart…. I’ve chosen a few of these little things I’ve encountered recently, all appropriately road related.
At Christmas time, on a road trip to the Peloponese, we spoted a road-side fruit and veg stall whose very inventive owner transformed a fig tree by adding unusual holiday decorations – little sacks of oranges hung from its leafless branches. It popped out against the deep blue winter sky.
We encountered this in the Argolid, a citrus growing area near the ancient ruins of Agamemnon’s Mycenae. On the way back to Athens, we crossed the Corinth Canal, that steep and narrow divide between Attica and the Peloponnese. On one of the old road bridges, many people had tied wishes to the wire fence, reminding me of the love locks of Paris or the Celtic custom of tying rags (clootie) to trees at pilgrimage places.
As it began to rain, we headed back to the car and were on our way on the highway once again. As soon as we reached the area where the oil refineries dominate the coast of the Saronic Gulf, a rainbow appeared – an interesting juxtaposition, making you realise that beauty can be found in the most unlikely places.
A few months later, we were in the major northern Greek town of Thessaloniki. Many of the city’s street signs point you to a variety of destinations. They also have numbers and symbols that tell you the distance in metres, the minutes it would take you to get there either on foot or by bike, and some even indicate how many kcal you would burn off.
A journey of another sort was waiting for us in the Archaeological Museum of that city – 1100m away, a 10 minutes walk, about 63 kcal burned from the sign post’s location at the Arch of Galerius.
But, on the way, it is entirely possible to encounter one of the street-side laterna players. This photo was taken a few years ago, but it heartens me that these traditions live on and that these entertainers/buskers are still around. The laterna is an old-fashinoned mechanical instrument similar to a player piano, but only on wheels.
Reaching the museum, we were shown around a temporary exhibition of artefacts brought by Greek refugees from Eastern Thrace between 1914 and 1922. They travelled west to destinations like that of the port city of Thessaloniki. The main poster for the exhibition really stuck in my mind, creating a resonance with the current refugee situation by superimposing a photograph of those early 20th century refugees with recent Syrian refugees who also arrived by boat.
The caption heading the image ends with:
When the refugee’s journey ends,
the journey of memory begins…
That is the road taken.
The road taken: The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.