Athens, Greece. Who hasn’t heard of the Greek Gods and the ancient history surrounding the Greeks? And, who hasn’t heard of the catastrophic economic struggles of the modern day Greeks?
It was a little strange to see these two dynamics standing side by side. When I visited Athens, I stayed in an Airbnb a few hundred meters walk down to the sea, in Paleo Faliro. It was nice to be so close to the beach, and walk along the water’s edge watching the mountains stretching out on the horizon of the water, and the expanse of white-walled abodes surrounding Athens. What surprised me most, however, was walking to the ‘ancient part’ of Athens.
It was simply nothing like I had pictured in my imagination. There were the ruins, yes, tall columns of pillars from stone that somehow lasted hundreds of years.
But it wasn’t mesmerising and mystical anymore.
The pillars, the sites of ancient history, were understandably closed off in gated areas, but you had to pay between 30 – 45 Euros to walk inside and tour around and take pictures. Then, outside of these small islands of ancient history, there was the constant barrage of modernity: buses, electric buses, cars, motorcycles, street hawkers, and row after row of shops selling an array of food and sex.
That was what surprised me the most. I had always imagined ancient Hellenic Greece to be the most indestructible of all places in the world, given its history and the fact that gods are supposed to be, well, invincible. I was unprepared for the harsh reality that the world was stuck in the now, and the now consisted of a massive economic fallout for the Greeks. I was shocked and saddened, to be quite honest.
What to do in Athens:
If you tour around Athens, you will find that there are touristy places that are ‘must-sees’ marked on any map: like Hadrian’s Gate, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and so on. For me, just going near the site and taking photographs was enough — once I had lost that magical feeling upon seeing it turned into a tourist attraction, my interest was largely gone. It was still incredibly cool to be there, in Athens, steps away from the remains of an ancient world…but maybe you know what I mean.
There are also beautiful beaches in Athens, and in Paleo Faliro, where I was, there was a nice stretch of sand leading a few hundred meters along the coast. It had a pleasant view of the setting sun and I especially liked seeing the mountains rising out of the horizon.
As for food, I am a vegetarian, and I don’t really eat all that much. At least, not in Athens. I wasn’t really hungry after my shock of the state of things, so I can’t recommend much. I was very surprised to see Lidl, Dominos, McDonald’s, and other familiar global food chains around my streets. Somehow, I had thought that Athens would be different and more closed off.
Transportation: I flew into the Athens airport and took the bus X96 into Athens city. It cost 6 Euros and you have to buy it from a little bus ticket stall. Then you have to stamp verify it on the bus in case any police man asks.
You can buy single ride tickets for 1.40 Euros from mini markets. Unfortunately, you can’t buy them from the bus driver. I think it is because the buses are too crowded and the drivers don’t have the time. Anyway, Greece is going through some hard times, so don’t expect the bus fleet to be clean and new all the time. It’s a bit worn, but it will get you where you need to go.
Anyway. Time for the photos!
As always, all opinions are my own.