The City Everybody Loves to Hate

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 21, 2006


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Where I stayed

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

For two months I lived in Greece, meeting fellow travelers and the unanimous opinion I heard was "Athens is a shithole." Many said it wasn't even worth a day. When I rolled into Athens with a day and a half to kill I was a little worried I'd be miserable with all my remaining time after the obligatory stop at the Acropolis. Things didn't get off to the best of starts either when the hostel I wanted to stay in (and ultimately did) had only a cot in a bathroom to offer me. I chucked my stuff next to the toilet and went across the street to the Acropolis to play tourist for the next couple hours.

One thing about Greek tourism: I've never seen a set of employees so skeptical of someone claiming to be a student in my life. Every time I handed over my ISIC card it set off a round of interrogation as if I had accidentally given them my al-Qaeda membership card instead. By contrast, most Germans just assume if you say you're a student that you are. There was one thing I couldn't decide on about the Acropolis. Since it's set in the heart of a city it doesn't have the serene, beautiful backdrop of Olympia or Delphi, so should it lose points for that, or does Athens earn points for being your normal every day city that just happens to have a 2500-year old massive relic smack dab in the middle of it? Since everybody hates Athens, I'm willing to give them that one. The thing about my visit to the Parthenon, perched atop the Acropolis, is that not only did I get to see the temple built in the BC, I also got to see it surrounded in scaffolding dating back from the early 21st century, possibly late 20th, scientists aren't sure. But for whatever reason, the powers that be have decided the temple needs massive renovations and just about the whole things is covered. Now I have to keep the ticket stub, just so I have a picture of what the thing should look like. The nice thing, though, about the admission ticket to the Acropolis is it also grants you access to all the other ancient sites in the immediate surroundings. This includes two agoras, a few other temple complexes and the massive Olympic Temple of Zeus, my personal favorite. It sounds like a whole lot, but it can easily all be done -- at a casual pace -- in three or four hours. And that's I assume why everybody loses their patience with the place after a full day.

But Athens has a few other things going for it. The place has a legitimate bustle to it, and since I'm a city boy at heart, I enjoyed being amongst it. Also, Athens Backpackers is one of the best places I've stayed. OK, maybe sleeping in the bathroom wasn't the most ideal, but it also offers the opportunity to sit on a rooftop beer garden and drink while watching the sun set over the Acropolis. I can't imagine many finer ways to officially put an end to my detox effort (and now you understand why I had my a bed-is-a-bed attitude). Athens also boasts one of the finest museums I've been to, the National Archaeological Museum. It was, I think, the best thing I could've done before leaving the country after 80 days. The museum sports extensive exhibits from excavations of many of the major civilizations from Greece. At the end it also had an excellent exhibit from ruins uncovered from underneath the volcanic explosion at Santorini. The fact that I'd been there a mere 10 days ago all that much better.

One strike against the place -- Athens public transportation lobbed the final salvo against the Peloponnese in the battle for most mind-blowingly idiotic procedures on my way to the airport. The trip from the Acropolis to the airport is, in theory, a simple one-transfer metro ride. Get on one train for a few stops, switch to another line and you're on your merry little way. Think again. After switching to the blue line, I assumed I could sit back and relax until arriving at the airport. Instead, at one point a few stations down, we stopped, all the lights went out and I was informed the train had reached its termination. So I got off and waited for the next train -- on the same exact rail line. So the next train comes and I get on that. Two stops later, power off, termination. Twenty minutes later I was on the train that would actually go to the places it said it would. And it's not like people who are on the train to the airport need timeliness to be a factor or anything. It was no problem for me, though, since I had misread my e-ticket, written in 24-hour time, and given myself a nice 5-hour buffer to catch my flight.
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Comments

eurognosi
eurognosi on

about athens...
athens is a great city and if you didn't like it go to your own country you idiot. ancient greek civilization had nothing to match with yours. when we lived in palaces you slept on trees and ate your fellows. i admit, nowadays we have not the cleanest city to see but undeniably we have monuments you strongly desire to have had(this is the reason why you took some of them to exhibit at the british museum. sobriety, as i can see, is sth you lack so you had not the ability to judge.

eurognosi
eurognosi on

Hello!
Hello!
We are students of a Greek class. My teacher, my classmates and me have just read your comment about Athens. I live in Athens since I was born. You are not completely wrong, in a way, but I personally think that Athens has more advantages than disadvantages. It might not be well-organised, and its roads aren't sufficiently cleaned, but anywhere you go, you can see original people, that love having fun, are very friendly and are ALWAYS available to help. I don't think that this is something that can be easily found today, is it? I also believe that the civilisation of Athens, and Greek civilisation in general should be discovered by everyone. Minor stuff shouldn't be taken into account... Well, that's all I had to say...
Greetings from Greece!

eurognosi
eurognosi on

Athens...
Dear sir,

I'm a student, and i read your report about my city, Athens. You say some negative things about Athens, which some of them in my opinion are true. In my mind Athens is a big city with thousands of of permanent cityzens. Well, i admit that we have a lot of problems, like pollution (air, noise) but, all in all these this don't matter in front of its history. I love my city, though its problems which are many, but what can we do? Well, we can do many things, but no one makes the first step to improve the level of our lives. As you noticed, rubbish are a huge problem, and i hope that you didn't here while the strike of the rubbish collectors! An other thing i would like to comment is your comments about the metro. You know, here in Athens, we are obliged to change metros due to the fact that we can not get in our destination by one, especially when our destination is very far away. To conclude, i hoped you enjoyed your stay in Athens, and tasted all our traditional flavours. I really expect you to come again and find our city with less problems!

eurognosi
eurognosi on

Athens is our city after all...
Hi there,

We are a class of Greek students learning English and we are currently carrying out a project about our city. Actually I am their teacher so you'll receive 5 answers from my students. My only comment on your opinion about Athens is that it is an ugly city indeed (that's what most Athenians also claim), but on the whole people have developed their own harmony and found a way to enjoy themselves. Greek people are unique in many respects (both positive and negative!) and have their own balance which can sometimes be a perfect imbalance! Well, that's all for now! Bye!

eurognosi
eurognosi on

The city that everyone loves!
According to your post and of course your opinion about Greece i decided to answer to u and give u some more infos about Greece and especially Athens!

Look, the fact that you r a foreign and u visit Greece for the first time, doesn't mean that u know everything about the place! Of course u stayed 80 days in Athens and as u say u visited every corner but this doesn't mean that u can make an opinion about the country! Do u know sth, tell me a country that u consider is clean and perfect and it is worth visiting only because it is clean or because u can find everything on ur foot!
I reckon that what confused and dissapointed u is the fact that u didn't have smn to show u the place and take u to the places that are worthvisiting! ;)
Furhtermore, in order to be able to visit a place and take full advantage of it, u will have to be in a good mood meaning that u will be with no headacke or in a ''more than usual happy'' condition ;) (think u understand what i mean).

Anyway, i don't mean to insalt your opinions and u but i think that u should try visiting Athens for a second time and this time see the real beauty of the place! :) In case u will need any help or advice, i would be willing to help u!

see ya! :)

eurognosi
eurognosi on

Athens has many good things to offer...
Hello!!! I'm Irene and I'm 15 years old. I live in Athens. I think that in a sense U R right about what U R saying for Athens. My city is quite dirty and noisy and I think that there R many other cities that R a lot better. But Athens has many things that U can't find anywhere else. For example U can find a HUGE civilisation, that is a rare thing in other countries. Also, Athens has a very good cuisine and I think U don't doubt for it. In addition, we have many ancient and modern sights, that don't let U be indifferent. I recommend that U should come again in Athens and find out some beauties that I think U didn't whatched out the 1st time that U came.
P.S. Also we have beautiful women... Think of it!!!

eurognosi
eurognosi on

The city that everyone loves!
According to your post and of course your opinion about Greece i decided to answer to u and give u some more infos about Greece and especially Athens!

Look, the fact that you r a foreign and u visit Greece for the first time, doesn't mean that u know everything about the place! Of course u stayed 80 days in Athens and as u say u visited every corner but this doesn't mean that u can make an opinion about the country! Do u know sth, tell me a country that u consider is clean and perfect and it is worth visiting only because it is clean or because u can find everything on ur foot!
I reckon that what confused and dissapointed u is the fact that u didn't have smn to show u the place and take u to the places that are worthvisiting! ;)
Furhtermore, in order to be able to visit a place and take full advantage of it, u will have to be in a good mood meaning that u will be with no headacke or in a ''more than usual happy'' condition ;) (think u understand what i mean).

Anyway, i didn't mean to insult your opinions and u but i think that u should try visiting Athens for a second time and this time see the real beauty of the place! :) In case u will need any help or advice, i would be willing to help u!

see ya! :)

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