Athens is the home of some of the coolest mythology ever created. Zeus, God of Thunder and Sky, King of the gods of Mount Olympus; Poseidon, Lord of the Oceans; Hades, Ruler of the Underworld; Dionysus (my favorite), God of Wine and Madness; Vacation God, Breaker of MacBooks and other Work Instruments.
That’s right. The vacation god broke my MacBook on the second day of Athens and it remained that way all the way until the last day of Santorini (read: basically the entire trip). The computer charged fine, the power startup noise (ding-ding-ding) rang, but the screen stayed black from Saturday, June 17 through Sunday, June 25. Then, on the plane from Santorini to Amsterdam (before heading back to DC), I tried turning it on again and it worked just fine. 100% fine. No problems. A perfectly working MacBook.
I think my laptop might just have something against Greece.
So, thank you vacation god for forcing me to do nothing but relax. But also f*** you for getting in the way of my writing. Mostly thank you, though.
Spending 10 days in Greece ranks up there as one of the best experiences of my life. The trip was broken into two segments: 4 days in Athens, 6 days in Santorini. People are lazy and prefer to read shorter things on the internet (or am I just projecting?), so I thought it made sense to split this blog into two posts.
In this post, I’ll ramble on about Athens until you get to the end and wonder why you just wasted four minutes of your life, at which point you’ll get to the pictures and realize it was all worth it. Next time I’ll talk about how unreal Santorini was!
Ahhhh Athens, where the culture is so thick you’d think you were walking through Olive Oil (which you probably are because, well, Greece), where the buildings don’t rise above six stories for some reason, the Acropolis smiles down at you no matter where you go, and there are far too few dogs (I only saw 5 or 6, wtf Athens?).
Before we move on, I asked a few questions in my last post, so let’s see if we have any answers:
- When will inspiration strike me?
- Literally the entire time.
- How much food can I eat?
- Try picking me up.
- Will this help me do research for my current WIP (which is set on an island)?
- A little. Santorini definitely did, though!
- Will I get sunburned even though I have darker skin?
- Nope. I am invincible.
- Is the water warm?
- Absolutely not (yet).
- Will I have enough time for writing in the morning?
- I don’t know vacation god, will I? WILL I?!?!
- How much feta cheese can I fit in my mouth at one time?
- Oh boy, you guys. Buckle up your seat belts. If you like feta cheese, do I ever have a country for you to visit. I think I had feta at least twice a day. There was crumbled feta, blocks of feta, fried feta, feta with honey, feta pastries, feta pies, and feta egg roll contraptions (yes, I did actually eat all of those, more than once). I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some secret feta society that required you to have a personal invitation to join from a current member, where there are a dozen secret feta recipes reserved only for the highest ranking feta connoisseurs. (And yes, I had to use autocorrect to spell ‘conniseur’).
- Will I become artsy and take some beautiful pictures?
- Absolutely. See below.
- Will anything I learn there be interesting to any of you?
- Did I talk about the different ways you can eat feta cheese?
The truth is that I didn’t think I’d like Athens very much because I was so excited to go to Santorini. People who’d been there told me Athens was cool, but not great.
But I loved it.
I’m sure a lot of it came down to the people I was with (a close-knit group of about 12, who were all on the same page about what we wanted to do and really fun to hang out with), but I also enjoyed the place itself. From the red roofs to the stucco walls, the hills and mountains in the distance to the ancient ruins, the delicious food to the depthless culture, there was so much to take in I felt like I was going to swivel my head right off my neck. Not to mention that this was the home of Greek mythology, which I’ve always been slightly obsessed with.
It’s hard to keep track of everything we did, but here is my best guess: big dinner the first night, the Acropolis museum the next day, the actual Acropolis that evening, another dinner that night, Couleur Locale after dinner (an amazing bar with a view of the Acropolis that was open until 2am on Sunday night for some reason)… *deep breath*… Alternative food and wine tasting tour of Athens the next day, where our guide taught us a ton about the places we went and avoided touristy areas, a final dinner that night… then onto Santorini the next morning.
I kept a running list of things that interested or inspired me through my time in Athens. Here are the most interesting ones:
- Everything is old or old-looking – even inside the hotel room of one of the nicest hotels, you got a sense of something well-worn and weathered (in a good way)
- Most of the buildings around Athens look dilapidated but are nice inside – there aren’t any new buildings, no steel, nothing modern. Despite that, Athens is still a huge city of about 5 million people (almost half the population of all of Greece, which is 11 million).
- Most of the buildings are made out of the same white stone/plaster, less than 6 stories, and topped with red roofs.
- “Neat as a pin.” A simile one of my friends used (thank Mel!) that I thought was good enough to write down, even though I’m sure other writers have used it before. I thought about taking it further, too: “Neat as a pin and just as sharp.”
- There was a little girl with an accordion running an ingenious scam in front of the Acropolis museum. She put a few cents in a clear plastic cup, set the cup in front of a grate, and when tourists would knock it over they would feel bad, thinking that they had knocked several dollars into the drain. She would pocket the money they gave her in recompense, put a few cents back in the cup, then put it right back in front of the grate. A few tourists felt bad and picked up the cup to put it in a safer spot, but she would return it to the grate as soon as they moved on, restarting the whole thing.
- From the top of the Acropolis the setting sun lights up half of Athens, shining on the solar panels on the roofs and making the houses sparkle like a million tiny jewels (I’m not exaggerating here – that’s truly what it looked like).
- I took a shot of fancy vinegar and it actually tasted good.
- Turkish and Greek people each think they invented ‘Turkish coffee’ (which Greeks call ‘Greek coffee’).
- The history of one of the little neighborhoods show just how long Athens has been around. Just in the last 150 years the neighborhood has been (and I’m oversimplifying this here) an aristocratic neighborhood, a diplomatic housing area, overrun by the Greek mafia, transformed into a working class area with a lot of carpentry and leather goods shops, and finally (classic 2017) a hipster neighborhood.
- Tania, our guide on the last day, took us to a Taverna for our last stop, which is a place where Greek people gather to eat and drink with friends (and listen to music at night – usually folk music); it’s like a pub is to British people. She explained that Greek people like tapas because in big families it’s easier and brings a sense of togetherness to share food. She also shared one of my favorite Greek sentiments:
- “It doesn’t matter as much what is on the table as who is around it – that’s the most important thing.”
So in conclusion, my verdict is that Athens is full of culture and inspiration (and history and feta cheese and interesting people).
I would go back in a heartbeat.
Now here are some cool pictures (which is all anybody really wanted, isn’t it?):
Has anyone ever been to Athens? What cities or other places have you found inspiring?