We disembark from the ferry to Piraeus in front of a heavily laden yellow transport truck, a window frame delivery van and a fleet of stinking motorbikes and lurch towards the intersection. The grimy squares of sidewalk are so cracked and disarranged it’s like a moonscape. From the port to the Metro station with our hardshells, it’s more like wrangling dead cows than suitcases with big wheels. Our light turns green and the walk signal glows a vague yellow. At eleven in the morning, the air is thick with traffic haze and the clinging veil of ferry smoke, but it’s surprisingly odorless. Navigating six lanes of traffic should be a breeze, we think – there’s four policemen standing at the crosswalk, but they’re smoking and talking to one another.
The noise is tremendous – honking, shouting, klaxons, music. We draft in the wake of an old lady with a bundle buggy and finally get across. Our pace is slow and we hear the impatient clucking of pedestrian tongues behind us before they trot out into the street and brush by. We navigate around the vendor booths on every corner, tripping up on street cart flotsam and cigarette butts. Curb cuts, sometimes, where they’ve been broken down by decades of car tires. Even the curbs in the old port are marble – crumbling and filthy, but marble, nevertheless. Whose were the hands that made these? In Greece, marble is as ubiquitous as concrete is in North America