My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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ATHENS, Greece —Our plane left at 2 p.m. on Sunday from New Delhi and slowly we progressed through our various stops—Basra, Beirut, and finally at 5 a.m. on Monday morning we reached Istanbul. It was a beautiful day and from sunrise I had been watching the sky which had a lovely red glow and the full moon still sailing. The country beneath us was barren but as we reached the water, the color was that wonderful green in the shallows and deepening into Mediterranean blue. I certainly expected no one to meet us at that hour of the morning, but, to my horror, there at the airport stood our Consul General, Mr. Macatee. He assured me with perfect diplomacy that it was so rare for him to get up at that time that he was grateful for the opportunity since the world was so beautiful! It certainly was beautiful but I felt very guilty. However, he asked us what we wanted to do, telling us there was a hotel nearby if we wanted to rest and both of us said that though we had missed the afternoon before in Istanbul, we would still like to drive into the City and get a look at the mosques. He seemed to like the idea though heaven knows what he really felt!

We saw the old Byzantine Wall and three of the most beautiful mosques at 6:30 a.m. Mr. Macatee assured us that he thought few other people had seen them at that hour. Of course, we had to be content with just walking around outside.

The early morning light made the minarets and the domes even more beautiful and at the Blue Mosque we got a glimpse of the color over a door and that gave us an idea of what it probably is like inside. Then we went to the Consulate and out on the second story porch, from which you can see the Golden Horn and the shipping in the harbor, had breakfast. The air was cool and Mrs. Macatee and her daughter were kind enough to look really welcoming. I decided that in this part of the world early hours probably pay, for later I am sure it gets very warm.

We had our first trip on a comet from Istanbul to Athens by British European Airways. The flight was smooth but we flew too high to see much of what was below us.

We arrived ahead of schedule and found that we had chosen a holiday, the King of Greece's name day, to arrive in Athens. We got through the customs quickly and drove into town. We zig zagged through the byways to get to the hotel but I liked going through the narrow streets as it gave me a chance to see more of the city . Kind Embassy officials met us here as well as the Pan American official so we were well looked after and now we are unpacked and settled with a whole afternoon to write and rest.

To my delight I find Mr. Adlai Stevenson is here and at 5 o'clock he will come in to tea.

Our first glimpse of the Acropolis was on our way in from the airport. Then we saw a little temple which is near the American excavations, which looked quite perfect and very beautiful, so I hope to get another chance to look at it more at leisure.

It is a funny feeling to see things you have always heard about, such as the old thick wall of Byzantium which was once such a good defence against attack, the mosques built so many years ago, and still being used—except Saint Sophia which is now a museum. Here all the things I have been familiar with in pictures and wanted to see are suddenly actually before me. It is a great, almost an awesome feeling, not overshadowed even by the age and beauty of many of the treasures of India and the Far East.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Athens (Greece) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 5, 1953

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.