The scent of ruins

The scent of ruins

Decaying areas in cities usually produce an odor that I think smells like wet newspaper. Whether it’s here or in the US, the deterioration of old buildings gives off the distinctive funk of rotting cardboard, books, paper.

The ancient sites of Greece also have a particular odor but in this case the scent is of herbs: heated herbs. Hints of oregano, thyme, and sage waft above the browned weeds that surround the ancient walls and stones. Which is pretty reasonable considering that wild versions of those herbs and others are ubiquitous in Greece, and that the summer sun here bakes every low green bush to dust by the time fall’s rain arrives. The olfactory effect is not so much Thanksgiving dinner as the almost subliminal awareness of a familiar, pleasant scent rising from the weeds as you walk; a perfume that over time becomes associated with tromping around ancient stones.

Sites lucky enough to enjoy the presence of pines have that delightful note in addition to their summer bouquet, and it adds a peaceful, calming tone that is perhaps attributable to but certainly reinforced by the blessed shelter from the sun provided by those trees.

The site of ancient Argos does not enjoy the presence of pines but the scent of herbs in those browned-out fields is almost palpable as I look at this photo.

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