Athens, Greece; This has always been a place I thought I would only dream about. When choosing my destination, I almost cancelled Greece out, there is no way I could even scrape the surface of this ancient city in that amount of time. In the end, when given the opportunity, everyone should absolutely choose a two day trip to Greece. Surprisingly, I was able to make it to many sites, swim in the Mediterranean, and make sure to slow down and smell the local flowers. Here is how I took advantage of the small amount of time in such a big city full of history.
Tourist: That is the word that would describe my first day. Ten hours, which wasn’t nearly enough, of walking downtown Athens. I visited the Acropolis, Parthenon, Plaka, Panathenaic Stadium, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Erechtheion, Arch of Hadrian, Odeon of Herodes, Theatre of Dionysus, (to name some of my favorites) as well as many old halls and churches. It was an entire day committed to walking to each, can we call them attractions? It was a long, hot day, full of pictures, (roughly 250 of them) but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I ate breakfast and lunch, at local restaurants with outdoor seating both within view of some huge, ancient structure.The second day, it was time for some relaxation so I went to check out this little lake I have heard so much about… the Meditteranean!! I wasn’t let down. I found a nice beach club, Akanthus, and this is were I posted up for the day. They supplied umbrellas, chairs, food, and refreshments along with a beautiful view of the pebble beach and clear water. Maybe I am a little to sentimental, but stepping into that water, changed that sea from a backdrop for all those Biblical and historical stories I was raised on, to reality and it was as magnificent as I had imagined.
I chose to stay in Ilioupoli, a charming neighborhood, it required a little bit of travel to the city center, but it was packed with little boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and even a little park. I was thrilled with this decision, I fell in love with this little corner of Athens. In my three nights there I became a regular at a local restaurant, getting a delicious Euro and Greek salad-the last night I just had to poke my head in the door and they knew exactly what I wanted. I sat on the patio to relax, recap my evening, and watch the Greek evening happen around me. This was one of my favorite parts of my trip, I loved all of the sightseeing, but it is here that I established relationships with the locals and witnessed the Grecian way of life around me.
During my two days in Athens, I was serenaded by an accordion, had pigeons eat out of my hand, pitted my first olive, ate a Mediterranean pizza, drank ouzo, contemplated how to pack a stray cat in my carry on, see my first park full of kids at 11:30 PM, hear a Greek remake of Brittany Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again,” swam in the Mediterranean, made new friends, contemplated how to pack a stray cat in my carry on, all while in one of the oldest, most stunning cities in the world. It still doesn’t seem real.
Have I convinced you of how magnificent Athens is? Do I have your attention? I have something else I would like to share about this city. Remember a year ago, all the news stations were covering this country because it was going to default on debts? Well, they truly are facing a serious economic obstacle. The government is near collapse, the elderly face losing their pensions, businesses are closing, corporate employees are forced to take any job that will have them, people are losing their houses, their cars, and are struggling to provide for their families. I saw the most beautiful buildings vacant because whatever business it housed before could no longer afford it’s rent. Furthermore, I spoke to the locals and they didn’t see it getting better, but worse. One of the oldest cities in the world is facing a crisis.I share this, because I fell in love with the Athenians, because I want to help, because I also want to have the quality of life that everyone seems to have in this city, and finally, because the child in me hopes that maybe just drawing awareness to this problem will help bring a change. Even in the midst of this, the people I spoke to didn’t complain, they simply stated the facts and answered my questions. It is far from prime there, but these people still have a positive look on life. You could go there and see the sights, eat their food, and you would never realize what is really going on, because while it is a looming stress, they don’t set that as their focus
Athens, thank you. Thank you for sharing your city with me, for taking pride in your history, and allowing me to experience it. Thank you for being so kind and catering to a simple outsider that couldn’t speak a word of your language. Thank you for stealing a little part of me. I hope one day to make it back, but if not, this experience and these people will always be in my heart.