We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Trip Report: Athens

Ottawa
Level Contributor
960 posts
23 reviews
Save Topic
Trip Report: Athens

Trip Report: Athens

Athens was our last stop and this is my last report. I’ve been avoiding writing it, as if I could remain in some sort of Canadian-Greek time warp as long as my final thoughts remained unwritten. A final thank you to all who helped make my trip the wonder that it was.

I always need some time to let a place catch up to my expectations and tap them on the shoulder: “Excuse, but I’m the real Athens.” Then I can leave my expectations behind and start enjoying where I am. In Athens, I only needed five minutes. So many people had dismissed and disparaged Athens that my expectations were pretty easy to catch; Bill and I were braced for a city we would tolerate in order to see good ruins. A full quota of tolerance firmly in hand, we dropped off our rental car at the airport and hopped on the metro. Well, we came as close to hopping as we could while hefting our luggage. Interestingly, this was the only one of our many trips on the metro where an agent came through asking for tickets. We saw two poor fellows with un-validated tickets handed hefty fines. The Athens’ metro system is clean, quick, and easy to navigate; we used it frequently during our stay. I felt perfectly safe even traveling alone at 11:00 p.m. If Athens does sleep, it’s long after I go to bed.

Our home for the next four days was the Art Gallery Hotel, a small place in a residential neighbourhood at the Acropolis’ back door. It had wireless internet for Bill and two cats for me. Just around the corner was a pedestrian street lined with cafés and bakeries. We bought our water from the same kiosk there every day. Once we came up short, Bill digging through his pocket to try to find the final .10 Euro in change. The owner waved us on with “tomorrow.” Later I visited an optical shop one block over; my glasses were missing a screw. The man at the counter asked where I was from as he searched for a replacement. Hunched over my glasses, he shared his TV induced love of the Rocky Mountains and grizzly bears. “How much?” I asked. Another wave: “Nothing.”

The first stop on our first morning was what brings most people to Athens: the Acropolis. Huge and looming, it dominates the city as well as the agenda of tourists. We arrived five minutes before opening to find a handful of people waiting and had half an hour of peace before the tour busses arrived in full force. I became adept at taking pictures at special angles to make it look as if I were alone. Alone is how I like to experience these places, having a private dialogue with the past: “Hello, Susan, I’ve been here for thousands of years.” Rather than feeling diminished, I feel enlarged by such endurance. Bill and I were hardly alone at the Parthenon, but we were alone at the stone where Demosthenes and Pericles stood to address the Athenian assembly; we were alone at the prison of Socrates.

The past reached out and grabbed me by the throat at a small museum in the Ancient Agora I hadn’t even known existed. Walking by yet another case of pottery shards, I stopped to read the description: ancient osctra, the pottery ballots on which Athenians would scratch the names of those they wanted banished. There, on the top piece, I haltingly made out the scrawled letters: pi . . . epsilon . . . rho . . . Pericles. I needed a moment before I could move on. The Parthenon, the Erechteion, The Temples of Hephaestus and Olympian Zeus all are stunning. But Athens is full of big surprises in small places. Don’t limit yourself to the major sites.

The past is everywhere in Athens, but puts no brakes on the present. It shares the city gladly with trams, hardware stores, and frappés. Past and present aren’t the only coexisting contrasts. How could anyone dislike Athens? If you don’t like where you are, all you have to do is turn right or left and walk half a kilometre and things will change. Wait for the sun to set or the city to wake up from its afternoon nap and things will change. Let go of your notions of a classical capital city and things will change.

Bill and I sat one night in Syntagma Square, watching wave after wave of late shoppers wait for the light and then head doggedly for the metro. Rather than fight that mass of people with their elegant loads, we strolled down Ermou toward Monastiraki, the street slowly changing, the shops gradually becoming a little less polished, the graffiti more prevalent. Another night I stepped out of the metro stop at Thisio and headed down Apostolou Pavlou, part of the pedestrian road that rings the Acropolis. I immediately retraced my steps, convinced that I was lost. What that afternoon had been a wide, but quiet, paved path was now clogged with cotton candy stands and buskers. Some sort of illuminated whirly contraption was shooting up in the sky. I probably could have bought one for 5 Euros.

Bill and I prowled the block long stalls of the laiki near our hotel—one of the weekly farmer’s markets that set up in Athens’ neighbourhoods—admiring watermelon redder than any I’ve seen from Georgia as the hawkers called out their wares. We listened to the thwack of cleavers hitting meat and wood at the Central Market (warning: this is not a vegetarian friendly zone) and window shopped designer duds in Kolonaki. One night we ate spinach pie and drank ouzo while watching Indiana Jones at an outdoor theatre; another we tapped our toes to free jazz. Bill’s quest for meat led us down Evripidou past stores full of every weight and type of string, stores selling fishnet body suits, stores that proclaimed their goods in bilingual Chinese and Greek, stores whose fronts were strung with strings of spice, the scent of spilling onto the street. At the end, Telis and the biggest plate of pork chops you’ve ever seen. Bill was in hog heaven.

And of course there was our final night when I left Bill exhausted in our hotel room and went to meet some of the finest people I’ve ever known: Gas, Nick, Okeanos, Thalia, and my fellow visitors Susan and Jim. Without those four ambassadors, as well as the absent Electric Odyssey and GVRGirl, my trip to Athens would not have been as rich. We ate, we drank (well, some of us did), we jokingly argued, and like Cinderella, I left too soon. I guess I’ll just have to come back to Athens for that slipper I left on the Acropolis steps.

Pictures at http://flickr.com/photos/25804015@N00/sets/72157605550681647/

Philadelphia
Level Contributor
6,120 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Ha Ha! Once again, I am first to read, to sigh, to thank you Susan, for treating Athens as she deserves.

I too saw that shard. Stopped me, as well.

Apostolou Pavlou is electric with excitement just as sunset, when crowds of people are quietly hurrying, with purpose, toward Herodius Atticus Odeion for the concert or opera...

As for those party-people, what a lovely way to spend your final night. Thanks for sharing, not just this, but ALL your nights and days in Greece so eloquently.

TJ

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
2,203 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Ohhh..

I started to cry reading that..

You use your words beautifully... You made me feel like I was back in athens.. The smells, the sounds.. The men grabbing at my arms. All came back to me, and I wish I was there now.. I dont really read these trip reports, cause they are so long, and it makes me jealous. But I am soooo glad I read this.

It brought me back.. if even for a moment. But now it is back to reality, as the rain taps on my window....

Thank You!!

Cincinnati, Ohio
Level Contributor
531 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Wow!

You are a Muse and a poet in your review all wrapped up in one. I have never read such an eloquent review on this or any other forum.

Felt like I was there with you and the other's from the TA Athens forum.

I could practically smell those sizzling pork chops you described for your husbands enjoyment.

Your review is what traveling is all about!

LadyDar

Darlene

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
358 posts
1 review
Save Reply
4. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Hi snullr,

What a fantastic trip report.

Interesting, easy to read and has me wishing to be there.

Oh well, only 5 weeks to go, so I won't have to "wish" for too long

Bristol, United...
Level Contributor
3,412 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Beautifully written & fascinating - just the sort of trip report I love reading! Bravo :))

Bristol, United...
Level Contributor
3,412 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Trip Report: Athens

I'm very happy to see all the cats in your photos look well looked after btw! I can't bear it when I see lots of scrawny little beggars that need a damn good feed :((

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Skopelos
Level Contributor
37,502 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Trip Report: Athens

WOnderful:-) You keep goin' girl..and enjoyin'!

Athens, Greece
Destination Expert
for Athens
Level Contributor
13,777 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Yes, i cried too :)

. . .just don't tell anyone :))

This was a great and talented writing. Thank you for the wonderful series. I 've already printed out the Athens part which now stands aside my monitor.

Athens
Level Contributor
12 posts
1 review
Save Reply
9. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Thank you for this great report!!!!

Absolutely stunning...

Old Forge, New York
Destination Expert
for Old Forge, Utica
Level Contributor
2,306 posts
133 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Trip Report: Athens

Thank you for putting into words, my feelings about Athens. I have enjoyed all of your postings, but this one made me long for a long walk around this fascinating, exotic city. You were blessed too,(as I know you are aware), to meet the TA Athenians, who should be all working for The National Tourist Organization...as they remind us all that the Greeks invented hospitality..You experienced Athens as it was meant to be.. I miss Athens, and I too, deeply miss my friends there as well. Glad you had fun!