For those of you following the news surrounding Athens, let me assure you that nothing major occurred while I was there. It was strange to see large amounts of Police wandering through the city, and it made me cautious and a little wary about the possibility of a riot or protest. The city layout reminded me slightly of New York, which surprised me, and there was more graffiti than I have ever seen, a lot of it having to do with their current issues. I never felt unsafe or threatened while navigating through Athens, but their economic situation did make things a little difficult at times.
On our first day, for example, our group had to rearrange our transportation plans because there was a Bus and Tram strike for the whole day. Luckily the electric trolleys were still running so we could take those. The only problem with this was that all of Athens had to take them to get around as the cheaper form of quick transportation, which resulted in overpacked, hot trolley rides. Our GLS group had about 20 people total, so we all had to cram into the same crowded trolley to travel together. I squeezed in between several bodies and I swear I was touching at least 6 people at once from all directions. I was really happy when we got off the trolley for our tour of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Then we were back on the trolley and headed to the Acropolis and Parthenon. Our tour guide was animated and made the experience really fun. As we climbed the slopes of the hill, I was amazed how the Ancient Greeks would do this everyday. They certainly picked the perfect location for the Acropolis and Parthenon because the views of the city were amazing from up there. Standing next to the Acropolis, I felt small and a little insignificant because the architecture was overwhelmingly beautiful with its Doric columns. I remember studying Ancient Greece in 6th grade, and I was thrilled to finally be able to see their work in person. Later that night I caught a wonderful view of the Acropolis and Parthenon from the roof of our hotel.
|Me at the Acropolis|
|The great view from the top|
|Night view of the Acropolis and Parthenon from our hotel|
For my second day in Greece, a group of friends and I decided to take a Ferry boat to the Greek Island Aegina. Luckily the tram was running again after the previous days' strike, so we were able to take the tram from Athens to Piraeus where we hopped on our Ferry boat to Aegina. The weather was perfect and the island was small, so after exploring for a bit, we decided to take a bus to the other end of the island to Agia Marina, a beach connecting to the Agean Sea. For the rest of the day we swam in the clear, warm, (and very salty) water. We were even joined by a friendly beach dog. --> During our Ferry ride back to Piraeus, we saw a beautiful sunset.
|The dog :)|
|The Sunset from the Ferry|
For dinner that evening a friend and I decided to grab a quick meal near our hotel. I was pretty tired from the activities and sunburn from the Island and I was hoping to get to bed before midnight (I put on sunscreen, I swear!). As we were looking around the Greek version of a Subway, a man that I estimated to be around 70 years old started talking to us. He heard us speaking in English and wanted to know where we were from. His name was Demetris Stavropoulos, and I learned that he worked in New York City as a barber for 20 years before he moved back to Athens, his original home. He said he considers America his home just as much as he does Greece. Demetris asked us questions about America’s economy and he wanted to know if it was true that no one is hungry anymore. Of course we informed him that we unfortunately do have many homeless and hungry people in America too. He left us so we could order our food, but he told us to stop by his table to meet his friends and tell them about America.
After getting our food, my friend and I found Demetris’ table and he invited us to pull up chairs so we could share their table since all the others were full. (I promise I felt safe and welcomed by his company and I knew his offer was in good spirits and not of a creepy nature). Turns out, this was the best dinner I had in Greece because I had a great conversation with Demetris and his three friends. Demetris spoke English very well, however his friends spoke very little, so there was a lot of translating going on between all of us. His one friend, the dentist, didn’t understand something I said about crossing the street in Cyprus, and Demetris translated the dentists’ comment as: “My friend didn’t understand anything that you just said about having to look left first in Cyprus, but you said it so animated with your body language that he enjoyed it anyway!”
Another of his friends was a singer and I told him that I sang too. We asked him to sing something for us, and he started to sing “Maria” from West Side Story. Of course I knew it too, so I chimed in, and his friends were impressed by our duet. They asked me to sing something, and I told them I could hum their National Anthem since it’s the same as Cyprus’ and I’ve known that since 7th grade from my research (see my first ever post if you’re confused). They started me off, and when they heard that I actually knew it, they dropped out so they could hear me. When I was done they all clapped and Demetris said I was an Angel from God sent to warm his heart with my smile and song.
Here is a video my friend took of me and the singer friend singing "Maria" together. This is the second time we sang it cause the first time was too spontaneous to catch on video, so we did it again. And it's kind of hard to hear, but at least it's fun to share with you!
Demtris and his friends asked questions about Obama, American education, our economy, the job market, and health care. I explained what I knew to the best of my ability. And I asked questions about Greece's situation, but it seemed that it was a controversial topic for them to share with 'a privileged American' so I didn't learn as much as I would've liked. The dinner down the street from my hotel, that I imagined was going to be quick, ended up turning into a 2 hour conversation with Demetris and his friends which I very much enjoyed and is what inspired today’s post title to be from "The Dangling Conversation" by Simon and Garfunkel. I even learned some Greek from Demetris and his friends:
ime poli kala euharisto - I am doing well thanks.
Thelo ena nero - I want a bottle of water.
to yelio ine igia ed zoi - The smile is heath and life. (Since they said I had a beautiful smile)
On my third and final day in Athens, I visited the Theatre of Dionysus, the Olympic Stadium, the National Gardens, and The Temple of Zeus. Being at the Theatre of Dionysus was an amazing experience and I loved the idea that I was standing in the same spot where Greek Theatre was created and performed. I was so happy to be there!
|Danielle and I being Comedy and Tragedy at The Theatre of Dionysus|
|Temple of Zeus (look how tiny I am!)|
We also hiked Lycabettus Hill and stayed up there to watch the sunset over Athens for our last night in town. I can't even describe the view from the top, but it was definitely a sight that I will never forget, especially with the vibrant colors melting over the horizon.
|Enjoying the view from Lycabettus Hill|
|Athens as viewed from Lycabettus Hill|
As some of you will find out in a few days, I sent some postcards from Greece, however when I went to buy stamps at the post office, I was required to take a number to wait. My number was 218 and they were on 168. A man waiting in line heard my statements to my friends about not wanting to wait that long to get stamps and he said “This is everyday here in Greece. You’ll wait 40 minutes.” I decided to find stamps somewhere else once I learned that a trip to the post office in Greece is something that actually takes dedicated time.
Some of the Greek foods that I enjoyed were real Gyros, amazing Feta, Baklava, Souvlaki, and Spanikopita. Needless to say, after 3 days in Greece I had my fill of Gyros and I was ready for some Italian food in Italy! I enjoyed my visit to Athens and I hope you liked the highlights that I chose to write about. Stay tuned for my next post about the second part of the trip to Italy!
Till next time!