An Inside Glance at Athens

After having the worst initial introduction to a country ever (click here), Greece’s underrated capital, Athens, completely captivated me. Though Greece is still struggling through an on-going economic crisis, tourists are oblivious to the Greek hardship. Bars, clubs and cafés are packed – because when a country is dealing with difficulties, its people need to meet and talk.

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My British friend and I escaped our decrepit hostel out of Athen’s ghetto on my second morning in Greece. The metro spit us out onto a long shopping street that was eerily vacant on a perfectly sunny Sunday. The pedestrian pathway lead us to Pella Inn, a fantastic hostel complete with a rooftop garden and dorm room views of the Acropolis. A group of 4 fellow travelling Canucks noticed my “Canada” socks and invited us into their posse. The 6 of us began to explore the city after indulging in a breakfast of fresh fruit and thick, creamy Greek yogurt.

With an International Student Card, entrance to the ruins is free and the Acropolis is half price. With an EU student card, nearly every tourist attraction in Athens is free.

10302161_710584142332316_2120630187647753945_nThe Acropolis is definitely worth exploring. Unfortunately, without a guide, the complex and lengthy history of the city will remain a mystery. Sign posts only speak of restoration progress while staff members main job is to restrict tourists from posing for pictures. Seriously. Luckily we got in a few cheeky jump shots before our efforts were shut down.

Athens literally sparkles. The view of the crumbling white cylinder columns was especially impressive from Aries rock, where my friends and I broke out a Gukelele and a bottle of wine while watching the jet-black night settle across the city. Lively white flashing lights danced across the horizon like luminous, low-cast stars.

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Athens is perhaps the best place in the world for a free walking tour, because it’s history is so rich and vividly apparent. The Greeks are very proud people, as they should be: they founded democracy and created the Olympics. They are also loud, overly passionate, and crazy drivers. The market in the main square across from my hostel was teeming with unique souvenirs, though I was surprised how expensive everything was in Greece – especially after touring Eastern Europe for so long. Just about the only Greek dish I could afford to eat were Gyros (pronounced “euro”) – a delicious donair smoothered in tzatziki and covered in chips.

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After a few days in the city, I hopped a train to Piraeus to meet a friend and await my ferry to Ios, where I would be celebrating my 22 birthday. The sun blazed high in the sky and showed no sign of stopping.   I travelled through Greece before the high season hit, which was exactly my plan. The weather was perfect – not yet unbearably hot, but still enough to give me a solid base tan – and although I encountered many travellers, the streets were not yet stuffed with sweaty tourists. I highly recommend travelling to Athens in May or September. Don’t let the graffiti, forward men, and pickpockets scare you off – Athens is an ancient wonder to be absorbed and enjoyed.

The Importance of Picking the Right Hostel

I arrived in Athens to gloomy, polluted skies, perfect to match my mood. I hadn’t wanted to fly to Athens so early, and the thought of stopping and spending a few night in my stop-over only occurred to me once I was already on my way to Athens. I spent 8 stupid hours, starting in Croatia, to get to a place I didn’t even want to be.

To top it all off, the place I was going to stay in Greece had fallen through. Scamming some free wifi and sipping a latte in Stockholm’s International Airport, I hastily booked myself a one-night stay at the first (and cheapest) place I saw on hostelworld.

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Imagine the sketchiest street you’ve ever seen: peeling, graffitied apartment buildings with cracked windows and crooked blinds. Add it the constant wail of screaming sirens, causal hookers, and junkies shooting up outside. Welcome to Athens International Hostel! 

 

A large Greek man checked me in and asked me if I’d eaten yet. “I’m ordering, what would you like?” He leaned towards me and grinned, baring green-stained teeth. I shrank away slightly. “I’m alright,” I said. “Fine,” the Greek man replied. His co-worker blew smoke into my face. “Leave your key at the desk when you go out.” I almost laughed. There was no way I was venturing out onto those streets again.

The hostel itself felt safe enough, but outside was teeming with the type of nightlife I try to avoid as a solo female traveller. I managed to brave the bug-infested shower and springy bed for one night, enduring the screaming of French school kids that overran the decaying tower throughout all hours.

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Early the next morning, my British roommate and I checked out of the Greek ghetto and stalked into Athens streets. Following the advice of hostel world reviews, we found ourselves at Hostel Pella Inn and booked a dorm room boasting an incredible view. What started out as a horrible, unplanned roadblock in Athens ended up in a dire love for the city and it’s people. Once I was comfortable with where I was staying, I was free to explore and adore the city.

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BOONSTOCK 2014

I’ve attended a number of festivals throughout my life, and although Boonstock was one of the dustiest, druggiest, and most disorganized; last weekend in Penticton was one of the best of my life.

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After hosting their first 9 years in Alberta (with plenty of problems) and eventually getting booted out, BC seemed reluctant to accept the festival’s move from the get-go. After having their initial security company drop out on them and being denied a liquor licence, it was clear the event would be a shit show – but I still don’t think anyone realized exactly how much.

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With an expensive, unorganized shuttle, disgusting outhouses and useless VIP passes, it felt like Boonstock tried to make up for lost profits by charging extra for everything. Even a small bottle of water cost up to $6. Without the liquor license and with the addition of the EDM stage to the usual rock lineup, it seemed like most of the crowd was on drugs. Tragically, one young Albertan girl overdosed the first night. Unfortunately, this seems to be a sad reality for all music festivals. When I worked at T in the Park in Scotland, eight people died. Eight. People. Died.

Instead of complaining, blaming, or shutting down the festival, there are improvements that can be easily made: seed the campground to keep the dust down. Allow vehicles to leave and re-enter. Increase the staff and police presence. When I attended Soundwave in Western Australia, there was endless free water and sunscreen being dished out at obvious and plentiful first aid stations.

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The weekend was so incredible for me mainly because of the people I was with. Go with the right people, have the right intentions, and think ahead. Staying safe is as much the participants responsibility as it is the festival organizers and police.

Clear, clean Skaha Lake saved me from the choking dust that cloaked the campground. After showering in the lake every morning and napping on the beach, my friends and I sang along to Dallas Green and Rise Against, moshed to Wolfmother and GOB, danced to Armin Van Buren and laid in a hammock listening to Krewella. I crowd surfed to “Sail”, danced on my boyfriends shoulder during Cash Cash, and raved barefoot in a bikini on the beach stage as volunteers soaked us with water guns. None of that would’ve mattered if it weren’t for the friends I shared it with. As with everything, your experience depends on your attitude. I might not be back next year, but I know I’ll never forget what I can remember of Boonstock 2014.

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