Athens, Greece is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is the birthplace of democracy and home of Athena. Prior to visiting, I didn’t think much about Athens. I know of the economic turmoil that plagues Greece, and of the recent riots in the downtown area. I know that Tony visited Athens in high school as part of his Greek studies. I know that I like Greek food. But Athens is way more than all of these things. Nothing could have prepared me for how much I would fall in love with this incredible place.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with the most pleasant weather. The entire trip, it was 65 degrees F (about 18 C) and sunny. The temperature made it perfect for exploring by foot. Our first night, we ventured around the down town area and ate a quick dinner at Feyrouz, an authentic Lebanese restaurant. The owner’s son served us and our interaction with him set the tone for the trip – everyone in Athen’s is so incredibly nice.
I couldn’t tell you what we ate, but I can report that it was fast, cheap and delicious.
The next morning we ventured off to the National Library to start our free walking tour. Tony and I have taken a lot of free walking tours and we both agreed that this was by far the best. Our guide was Alex and he is an actual anthropologist. The tour was informative and interesting because Alex was passionate about his home town and the history of Athens. For example, we learned:
- Athens is named after Athena – she gave the Greeks the olive tree which provides food, oil and wood
- Owls can be found in much of the architecture and artwork in Athens – it is the bird of Athena
- Owls are native to Athens, and their usage is also symbolic – Athens spawned many intellectuals, and since owls can see in the night, it is representative of intellects being able to see and think clearly during difficult times
- The anatomy of the marble statues was finally explained – the big heads and chest represent logic and ethics, while small genitalia represents addiction
- Before they were round, ancient coins were shaped to be miniature animals (i.e. cow) as that is what used to be traded for goods
- Given the history held in Athens, archeologists have to accompany most construction efforts, and many projects are delayed due to ancient discoveries
The following day, we visited the Parthenon and took a cooking class. The Parthenon was one of the most magical places I have ever been, even rivaling my beloved Eiffel Tower. It was so surreal to be walking on rocks that hosted footsteps from 2500 years prior. It was difficult to truly comprehend the work that went into these buildings, the time taken, the tools used. We spent a lot of time here, but the hours spent left me wanting to stay even longer.
In our cooking class, I learned how to make one of my all time favorite food items – tsatsiki. The class was held at the Greek Kitchen and even though I hate cooking, I really enjoyed eating what we made. Especially that incredible tsatsiki, yum. The only downside was all the onions used. My friend and I had burning eyes almost the entire class. 🙁
The last thing I want to highlight about Athens is the juxtaposition of the old and the new. Given that Parthenon sits on top of the city, it was almost always in the background of the graffiti art that covered the city.
Meandering through thousands of years of history, great food and kind people made Athens one of my favorite cities. It is worth the visit and the history lesson.
Until next time, αντιο σας!