Athens, the oldest capital of Europe, was founded 5.000 years ago. It’s the city where democracy started. Plenty of the old Greek style buildings are still standing and the city has a mild climate in winter. So it made me want to check it out.
Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the port of Piraeus. It is commonly known as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent.
Nowadays, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis a middle eastern vibe. At least that’s what I think, because I have been in the Middle East yet, but it makes sense because it is close by.
In this travel review I’m going to talk about:
- 🇬🇷 The Greek language
- 🚂 Transportation in Athens
- 🏚 Best areas to stay
- 🥙 Findings on food
- ☕️ Coffee’s role in Greek society
- 🏔 The Acrópolis area
So I stuck with English and that was fine. Although the general level of English is quite low here, people working in tourism of course speak it.
I even had a conversation with an old Greek man at a coffee bar’s terrace using hand and feet to explain myself, but it worked. Eventually he understood I was a Dutch tourist and I understood he hated Airbnb because it drives up the rents.
To read texts and labels I used Google’s camera translate, which works pretty smoothly.
Werkt wel mooi dat Google camera translate pic.twitter.com/z3xw1KPzRY
— Gijs Heerkens | traveling internet entrepreneur (@gijsheerkens) January 23, 2020
The 2004 Olympics have had an impact on the city’s infrastructure. The airport and metro have been renovated. There is now a €10 ticket to get to the airport with metro line M3.
All station names are being displayed in Greek and Latin alfabet, which is good for tourists like me. Within the city center I didn’t use any public transportation.
If you don’t want to walk too much, there are shared scooters available on every street corner.
Luckily I have a Greek connection so I was able to do some investigation on the best areas to stay. This investigation is actually what I have a product idea for but I didn’t have much time to start building it yet.
She told me to stay in Monastiraki, Syntagma or Pláka, tourist areas where it’s safe. The suburbs are more anarchy walhallas with lots of muggers that can get pretty dangerous at night. So I avoided to go there, especially in the evening.
It can be easy to forget that Greece isn’t as well developed as western Europe, but you’ll notice when you’re there. Everything is pretty decayed and badly maintained. Garbage and abandoned cars in the streets but no one seems to care. And many homeless people sleeping everywhere and asking to spare a dime.
We can conclude Athens is perfectly imperfect, which is not my preferred style but nice to experience for a few days. I think a week max is enough to stay here.
My Airbnb wasn’t decayed but modern with a view on the Acropolis mountain. Although Airbnb faces protests in Athens, I didn’t experience any of this.
I’m ditching grains for a month to discover my inflammation spectrum so I skipped the pitas and went for chicken and pork skewers instead.
The city has thousands of Greek restaurants that basically all serve the same stuff in the same price range. Souvlaki, gyros, pita, greek salad and tzatziki with ouzo on the side for around €10. Good. Most of them give fruits for free as a desert. Good again.
Souvlaki and gyros are both the same meat actually (chicken or pork), where souvlaki means skewer and gyros means strips.
What is annoying are the people every restaurant has on the streets approaching clients to get in. I can read the menu and decide myself, thank you.
Coffee bars are ubiquitous in Athens. The Greeks use this to socialise. The bars have terraces with chairs aligned next to each other, so you are always sitting next to a stranger.
I spoke with my old Greek friend here and a barista from Libanon. Nice.
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The Acrópolis is the mountain where the city was founded and where it is built around. The highlights are located in this zone. When you stay in one of the three zones I mentioned, it’s about 15 minutes walking to get to the top. It’s not as high and steep as it seems.
In a few hours walking around you can see all the usual suspects like the Parthenon, Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, The Zappeion Hall, the Theatre of Dyonisos, the National Garden and the Olympic Stadium of 1896, the first modern Olympics.
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The city inhabits about 4.000.000 people in total so it has a lot of suburbs and probably nice stuff to see there, too. For example, there is the port of Pireaus which is pretty far from the city center.
I didn’t have time to go there though as I stayed only for three days, returning to Western Europe to live in CET again.
My Athens song
I’m choosing one song that represents my memories for each place I stayed. For Athens it’s of course the Sirtaki, the classical Greek music which is a a mixture of slow and fast rhythms and that can also be heard in the video above.