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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.