Leaving Santorini and coming to Athens was a bit of a culture shock. Santorini was a pretty, quiet island and a lot of the stores’ names and signage were in english. Basically, it is tailored for the tourists who come to visit. However, after arriving in Athens yesterday, it felt a little like when we first arrived in Tokyo last year.
All the signs are in Greek letters, it is a large city, most of the business owners speak little to no english and menus are predominately in Greek. On the positive side, being so immersed in the Greek system, thanks to close friends and an old boyfriend, I know some of the letters and what sounds they make so I can sound out most words. I don’t think I would be able to manage a whole book or a menu but knowing some street signs is useful.
We are staying at a hotel in the middle of everything. The Greek Parliament building is in front and to the right is a clear view of the Acropolis. The location could not be better. We walked almost everywhere, with the exception of dinner last night after a long day of traveling. Yesterday, we did the obligatory tourist visits, at least the two I really wanted to see in our very short time here. The Parthenon was pretty incredible. From the wide views of the city from above to the sheer size of the columns that are there I was in awe. We ended up walking past the ancient Agora excavation site and mom and I decided we had seen it. My Dad opted for a longer and more in depth tour. Guess who is most excited by the archeology and history of Athens?
We walked through the Plaka, which is a combination of the touristy blocks in London, the Shuk in Israel and a souvenir shop. We didn’t buy anything and I had multiple english speaking tourists come up to me asking for directions. I guess I looked like I knew where I was going, or looked less lost than the rest of the tourists. The Plaka was for the experience and with those two things checked off, I was content to avoid the other tourist traps and relax. The cab driver who took us to the hotel from the airport in Athens told us about a local neighborhood that was a short walk for us.
While my dad set off on his tour of the Agora this morning, my mom and I went out in search of this neighborhood to explore. We reached Kolonaki Square, the center of the little town in ten minutes and then people watched while we cooled down in the shade. We then began exploring the surrounding streets and passed so many shoe stores, clothing stores and cafes, I don’t understand how they are all successful. Since we decided to throw out some clothes we don’t want anymore, I felt obliged to get some new clothes. We passed by the cutest dress shop and I ended up leaving with two great dresses. They are both long enough for teaching and have a high neckline. This will be the definition of my wardrobe starting next Spring, so may as well start now.
We managed to happen upon the restaurant that the driver had suggested to us. The food was good and once we managed to get away from the strong smoke scent we had an enjoyable lunch. It seems like all people do in Athens is drink coffee, smoke and sit in cafes. I don’t quite understand when they work because when we got to the square at 10 AM people were already camped out in the cafes. So far, I have been happy with how our time has been spent in Athens.
There is a certain charm to the city that was missing in Santorini. Being in an area with so many english speakers was nice, and definitely less challenging, but the culture in Athens and the vibe is much more exciting. The photographer in me loves all the interesting shots I am getting. There is so much graffiti and a lot of it looks amazing. The buildings are different from what I see on a typical day and there is something about the light that I just can’t explain in words. This is definitely a place I would come back to for longer later in life. Santorini, probably not but I might try a different island. It’s been a great taste of the country but it will be nice to go back home to Boston tomorrow.