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Athens, Greece

Αθηνα, Ελλάδα (Athens, Greek!)

Athens took me by surprise a little bit, but that’s more to do with where we stayed.  We stayed in a lovely studio apartment walking distance from all the main attractions, but the area it was in was a little rough.  Our host explained that we would see many homeless people, addicts, and refugees on the streets, but not to fear because no one would hurt us.  Athens does not have much in the way of violent crime, but pick pocketing is quite common with tourists.  Despite reassurances we didn’t venture out after dark because we weren’t comfortable walking back to our apartment in the dark.  Please keep in mind that I can only speak to the areas we saw.  The city as a whole is quite lovely and I’m sure the rural areas and islands of Greece have more to offer.

The biggest surprise for me was the graffiti…it was everywhere.  The nicer neighbourhoods and tourist spots are much cleaner, but everywhere else we went was absolutely covered in graffiti.  And even in the nicer areas you could see that it had been recently painted over in many instances.  It can be a little disconcerting when you’re walking around.  It also seems like everyone has dog in Athens and apparently, it’s difficult to clean up after them on the stone sidewalks…so watch your step.

The historical sites in Athens are phenomenal.  There are several ruins that you can pay to wander around up close, but you can also walk around the outside of the fence and still see most of it.  The Acropolis was amazing to see, but we probably should have visited the Acropolis Museum first.  They have great information on the history of the site and models of what the structures looked like originally.  It gives you a great perspective for your visit to the Acropolis.

Being in Athens in the off season has been amazing.  The weather is perfect for wandering around outside, climbing the steep streets and ruins, and there are far fewer people.  Several sites and museums require you to book a timeslot to visit, but we’ve been able to just walk right in everywhere we’ve gone.  I haven’t felt crowded or overrun by other tourists anywhere we’ve been.  And to be honest; I can’t imagine hiking around Athens in the summer heat.

When we arrived, we were told that they drink the tap water in Athens, but just because it’s potable doesn’t mean it’s going to agree with you.  I would recommend bottled water while traveling; especially if you have a sensitive stomach.  It’s been a rough week.  We also brought a LifeStraw water bottle with us and it’s been a life saver.

There weren’t as many cats in Athens as there were in Istanbul, but we still managed to find at least a dozen that needed cuddles.  They tend to hang out around the ruins which is entertaining.  We also saw several tortoises living around the ruins which was quite interesting.

If we make it back to Greece at some point, we will definitely focus on more rural opportunities and exploring the islands and all they have to offer.  Our driver on the way back to the airport was quite surprised that we spent 10 days in Athens and didn’t venture out of the city.  I don’t think 10 days was too long, but then we really don’t like to feel rushed when we’re exploring a new city. Overall, it was a great experience!  Onto country number 3…


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