The city of Athens is a rich and interesting mix of the old and new. Modern museums, apartments, and school right next to the ancient ruins of temples, stadiums and relics. The Greeks are proud of their history and more than willing to share their unique story to anyone interested. Living 30 minutes outside of downtown Athens, I have the best of both worlds experiencing suburban life and city life. There are kiosks on every corner selling magazines, juices, and candies. Graffiti is on almost every surface building possible, some powerful political commentary and artistic beauty, and from my college I can see the surrounding snow top mountainside. Athens is a beautiful contrast.
Our first excursion into Athens was a guided downtown tour of the city. It was the perfect introduction to getting to know my new home for the next four months. Starting on a bus ride, the Greeks are proud to tell you the 2004 Olympic Games was hosted in the city. My college, The American College of Greece, even hosted the 2004 Olympic swim team and have relics displaying proudly. We even went by the stadium that was used then. A white, elaborate metal sculpture that is breathtaking but sadly it’s been abandoned. No one uses it and its fallen prey to some vandalism. Yet, it’s still a cemented part of the city. We moved towards the center, learning of the different municipalities outside of downtown like Agia Paraskevi, where I live, was named after the main church of the town, which is dedicated to Saint Paraskevi of Rome.
Greece was under siege by the Byzantine empire and during that time many old relics were hidden in the ground to avoid being destroyed. As a result, now in modern times when digging occurs to extend the metro or other things they run into buried artifacts from the past. As a result, many metro stations instead has become mini museums holding the artifacts that was found during excavation. It’s a nice little touch when traveling by metro to see what was unearth. Traveling by metro takes you to the main agora, where Zeus’s temple lies. There are only a few pillars left but its incredibly breathtaking and from the temple you can look up to the Acropolis or Akropoli, as the greeks call it. It sits across from the statue of Lord Byron, a fan of Greece, the national public garden, and the old panathenaic stadium. It’s cool the panathenaic stadium is still used by Greeks for concerts, movie premieres and other cultural events.
My initial experience of Greece and the city was not what I was expecting. I didn’t have many expectations, I purposely did minium research on the city and what it looked like so I could authentically feel the city. The greeks are nice people. They warm up to you after a few initial meetings and saying, Kalimera or Efharisto, which is good morning and thank you, it shows you respect them, their culture, and language. Whenever I say those words I get big smiles and more people willing to test out their english with me. The city is incredibly safe and most of Greeks tend not to go out for dinner until late in the evening around eight or nine. It was different from American culture to usually be relaxing late at home around that time. When shopping in the grocery stores things like sour cream, normal spices, and certain shredded cheeses are not there. Being here for a week, I’ve become comfortable but sometimes I still long for those familiar foods.
I love my time in Greece so far and I’m looking forward to learning more about greek life and culture as my time here continues. Until next time.