I didn't know what to expect in Athens...
I visited Athens with only the vaguest snippets of rumor and conjecture floating around in my head, with whispers of crazy traffic and urban chaos, all with the slightest suggestion of a city gone slightly to seed in the wake of the country's recent economic crisis. But try as I may, I couldn't come up with a clear vision of what Athens would be like, what it would look like, what it would sound, smell, and even taste like. And therefore I was utterly caught off guard when Aphrodite sprinkled her magic dust and I fell in love with the city.
Athens Is Clean
Athens Is Green
While it would be nice to see a different kind of 'green' in the form of recycling bins (they were non-existent as far as I could tell), the everyday acts of urban gardening were a joy to behold.
Athens Is Calm
Any major metropolitan area can have heavy traffic. And just like in any other city, pedestrians should be sensible and exercise caution. I'm not sure if I'd have the moxie to venture forth on an Athenian scooter but when it came to walking all over town, I had little fear of any rogue vehicles.
Athens Is Almost Tout-Free.....
We only encountered touts twice, which is remarkable considering how many major attractions we visited. On our hop-on, hop-off bus tour, the driver pulled over near Piraeus Port in order to allow the touts to board and offer us what they promised were utterly genuine iPads for a mere 20 Euros. Not cool, bus driver, not cool!
We (along with Athenians themselves) encountered plenty of people who were selling (I think) lotto tickets. These sellers walked everywhere - inside the airport, inside restaurants, on the bus - waving aloft tall sticks from which dozens of paper tickets fluttered in the breeze. Somewhat irritating but it seemed common place and not particularly directed towards tourists.
.... And There's No Price Gouging Either!
I'm not sure if it's the result of regulation or just the honest and good-natured disposition of the Greek people, but there was a complete lack of price gouging when it came to popular items like water and snacks. Try finding bottled water at the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum for the same price and let me know how it goes!
Living On Bread and Water? No Problem!
Closely behind the water would come the bread basket, always generously filled with white bread, brown bread, and crunchy bread sticks - always accompanied by a container of yogurt dip. This thick dip, seasoned with herbs or cheese or beet root, was delicious and all of it was complimentary. The scrumptious food in Athens is something I could talk about forever, but for now I'll stick to the bread and yogurt. It made every meal that much more delectable and really gave restaurant visits a tremendous value.
Shoulder Season = Stunning Season
Maybe it's the shoulder season, and not Aphrodite, I need to thank for the clean streets, the reasonable traffic, and the great service I experienced in Athens. But no matter the reason, visiting Athens was an absolute joy, an experience I'll never forget, and I hope my wonderful memories go a long way in helping you form your own expectations of this remarkable city.
Have you been to Athens? Tell me what you liked best!
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