Owls not included

I was up before dawn this morning. Not for morning practice or observance of the Brahma Muhurta! Rather, Hubby had read that the Scops Owl (a cute little thing, I must say) lives in the woodland on the hill just above us in Athens. Although these owls are hard to see, they have a distinctive call, so he was keen to make a effort and see what we might find. Plus the sunrise from the top of the hill can be quite something. So we set the alarm early, aiming to be in the trees before dawn for any hope of hearing the owls. We tumbled out of bed and managed to leave the apartment in about 10 mins flat.

It is a really steep hill so we puffed our way up through the trees, stumbling slightly on the uneven ground, coordination not yet awake. We came to the top without the merest hint of an owl! Oh well, there was still the golden sunrise to enjoy. But today turned out pretty cloudy (it even rained later), so the sunrise was rather unspectacular.

Was I disappointed? Not a bit actually. Our little morning adventure had its own shared pleasures and amusements. The view of the city laid out beneath us, lights twinkling still, was quite a sight. Once I’ve had my fill of gazing at the ancient Acropolis, my eye gets drawn to the periphery which is very obvious since Athens nestles in a bowl of mountains. The distant dark hills and the sea, still misty and obscured, contrasts with the blocks of white buildings stretching off on all sides. I loved the breeze on the hilltop too, bringing the smell of pines and the orange trees that line the neighbourhood streets. It carried too the noises from below us, church bells and the sporadic blast of loud music as the nightclubs started to close.

And the people watching opportunities were unexpectedly good at this time of day and in this high spot. Some couples who were clearly taking a romantic moment on their way home after a night out, still in their clubbing clothes: the two guys holding hands as they walked, and the boy and girl entwined in each other’s arms. A serious photographer with lots of intriguing paraphernalia. Then eventually the priest arrived at the church which tops the hill, carrying a tiny posy of flowers. And a runner who sprinted up nimbly and whom we encountered on our descent, sitting on a wall cross-legged with his hands in jñana mudra, contemplating the cityscape.

So we walked back down into the city and perked ourselves with a coffee and tsoureki (sweet Easter bread) from the local bakery which was mercifully open early, and we felt the city come to life around us.

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