Fashionable Athens, Greece – Journey Highlights

by jpc_touring-bicycle

Someday across the starting of August, 2009, I boarded a bus in Thessaloniki, Greece and wakened early the following morning within the port metropolis of Pireas.

“The place am I?” I assumed to myself. “This doesn’t look something just like the ‘Athens’ I imagined.”

For the previous seven+ months, I had been touring by way of Europe with my bicycle and the town of Athens, Greece was to be my closing vacation spot earlier than flying again to the USA and returning to my regular life. However I had a month and a half to spend within the metropolis earlier than I might return dwelling… and the very first thing I wanted to do was discover a place to remain. I had reserved an condominium in downtown Athens, however I used to be 4 days early and utterly exhausted. The one factor I needed to do now was discover a close by lodge, take a bathe, and fall asleep.

Strolling From Pireas To Downtown Athens

Fortunately, there have been a handful of run-down accommodations simply minutes from the Pireas bus cease. I walked into the primary one I might discover, requested for a room (which was extremely overpriced), and made my approach upstairs. I took a bathe after which handed out on the lodge mattress.

A number of hours later, I wakened and despatched off a fast electronic mail to the girl I used to be renting the condominium from in Athens, asking her if it is perhaps potential for me to return and verify in early. After sending off the e-mail, I walked again out onto the streets of Pireas in quest of a grocery store. I hadn’t eaten in over a day and I used to be completely ravenous.

By this time it was practically practically midday and the streets had been a buzz with individuals and vehicles speeding slowly about in each course. Town was soiled, unorganized and complicated. In every single place I seemed there have been individuals. The ocean was on my proper and a crowded mess of metropolis was on my left.

I lastly discovered a small grocery store and bought a bag stuffed with over-priced fruit and different such meals objects. After having spent the final a number of months in Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro, Greece appeared terribly overpriced.

Again on the lodge, I checked my electronic mail and located that I had a response concerning the condominium in downtown Athens. The girl I used to be renting the place from didn’t sound pleased, however she mentioned that if I needed to verify in that very night time at 6 PM, that she would meet me there and provides me the important thing.

That meant it was determination time. I might keep the place I used to be, spend the night within the lodge I had already paid for, after which spend the next 4 days rambling round southern Greece with my bike, or I might take off instantly and be in downtown Athens by 6 PM. I made a decision to ditch my dirt-bag lodge and took off for the Acropolis in downtown Athens – greater than 5 kilometers away.

Leaving Pireas, I attached my GPS system and began strolling in a north-easterly course.

When you’ve got by no means been to Pireas or Athens, you’d by no means understand it, however the metropolis of Athens is one giant, large assortment of just about similar multi-story condominium buildings. Telling one constructing from the following might be tough, and discovering your approach if you end up caught approach down in these buildings might be even more durable.

To make issues worse, the site visitors in and round Athens is completely horrendous. There are not any bike lanes for cyclists and using on the street wouldn’t solely be harmful, however one thing that would very simply get you killed. As a result of I not solely did know know the place I used to be going, but additionally as a result of I couldn’t see the over the tall condominium buildings I used to be making my approach by way of, I pushed my bike up onto the sidewalk and slowly made my approach by foot into the town middle.

As I made my approach by way of the town I might often cease and ask somebody if I used to be on the right track. I recall talking to a younger lady (about my age – 25) who was sitting on the doorstep of her condominium constructing.

“Are you aware the quickest approach to get to the Acropolis?” I requested the girl?

I pointed within the course I believed it to be and he or she smiled, performing as if she had by no means heard of the Acropolis… and so I rephrased the query.

“Are you aware easy methods to get to the town middle?” I attempted once more.

Once more, her face went clean and I might inform she was confused. And he or she wasn’t confused as a result of she didn’t communicate English. Her English was very good and I might inform ought to understood what I used to be saying. The reality of the matter was, she had no thought what the Acropolis was or the place the middle of Athens occurred to be. I, in fact, discovered this fairly odd. She had in all probability lived in Athens her complete life, just some miles from the town middle and the Acropolis at its core, and but she appeared to haven’t any clue as to what I used to be speaking about or why I might wish to head in that course.

In fact, this isn’t the primary time I’ve encountered this type of factor. All around the world, regardless of the place I appear to go, I discover individuals who have by no means been exterior their very own neighborhood and who by no means even dream of visiting locations just some miles from their houses.

Anyway, I stored strolling and several other hours later I made it to the Athens Metropolis Middle. I discovered the Acropolis, discovered the condominium, and some minutes later met the girl (who was about 8 months pregnant) who would verify me in to the basement dungeon that may be my dwelling for the following month and a half.

The Acropolis & The Athens Metropolis Middle

Top-of-the-line elements concerning the location of my condominium in Athens, Greece was that it was simply two blocks from the Acropolis.

For individuals who don’t know, the Acropolis is a big, flat-topped rock that lies about 490 ft (150 meters) above the ocean degree within the metropolis of Athens. On prime of the Acropolis is the Parthenon and numerous different historical historic constructions and monuments. Along with the flat-topped rock itself, there are a number of historical ruins and artifacts that lie within the surrounding space.

On this single looping area within the middle of Athens, there are a whole bunch of various issues to see, study and discover. In reality, there’s a lot to see on this one space that I’ve determined to put in writing about my favourite spots in a future publish. For now, nevertheless, I merely really feel the necessity to level out this space is among the main highlights in all of Greece.

Once you see footage of Athens, it’s the Acropolis and its surrounding ruins that you’re almost definitely seeing pictures of. The remainder of Athens, nevertheless, appears nothing like this space… and I do know that for me and numerous different vacationers who come to Greece to see the traditional ruins, this may increasingly come as a little bit of a shock. Most of Athens is sort of fashionable and considerably boring. The Acropolis, nevertheless, is sort of implausible… and is one thing I might advocate to anybody planning a go to to Greece.

Visitors, Bikes & Public Transportation

After I first arrived in Athens, I used to be utterly shocked by how fashionable the town actually was. I used to be anticipating historical ruins all through and structure that mirrored the town’s historical historical past. However the reality is, Athens is nothing like what I anticipated. When my buddy Leslie Parr came visiting me in Athens throughout my keep there, her first remark concerning the metropolis was that “It appears so much like Los Angeles”… and I occurred to agree.

Athens, for essentially the most half, has a tiny speck of historical ruins, surrounded by tall, white, uninspiring condominium buildings for so far as the attention can see. Town is busy, sizzling and (as I’ve heard others describe it) considerably smelly. The site visitors in Athens, Greece is as bad as Los Angeles, California… if not worse! The streets are crowded, hectic, and quick. Vehicles park on the sidewalks and there are bikes completely in all places.

At a typical crimson mild, you would possibly count on to see a dozen or extra bikes lined up on the entrance of the sign… with a number of extra making their approach by way of the pack of vehicles behind them. When the sunshine turns inexperienced, the bikes and mopeds zip off and race down the road, doing their greatest to beat the vehicles round them and never collide with the motorcyclists at their facet. In a metropolis like Athens, the place the site visitors is so extremely bad and getting from one facet of the town to the opposite would possibly take a number of hours, a bike looks like it is perhaps an effective way to get across the metropolis. That mentioned, you’d must be some form of bike madman to journey within the streets of Athens. It’s one loopy metropolis and its site visitors is completely horrendous.

That mentioned, Athens has finished one factor Los Angeles has not – and that’s… they’ve constructed themselves an excellent public transport system.

There are a number of subway traces that make their approach to varied locations all through the town… and a one-way ticket will price you only one.50 Euros. Primarily based on my expertise within the metropolis, the trains appear to run on time, they’re pretty well-kept and clear, and understanding the fundamental route maps is extremely easy.

Along with the town’s public prepare system, there are additionally a ton of various buses that shuttle individuals from one location to the following. I took the bus a number of occasions whereas I used to be there and located the system as an entire to be each inexpensive and well timed. I took the bus 5 separate occasions to and from the airport alone – as soon as to choose up my buddy Leslie when she first flew in; one other time after I rode with Leslie again to the airport on her departure from the nation; and as soon as once more after I flew again dwelling myself. Every journey took about an hour, however the expertise as an entire was hassle-free and considerably pleasant. With regard to Athens and their public transportation, they must be counseled for what they’ve finished. If solely Los Angeles and it’s neighboring areas might do one thing comparable!

Graffiti & Avenue Artwork

One in all my favourite issues about Athens is simply how a lot graffiti there’s within the metropolis. Now, I perceive that many individuals view graffiti as nothing greater than vandalism, however in a metropolis like Athens, the graffiti and different such road artwork is a lot greater than that.

I wrote beforehand concerning the graffiti in Athens and posted a ton of various footage from my time there, so I received’t discuss it an excessive amount of now, however I feel it’s fascinating to notice how the paintings painted on the partitions and buildings across the metropolis of Athens so intently replicate what’s going on there at this time limit.

To view the photographs I took of the graffit in Athens, Greece, simply click on right here.

Police & Avenue Riots

I occurred to be in Athens throughout a really fascinating time. Simply months earlier than my arrival there have been a collection of purposely set fires that destroyed small sections of the town and prompted hundreds of thousands of {dollars} price of injury. By the point I arrived in Athens, nevertheless, the devastation had been largely cleaned up, however the aftereffects of the fires had been nonetheless lingering.

Not solely had been indicators of the fires and road riots seen within the graffiti that surrounded the town, however on the streets, there have been small, bullet-proof cubicles arrange at varied areas, inside which armed law enforcement officials sat with shoulder mounted assult rifles and what appeared to be AK-47s. (Observe: I’m not a gun particular person, so I could possibly be approach off right here with regard to what sort of weapons they had been truly carrying. However I do know that the weapons that they had had been giant and definitely extra highly effective than the little pistols you’re used to seeing on most armed law enforcement officials.).

And at night time, when you discovered your self within the fallacious a part of the town, you’d run into pairs of police males standing at road corners in full-blown riot gear.

A number of occasions throughout my keep in Athens, incidents did happen the place residents and police hit heads and duked it out on road corners in the midst of the night time. I by no means noticed such incidents myself, however I heard concerning the confrontations within the days following and definitely noticed the police presence develop throughout my time within the metropolis.

On a extra humorous be aware, I discovered the police is Athens to be fairly non-threatening. Count on for the few officers carrying riot gear and AK-47s, lots of the metropolis’s police zipped round on tiny mopeds in giant teams with different moped-mounted officers. What was most humorous of all was that there have been usually occasions two males officers using on a single moped, which meant that one officer (the one using within the again) can be compelled to wrap his arms across the officer in entrance of him and dangle on for pricey life as they slowly zipped their approach across the metropolis. I discovered this to be fairly humorous, as a result of I so usually occasions affiliate the police with huge, threatening, and scary males wearing darkish blue… however right here within the metropolis of Athens, the police appeared to place little thought into simply how threatening (or non-threatening) they occurred to look to most of the people.

My Basement House

The condominium I rented in downtown Athens was inexpensive, but it surely was not the form of place I might ever wish to reside in for an prolonged time period.

My basement condominium was positioned in a standard, white, multi-story condominium constructing in downtown Athens – simply two blocks from the Acropolis and three blocks from the closest grocery retailer. Whereas the situation was very good, the condominium itself was a bit off a train-wreck. The tiny room, which I imagine was transformed from a storage closet right into a one-bedroom condominium, was sizzling (it didn’t have air-con or perhaps a fan, regardless of it being 100+ levels F exterior), infested with cockroaches, tremendous tiny, and the water heater wanted to be handled with excessive warning (as a result of when you left it on for greater than only a couple minutes, the pipes contained in the condominium would turn out to be piping sizzling… and probably discover!). However I made do with my tiny, non permanent, bug-infested gap… and so long as I stored my meals contained in the kitchen fridge and cleaned up the cockroach our bodies every morning , the place suited me simply high-quality.

One of many highlights of my condominium was that, as a result of it was in a basement, there was no window out to the road. As a substitute, there was merely a small drain gap that I might see out of from my mattress that seemed up into the road above. If you happen to had been strolling by and occurred to look down that precise drain gap, you would possibly see me there, laying in mattress and staring again at you. A whole lot of occasions every day individuals would stroll previous, in the midst of a dialog, and I’d get to pay attention in for just some seconds and get a small glimmer of the dialog they occurred to be having. I recall one lady strolling previous and the one a part of the dialog that I heard was her saying to a different, “I don’t know, however they weren’t my underwear.”

I beloved my little drain-hole window… and I don’t assume I’ll ever neglect it.

Assembly Nick Parker

Throughout my first day or two in Athens, I received an electronic mail from a man named Nick Parker. Nick mentioned he had simply stumbled throughout my web site right here at and on the similar time had simply found that I used to be in Athens – his hometown. What a coincidence!?

Nick and I emailed forwards and backwards a pair occasions after which determined to fulfill up for meals and drinks.

Throughout out first assembly, Nick introduced alongside a few of his paintings and confirmed it to me. I in a short time realized that he was a proficient illustrator, with a type of comic-book/street-style edge to his work. It was all very spectacular!

Throughout my time in Athens, Nick and I met up a handful of occasions and had lengthy conversations whereas sitting exterior tiny, crowded cafes in varied elements of the town. I loved speaking to Nick for a number of causes… and after I assume again on my time in Athens I’ll in some ways consider Nick and the conversations that we had whereas I used to be there.

Leslie Parr & Our Cruise Of The Greek Isles

After a pair weeks in Athens on my own, I used to be joined by my highschool buddy, Leslie Parr, who flew in from the USA and stayed with me for about ten days. Throughout her keep within the metropolis, we did all the vacationer issues. We went to the museums, walked everywhere in the Acropolis, and we even went on a 3-day cruise to Turkey and several other of the Greek isles. I’ve written a lot about Leslie’s keep and our time on the cruise boat already, so if you’re enthusiastic about studying extra, you’ll be able to examine it right here:

Tourism In Athens

Athens was an fascinating place when it got here to its tourism, vacationers, and vacationer retailers.

Nearly all the vacationer stuff within the metropolis was positioned in a small space immediately surrounding the Acropolis. I assume, as a result of the Acropolis is de facto the principle factor to see and do within the metropolis of Athens, that is the place all the retailers had been positioned. And for essentially the most half, I discovered the vacationer retailers surrounding the Acropolis to be fairly good and general, fairly non-threatening.

However after spending the previous a number of months in nations like Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia – the place tourism from the west is nearly non-existent, I discovered the sudden inflow of white, western vacationers to be a bit nauseating.

In a single space close to the doorway to the principle line of vacationer retailers, I might always run into this one outdated man who would strategy and fake as if he knew me. His entire act was devised to make pleasant dialog with me (and different vacationers) after which invite me again to his bar the place I might hopefully spend some huge cash (and the place he would in all probability severely overcharge me). I by no means fell for his shenanigans, however I’m certain a whole bunch of different vacationers did.

The Anti-American Individuals

After greater than 7+ months and 15+ European nations, not a single particular person harassed me about being an American… till I received to Greece!

Whereas I used to be strolling by way of the park across the Acropolis in the future, I used to be approached my a person carrying what gave the impression to be a protest poster. I couldn’t learn what was written on the signal he was holding, however the first query out of the person’s mouth was “The place are you from?”

After telling him that I used to be from California and that I had been touring with my bicycle by way of Europe for the previous a number of months, he shot off right into a rant, explaining that he too was from America, however that he had moved to Greece a number of years in the past and had been residing there illegally ever since.

“I might by no means return!” I bear in mind him telling me.

He then introduced up Ex-President Bush, the struggle in Iraq, and numerous different such controversial political topics.

“When was the final time you noticed a terrorist?” he requested me at one level?

“By no means,” I replied.

And he was proper. I had been touring for the previous 10 years and I had by no means seen a terrorist, not to mention anybody who I believed was worthy of being thrown in jail. So I understood the purpose he was attempting to make. And but, I couldn’t perceive why this man, a whole stranger, was harassing me about being an American. Whereas I might possible by no means go to the acute of residing illegally in a international land, I agreed the person on lots of the factors he was making, and but I didn’t agree with the way in which he went about harassing me for being an American.

“Simply turn out to be I reside there doesn’t imply I imagine that the whole lot we’re doing is appropriate,” I instructed the person as we parted methods. However he wouldn’t let me have the final phrase and he shouted some ridiculous remark again at me about how I used to be making a mistake and didn’t know what I used to be speaking about. I smiled and waved as he walked off up the hill.

A pair weeks later, I met one other man (about 60 years outdated), additionally touring by bike, who for the previous 30 years had been biking around the globe, attempting to journey from one location to the following, in an try to be in one of the best location for survival within the occasion of a nuclear holocaust.

That’s proper! This man, for the previous 30 years, had been operating from nuclear bombs – of which he believed had been about to go off at any given second.

For practically a half-hour he berated me with struggle tales, tales from the Bible, and different such revolutions he believed to be 300% true. He too was American.

If there’s something I’ve realized from my travels over the previous few years, it’s that most individuals, regardless of the place they reside on the planet, are good, regular individuals, simply attempting to get by. However each as soon as and some time, I meet a person who jogs my memory simply how tousled this world actually is… and that’s precisely how I felt after assembly these two fellows in downtown Athens.

Twilight & The Studying Rock

In the long run, I’ll all the time bear in mind Athens because the place the place every night time I might crawl out of my darkish, sweaty basement condominium, take a brief stroll up the hill to the Acropolis, flip left and make my approach to “the studying rock” – a concrete and flat-stone platform erected within the hills north of the Parthenon, the place every night time I might carry my e-book (“Twilight“) and skim whereas trying over the town because the solar slowly set.

After I was in Macedonia I had had the good pleasure of viewing a bootleg copy of the film “Twilight,” which I had been listening to about for the previous a number of months on the radio, tv and Web. The film was okay, however after I received to Thessaloniki, Greece, I picked up a replica of the e-book (one of many few English books that that they had within the bookstore) and began studying. The e-book, for many who haven’t learn it, is a lot better than the film… and every night time, because the solar was setting in Athens, Greece, I might climb as much as my “studying rock” and digest one other chapter or two.

I can’t clarify precisely why “the studying rock” was one in every of my favourite issues concerning the metropolis of Athens, but it surely was. I’ll all the time affiliate the e-book “Twilight” with the town of Athens and what was occurring with me at the moment in my life. I’ll all the time bear in mind my little platform on the studying rock and the way in which it felt to have the solar setting behind me, the odor of the earth, and the view of the town far off within the distance.

I’m usually occasions requested about my favourite journey areas and I all the time wrestle with the reply to this query as a result of the locations I bear in mind are virtually by no means the magnificent, crowded, and widespread locations you see within the journey magazines and newspaper. As a substitute, the locations I bear in mind are those that nobody ever instructed me about earlier than. They’re sure bends within the street, or the way in which the shade from a row of bushes falls throughout a mountain climbing path, or within the case of Greece and the town of Athens – my “studying rock” positioned simply exterior the well-known Acropolis.


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Fashionable Athens, Greece – Journey Highlights  
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