Life can be fulfilling no matter where you are.
I started my 2 week trip of Greece in the capital - Athens - after flying from Geneva on the 29th of May. The airport bus dropped me at Syntagma Square in the centre of the city in the dark (street lights are at a minimum in Athens, that’s crises for you) but luckily an Greek man walking around with his kids pointed me in the right direction. The hostel (Athens Backpackers) was a short walk away and within a few minutes I was out on foot getting lost and looking for food. I was excited to try gyros here (the Greek answer to a kebab, the most prevalent form of street food almost anywhere in Europe) as I’d heard good things.
Despite the long detour my first one didn’t disappoint and at less than €2.50 was a welcome change from French prices (€4.50+ for reheated chicken, bread and 1-2 meager pieces of vegetable). Gyros and I were immediately good friends and many more were to follow.
The walking tour the next day illustrated the rich history of Athens with a tour around some of the key monuments new and old and a look over the city from the rock where St Peter apparently gave a famous speech.
Notable features were policemen riding round two to a motorbike, the turtle pond in the middle of the city park, the Zappeion, views of the sprawling city and the Parliament which was gated off and unaccessible due to the protest that was to happen later that day - a common occurrence given Greece’s current austerity measures and the popular opinion against them. In simplified terms and from my limited knowledge the basic gist of these austerity measures is that as a condition of their loans taken from the EU to keep Greece from collapsing economically and in order to remain in the EU the Greek government is required to cut spending to an acceptable level. This results in job losses in many public positions (e.g. the entire public broadcaster was closed in one day), people saving for the harder times to come and resultant lack of cash money for pretty much all Greeks. A mare all round.
Athens sprawls for aaages. From above it looks very similar and dreary as far as the eye can see - white concrete houses all over the show.
The acropolis was the first of the historical sites I saw. Thanks go out to Université Jean Moulin for issuing me a student card that says I am a European student and therefore get into these old things for free. A cheeky ‘Bonjour’ to the lady behind the Acropolis desk to throw her off secured the deal. I saved €12, to be used later for gyros and souvlaki.
The Parthenon from a view that shows a minimum of the scaffolding and cranes all over it.
I also saw the Acropolis museum and lots of other old rocks but to be honest Athens wasn’t why I went to Greece, it was more of a pit stop to access the Greek Islands from. I bought my ferry ticket while I was here but kept a fairly low profile apart from a bit of sightseeing and gyro-eating. I wouldn’t choose to return to Athens and found it was too big, had too many cars and motorbikes and was pretty ugly all round. But I’m sure other people with more imagination have loved it. I just found it a bit hard to put it all into perspective when all that remains of much of the Roman history is ugly white stones in a mess on the ground and signs that sometimes just guess at what monument they were formerly a part of. Almost half of Greece lives in Athens with 4/11 million living in the capital and the city feels a bit cramped and dirty outside of the main area. However, the better preserved ruins are easily visualised, especially when brought to life with a guide. The olive trees on the hills are as you would imagine in a Roman legend and if it meant a return to the islands, I’d fly back to Athens in a heartbeat.