Greece has been one of those countries that has been on my list for awhile now. I tried to go when I lived in Prague, it didn’t work out. I looked up flights from Seoul, they were too expensive. It was one of the first countries on the “Round the World” list that I was not going to cross out no matter what. While Thessaloniki was nice, it didn’t really feel like we arrived in Greece until we were walking the streets of Athens this afternoon. Don’t tell Thessaloniki.
We arrived super early and even though we could walk from the station to our hotel, Andrew knew it wasn’t in the best part of town. Taxi drivers were telling us the three minute ride would cost us 10-15 euro. We took the metro, and probably ended up walking farther from the metro stop than we would have had we just walked from the station at dawn. Despite it being a “bad part of town” I wasn’t phased after some of the stops on this trip. It seemed quiet when we walked to our hotel before six. I was also looking forward to immediately crashing, as we were told we would be able to the night before. Unfortunately the attendant on duty did not seem to think this was possible and we had to wait. I had unintentionally stepped in pee on our way. So there we sat in the lobby, me smelling like pee, trying not to fall asleep until we were able to check into our room. An hour later, the shift changed and we were able to get a room, at least for the morning to shower and sleep.
By early afternoon, we were walking back out of our hotel, ready to hit the town. I still wasn’t thinking the part of town we were in was that bad until a man walked by with blood dripping down his face. Andrew was a few meters ahead (per usual) and I almost chuckled when I saw Andrew notice and react to the dude’s bloody face. Meanwhile, the dude seemed oblivious to the fact that blood was dripping down his face and continued to walk down the street, checking a message on his phone at the same time. It was like he was an extra in a television or film shoot and had fifteen minutes to go get a coffee or something. Only there wasn’t a set around. What might be more troubling about this encounter is how remarkably not phased we were. We just exchanged a look like “Did you see that?” and kept walking.
Our first stop was Monastiraki. It’s known as the ‘flea market’ neighborhood of Athens. Unfortunately it seemed as though tourist shops selling the same selection of trinkets had taken over the area and we were nonplussed. Andrew had a Lonely Planet walking tour on his phone, but the subway stop where the tour began was closed for the day, so we were more or less working our way backwards of the tour. Haphazardly working our way backwards as the tour quickly unfolded into a meandering of sorts.
Athens seems to be covered with just as much graffiti as Thessaloniki was. I kept getting distracted by the quality (in my opinion) street art mixed in.
As we were walking, looking for a church we thought we were near, a chef stopped to help point us in (what he thought) was the right direction. Then he came back up to us to ask where we were from. After we told him we were American, he informed us that he was from Pakistan. He had a few words for us about our country’s involvement in Pakistan and our media’s response to the American involvement in his country. English obviously not being his first language, I’m not quite sure what his message was. But he tried really hard to deliver it to us, and we listened, because it seemed important to him. We didn’t even comment or give a response when he felt he was finished. He thanked us for listening and then turned and walked away.
We continued walking and I couldn’t help but be intrigued and a little bit proud? of the interaction. Before I lived abroad, and probably before we started this trip, I was always quicker to talk. To make sure someone else knew my opinion about something. Andrew will tease me that I still am… But now, especially I think, with those from another country I’m quicker to listen.
A few stairways later, we found ourselves in the middle of an Anafi community of houses. It was like we had been suddenly transported to an island, not at all as though we were a short walk away from downtown Athens. Signs pointed up to the Acropolis, but all you could see was the wall and all you could hear were the birds and one older man watering his rooftop garden. It was serene and absolutely beautiful.
We walked down to the more traveled touristy roads and out towards the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
It was closed, but we could still sneak a picture through the gate. And a snapshot of another Hadrian’s Gate. We made our way back the way we came and stopped off to get a huge Greek salad (YUM), feta fries (YUM), and a gyro (YUM). As if that wasn’t enough, when we stopped at a bakery on our way ‘home’ the chef behind the counter laughed at me making fun of Andrew not being able to decide what to get. Then he came around to our side to hand us some little treats on the house.