When I told my mother I was going to Athens, she asked me why! If there was one capital in Europe she never really fell in love with it was Athens. It might have The Acropolis – she told me – but the rest…
I couldn’t help think that she held a rather depressing view of a city known as the birthplace of European democracy. A city with such history must have more to recommend itself than some ancient ruins on a hill top.
When I told my colleagues in Slovenia about my travelling plans, one of them – a huge chunk of a man – gave me a German paralysing spray to use in case of emergency. It was not – he told me – because I was planning on travelling through Albania, but for my visit to Athens. Yet again, it was hard for me to imagine that the city had such a reputation.
After a few days in Athens and only with a cursory glimpse of the city, I find that I agree with my mother and that I feel less safe here than at any time during my travels through the Balkans. Athens is dirty and the city seems almost sad. Many of the houses seem to have been built during a less fortunate period in the history of architecture. Worst of all, I really long for a breath of fresh air.
And now for the good news…
But Athens is still interesting. The new metro is pleasant to use and there are definitely pleasant areas around the city centre. Moreover, for the first time since Kotor, I’ve got a chance to talk to fellow travellers. Something which I am enjoying tremendously.
And off course, I climbed up to that ruin everyone is talking about on top of that hill. And it was worth it. Absolutely!
I chose to go early in the morning, having the place all to myself which was incredible. The duration of my visit fit perfectly with me leaving as the first bus of Japanese tourists arrived.
I also walked a fair bit around the tourist hell called Plaka, where every tiny pretty house has a souvenir shop with prices that reach Mount Olympus. Only the Gods can afford what is on offer here.
With fellow travellers at my lodgings, I had a great time during the evening, meeting new people and enjoying a beer before bed. I met a really great English guy working in the reception, who was travelling while working. I really envy those who dare to travel without any real destination working along the way while getting to know the culture and society of where they are. . Not like the rest of us, who only get to scratch the surface of a place before leaving for the next.