Most people know that I love Europe and that it is my dream to live there, even for a year or so. I’ve been to Europe quite a few times and if you asked me to rate the list of cities I’ve been to, I had always put Vienna at the bottom. Vienna is beautiful and has much to see, don’t get me wrong. But when I was there I felt the people were cold and it didn’t seem very inviting. Vienna, you are no longer at the bottom of the list. Hello Athens. If someone were to give me the opportunity to move to Europe and told me it would be in Athens, I would turn it down. Vienna, I would go.
Let’s start at the beginning. My flight arrived around 8AM Friday morning and I found the Metro to the city. So far, so good Well, I needed to make a change in the city to the other Metro line to get to my hotel, the Novus. It was jam packed and I had my bags. Some guy made room although it wasn’t enough, so it was a tight squeeze into an early morning crowd. He obviously had ulterior motives as my wallet slowly creeped up my pocket. I knew what was happening and pushed it back down, much to his chagrin. He didn’t give up as everyone was packed as tight as sardines. But I was just as relentless and one step ahead, making sure the wallet stayed safely in my pocket. I just got off the next stop even though it was two stops away.
Fortunately, I had grabbed a map at the airport and was able to make my way to the hotel. The hotel is nice but in a really blah part of town. Check that. Most of Athens is a blah part of town. For every beautiful classic Greek-style building, there are ten ugly 60’s Soviet-looking buildings that are blocks of concrete. Much of what is old and charming is in disrepair. And this is after the city was spruced up for the 2004 Olympic Games. I can now see why the Olympic committee was so reluctant to give Athens the games in 1996 for the centennial games. If Pericles awoke from the dead and looked at modern Athens, he would cry.
The people look miserable (living in a miserable economy). The metro is awful because it is always packed. The city is dirty with graffiti everywhere and trash piles heaping. You get people selling junk to you nonstop if you sit outside at a café. And scammers are out and about in every tourist area.
One thing about solo travel is it makes you wiser the more you do it. I got scammed my first trip to London many years ago. It was a lesson learned and fortunately was not an expensive one (an advantage of backpacking with no job, i.e., no money). So there is a scam called the “bar scam.” I had read about online that happens to single male travelers. Basically, some older guy, about 60 or so, approaches you and asks if you are looking for something or you need help. When you tell them where you are from, they always have a “sister” or “cousin” there. Blah, blah, friendly talk. You just know something is up. Because then they want to buy you a drink. If you go for the drink, there is probably some pretty woman at the bar and you are pressured into buying a drink, like a glass of wine. This will be the most expensive glass of wine there is (we’re talking about 30-35 euros per glass). But they don’t stop at one. The goal is to run up a huge bill and stick you with it. So far, the tally is at three attempts in two days and twice with the same person. It might have been four times but I didn’t stick around long enough to talk to the guy. I swear the next time I’m telling someone I’m from Iowa. Let’s see how many cousins they have there.
All this aside, there are some wonderful things to see here. Of course it starts with the archeological areas and the great Greek food. Now that I’ve gotten this out of my system, I’ll post more about them when I go through all the pictures I’ve taken. Which I need to dump onto my laptop in case my camera gets stolen.