At the beginning of August, the two brothers, departed from Grats on a private train compartment, which cost only two Crowns, and headed for Trieste (Kivland, 2008). Upon their arrival, they met up with a local businessman, who was an acquaintance of Alexander. He prevented them from visiting Corfu due to a heat wave and suggested that they visit Athens instead, as Lloyds performed regular and convenient routes there. At first, they were troubled and very skeptical about this destination change. However, after the Greek Consul reassured them about their travel documents, they booked their trip to Athens without a second thought, as soon as the Lloyds’ ticket office opened.
On the deck of the ship, Freud recognized Dörpfeld, a professor of Classical Archeology who worked alongside Schliemann in Troy’s excavations. Freud looked at the professor with admiration however he avoided talking to him because he was embarrassed. Freud’s passion for archeology is widely known and he often referred to psychoanalysis as the archeology of the soul. Freud was also a passionate collector and possessed more than 2,500 objects of ancient civilizations.
Lloyds’ scheduled route from Brindisi to Constantinople included stops at Patras, Corfu and Piraeus. On August 29th 1904, the Freud brothers embarked on the steamer “Uranus” from Trieste. They had a three-hour stop at Corfu and then headed for Piraeus, avoiding the Isthmus of Corinth, thus sailing around the Peloponnese. At noon of September 3rd 1904, they arrived in Athens where they stayed for three days. On September 6th, they departed by train to Corinth, the city where Oedipus grew up, and from there they continued to Patras. At 10pm, on the same evening they left for Trieste following the same route back.
When they arrived in Athens on the 3rd of September, they lodged on the first floor of the Athena Hotel, in room 31. They visited Thissio, had coffee and then walked up to the Acropolis. While there, a heavy rain forced them to find shelter in the entrance hall of the museum and because it was closed they enjoyed the view from the rock. Freud writes to his wife, Martha, “I wore my best shirt and went up the hill of the Acropolis for two hours on September 3rd and for the whole day on September 4th“. Freud is excited by the view from the Acropolis and writes to his student and friend Marie Bonaparte that “the Acropolis columns with their amber colour, are the finest I have ever seen in my life” (Freud, 1936).
Freud’s experience on the Acropolis was so intense that it often recurred in his thoughts, but he managed to write about it only after many years. Initially, he confided about the incident in a letter to C. Jung on April 16th 1909. Eventually, 32 years later and merely three years before his death on September 23rd 1939, he extensively described what he experienced in a letter he sent to his friend, French writer Romain Roland. This letter was sent as a gift to Roland on the occasion of his 70th birthday and was titled “A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis” (Freud, 1936).
During his visit to the Acropolis, Freud experienced an intense psychical situation that he called “disturbance of memory “. It was as if he could not believe that this monument, for which he had read so much from an early age, actually existed. In particular, he exclaimed, “So all this really does exist, just as we learnt at school!” He wrote that “the Acropolis surpasses everything I have seen or imagined” and continues by saying that “Alex is sitting on the marble throne which definitely belonged to an Athenian Lord, next to a Pheidian horse. The view from the Acropolis Castle is also wonderful “(Freud, 1936).
Through this letter, Freud attempts to make a self-analysis and refers to the journey to Athens as an object of desire combined with guilt. From an early age he dreamed of traveling abroad and escaping the narrow limits, constraints and poverty of the family environment in which he grew up. At the same time, he felt guilty, because the trip to Athens meant that he had overcome his father, a trader without high school education and without the slightest interest in those places. Thus, for Freud, the rise to the Acropolis was the confirmation that he had exceeded his father, something that a son was not allowed to do.