I spent last weekend in Athens with my friends. As Ryanair recently introduced the Bucharest-Athens flight, we just had to perform the shut-up-and-take-my-money maneuver after deciding on a proper date.
I had no expectations and almost no Athenian-related knowledge whatsoever. As a good girl I did my research online, which added to my mythology knowledge told me I’ll have a good time while getting some pretty captures for my Instagram.
But I didn’t have a good time. I had an amazing time! This city of contrasts overflows with aliveness and good vibes, I just wonder why other world capital got the title of city that never sleeps! I am not talking about the night life per se, but about how Athens makes you wanna explore it day and night, it’s never silent and never plain, there’s always something going on around – either loud voices & wine glasses clings from a bohemian bar, the harem of adorable stray cats crossing your path or those guys head-spinning while rapping just around the corner.
We had our cheap hotel 10 minutes by foot from the city center, at Omonia, but the locals probably call the area A-Bronx. We witnessed a few disputes, had to decline generous offers from a pimp and noticed the garbage truck must be often too tired to come by & say hi. Probably the lack of trash bins supports the party. Unfortunately this was our welcome committee when we arrived at night. We went for dinner and a long walk and we loved how the view was different with every street we passed.
For a tourist, Athens is a mall full of articles to check on the list – Acropolis, Parthenon, Olympic Stadium etc.
For a traveler, it’s heaven. 30 km/day were not even felt by my rusty shoes. I’m a bit sad we didn’t do a free city tour, as I got used to them as a starting point of a trip in the last year and a half. Ofc we saw the major historic sites, we remembered ancient gods and facts, learned others, then ran to explore the artistic neighborhoods the internet is so much talking about.
When visiting the majestic ruins on this amazing weather Athenians were blessed with (probably that’s where they take their big smiles from), we had to behave to a set of rules. Don’t touch the exhibits, don’t smoke… nope, not exactly that. But: no singing, no taking “motion pictures” (what’s wrong with saying “video”?), no sitting on the grass (and by grass they mean the overly stepped on hard soil). And on top of the Acropolis, while taking a picture in front of the huge flag of Greece with the flag of the same Greece bought from a tourist shop, we found out waving flags is also forbidden for some unknown reason. Cheers, Prohibition!
When it comes to street life, I think everybody starts from the Monastiraki area – right in the city center, many people to get lost between, music at all times, inviting traditional restaurants, street performances, spectacular view of the Acropolis, especially from the bar up high at the last floor of the hotel in the middle of the square. But it makes you feel like such a tourist! Visually you get happier when you continue the walk towards Psiri; Gazi makes you feel in Berlin; Plaka throws in your face a summer breeze. But the place I felt that I belonged to was hip hippie hipster Exarcheia, with its walls painted in graffiti and the crowd of cozy colored bars.
It puts a smile on your face to walk under orange and olive trees. I have to admit I actually expected an abundance of palm trees to watch over our every step. From the small non-conformist streets we lost easily our way on intimidating boulevards, like the one with all the embassies or the Academias Ave. It became a bit creepy when just next to the embassies, in the middle of the day, we passed through a small park with youngsters using needles.
We took the funicular to the highest point of the city, Mount Lykabettus, for a special sunset view. We felt so small, not managing to find the edges of the city in the horizon.
Saturday night found us tired, but still in the quest for some nice entertainment places. It seemed like every alive soul was out to party in the city, but we managed to find some room in a cool decorated-with-discoball-chickens bar called Booze. The upstairs part was closed, but after buying our drinks from the bar (half vodka, half juice, gotta love the bartenders here) we went up on the stairs and had our own private talks and party. Afterwards we moved to Gazi to find a club, where we first entered the one we believed it was the loudest. We heard Greek music, so we decided it would be fun to have a few local songs next to the international ones for our dance moves. Fun dissipated after the 13th song we couldn’t understand, so we moved to the next club, before returning in the morning to the hotel loyally followed by the cutest dog from the streets of Athens.
Eating in Athens was more expensive than we expected (considering we hear so much about the country’s economy), but also top delicious, exceeding every fat kid’s wild culinary dream. At the terraces where we ate there wasn’t a lot of variety, so gyros and moussaka all day long, yes please! What we enjoyed most was tzatziki with everything. Everything! We also liked the fact that almost everywhere they bring you tap water, like in France, and found funny how sometimes on the table the S&P you find come unexpectedly from Salt and Paprika. Our numerous snacks were provided by the eye-catching soul-conquering pastry shops found at every corner. I recognized a lot of the cakes sold in my favorite Greek cake shop in Bucharest (and tried all the others).
Being so close to the sea, we wanted to give our feet a bit of refreshing well-deserved Mediterranean paddling. We failed big time. We only had a few hours before our flight and as the shore close to Athens is either port, either nothingness, we found ourselves mostly wandering through deserted garbage fields in the burning sun, looking for a place to sit and enjoy a decent watery view.
If in Italy you gotta roll up your pants, in Athens the thing to wear are platform shoes. Boots, sandals or sneakers, if you’re a girl just make them high and you’re a local.
Most of my friends spend summer holidays lazy chilling on the beaches of Zakynthos or Santorini, but for me this was the first time in Greece and I made the most of it. My review may seem a bit rough, but I described my weekend honestly and I cannot wait to come back to Athens, spend some time, maybe even live for a while there.
As everything in life, my trip comes with a moral. Kids, do not forget: best things in life are tzatziki coated.