Unless you want to end up in bandages or worse, remember to cover your head and your feet when attempting to scale the Acropolis in the summer.
The shortest way to get from antiquity to the accident and emergency department of an Athens public hospital is to wear the wrong footwear. It’s a nugget of wisdom that most visitors to the Greek capital are understandably unaware of. Like Japanese tourist Chiyo Utsugi, for example, who recently learned the hard way while negotiating the slippery steps of the Acropolis, in her eye-catching, handmade, ancient replica sandals.
“Oh, dear!” the Japanese guide of the group must have exclaimed in his mother tongue as he watched poor Chiyo lying on the ground, clutching in pain the rising lump that just moments ago used to be her left ankle. “Ouch,” she cried while searching for a sympathetic look from among the crowd.
Her swollen foot was soon being tended to by the on-site doctor, always on call to provide emergency medical assistance to visitors. This was just one of the countless “flip-flop accidents” that take place on the Sacred Rock every year.
If walking up the Acropolis in sandals is like going trekking in Louboutin designer footwear, then attempting it without a hat in 104 degrees and direct sunlight is like going to outer space in your swimsuit. Heatstroke is the second most common injury for visitors on the Acropolis. And not even seasoned locals like me are immune.
Chiyo’s accident brought me back years. I was 14, it was mid-July and my parents were forcing another Sunday tour of the monuments on my poor sister and I.
As I laboriously counted every step to the top of the rock, I looked forward to returning to my air-conditioned room and listening to the new CD from The Offspring. Anything was better than enduring my mother’s persistent and repetitive nagging: “Put on your hat.” Of course, she got no response. As a self-respecting teenager, I refused to wear one, even though the heat wave was enough to fry an egg on my head.
As I made the ascent, the Caryatids seemed like the Spice Girls to my burning eyes. Losing consciousness, I fell onto my sister’s back, my teenage narcissism overwhelmed by the blackout.
Since then, every time I visit the rock to relive the awe that never ceases, to reinspect every detail from a new perspective, I usually act like my mother. So don’t be alarmed if out of the blue Athenian sky some random Greek tips you on the shoulder and whispers in a motherly way: “Are you crazy? Up here on flip-flops? Oh, and put on your hat.”
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