Welcome to my second adventure: Athens! I spent only two days there, and believe me, it is enough to see and feel this town.
TIt is the largest Greek airline, which became my favorite one. They have very friendly and well-dressed staff. All of their stewardesses are Greek. The flight from Kiev (Ukraine) to Athens (Greece) lasts about an hour. During a fairly short flight, you will be offered a snack and Greek wine. When you land in Athens they play very beautiful national music on the plane as a greeting to you from Greece.
I have been in lots of European undergrounds, and this one is very expansive. A ticket from the airport to the center of Athens costs 10 per person. They have buses, but their schedule is very inconvenient, which is why we chose metro. The underground in Athens has many lines, so you can easily get lost, which is what happened to us. In the metro, there are very few pointers in English, so it is better to ask for a help from local people who are waiting for their trains. For sure, there is a service staff, but it is very unpleasant and unfriendly.
The two parts of the city. Athens is the very famous city from historical books, from Greek myths and legends. It is a very ancient city with its own architectural style and unique atmosphere. I don`t want to write about the negative impression I got, but I can`t lie to you or myself. But, unfortunately, the real city leaves me with very bad feelings.
With all seriousness, I can divide Athens into two parts. The first part I will call the lower city, and the second part lets call it the name upper city. Let me begin with a lower city, which I would like to forget. The streets are tiny and polluted. Everywhere you can smell a terrible odor. Pedestrian roads are very narrow. It is almost impossible to walk side-by-side, so you have to walk like ducks in a single file (I am not kidding). If you go to any store you will find that most of the business owners are Indians, which is very surprising. You are unlikely to meet locals because most of them went abroad in search of a better life. The only locals I met were ones who have a family business in Athens. At night the streets are poorly lit, so it's better to stay at the hotel in the evening. Also, at night, you can meet on the street lots of black people who trade weed and constantly cling to passers-by and offer their goods. The crisis of the country is felt everywhere.
Now let's talk about a positive experience in Athens – the upper city. If you climb to the top of the city you will be stunned by a beautiful view. The upper part of the city is the most beautiful, the cleanest and the most attractive. Athens from above seems so clean and spacious that it really contradicts the impression of the lower city. In the upper city are the central squares, parks, churches, and temples. These are all concentrated around the ancient buildings.
TAs I have already said, Athens is very different. If we consider the city, in general, I can say with all certainty that the city does not qualify as a green, environmentally conscious city. As the city development is very dense, there almost no trees. But the locals found a way out of the situation. The ecology of the city is saved by the locals with the help of their indoor plants, which they put on the streets and on their balconies. Moreover, local government is trying to garden the roof of residential and administrative buildings. In the upper city, you can find mandarin trees planted directly on the pedestrian part of roads.
Unfortunately, in Athens, as in most European cities on weekends, almost all shops are closed. You must be ready to starve on Saturday and Sunday. Moreover, in Athens you can only drink tea or coffee starting at 10:00 am in the low season. However, alcohol is sold around the clock on every corner that indicates a «good life» of local residents. At 8:00 am in the morning you can meet lots of drunk people. They will be the locals, not homeless people. In fact, it is very sad and scary. Athens has problems with local, traditional cuisine. All restaurants offer Turkish food or Italian. It seems that they forgot about their traditional dishes.
The changing of the guard is one of the local entertainment attractions for tourists. Every Sunday morning at 11 am, people gather in Syntagma Square to watch the official changing of the guards, the military unit whose members stand proudly in perfect stillness in front of the Hellenic Parliament. There are of course guard changing at every hour of the day, but on Sundays, it is the official ceremony with the official costumes. Their unique and rather bizarre uniform includes the kilt-like foustanella, which has 400 pleats to represent the 400 years of Turkish occupation. It is worn with white wool stockings with black tasseled knee garters, a red cap with a long black tassel, a white undershirt and red leather shoes with black pompoms. The most important feature of these guys is their shoes, which are called tsarouchi. A tsarouchi is a red leather clog with a black pompon. Under the sole, depending on the size, there are 60 to 120 nails. On average, each tsarouchi weighs 3.5 kilos. With these shoes, they clink on the asphalt, which looks very impressive. It was quite interesting to see, and I recommend to everyone traveling to Athens to spend a couple of minutes to watch this little event.
I am an architect so I was wondering to see the ancient Greek temples. To see those orders that we draw in the first year of Bachelor program, those temples that we taught on the history of architecture. As it turned out most of the temples did not survive in our time. But there are still some that we can see – it is a Temple of Parthenon, Erechtheion Acropolis, and Acropolis of Athens. Most of these Temples are under reconstruction. I advise you to climb to the Acropolis from there you can find a chic view of all Athens, even rarely with a rainbow. But do not use Google to climb the Acropolis. It's better just to go to the top without turning around then you will reach the viewing platform which is under the Acropolis and which I call «Secret Place».
This «Secret Place» is unknown and hidden for regular tourists, even on Google Maps. It is hard to find, but we were lucky and to have seen this magnificent place. The mountain which you can see in the photo below is called The Plaka. The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. The Plaka is under the Acropolis and stretches almost to Syntagma. There are two main pedestrian streets which intersect at what is generally considered the center of the Plaka: Kydathineon and Adrianou. Kydathineon begins at Nikis street, which is one block down from Constitution (or Syntagma) Square. We found the Plaka a delightful place to stroll the streets and window shop. The streets are filled with little shops selling a variety of things from olives and Greek items to shirts. And there are many restaurants that you can choose from as well. They are very easy to find and close to other attractions. Just copy this coordinate of this incredible observation deck to Google Maps: 37°58'19.8"N 23°43'41.5"E . Enjoy the view.
And finally, I want to say that Athens is a good place to see at least once. If the local hooligans did not paint graffiti everywhere, the city would be much cleaner. If local residents and government would love their city a little more, it would be even more attractive and popular among tourists.