Athens – same, same but different

Athens is one city I have visited many times, last was in 1979. Amidst the turmoil that is Greece today, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back this time. But I am glad I did.

When we arrived in Athens, lugging our back packs, the first thing that caught my eye was older ladies selling table clothes – hey I am back again!

We used the Metro to arrive and leave Athens – it is great – fast, efficient, seamless.  And they have taken the cars out of the central streets which make them quiet and pedestrian friendly.  What a change from the horns that finally stopped at 3am and started again 5am when we were staying at the grotty Claridge Hotel in Omonoia Square. Actually Omonoia Square is no longer grotty, it has a big fountain in the centre and is a popular place for Athenians to sit.

Eating is much more upmarket. Many of the cafes in the squares around Monastiraki and the Plaka offer good wine and fine dining. The doner kebab is confined to a clean kitchen area. The market is cleaner with refrigeration.

There are more ruins than I have ever seen before – the Ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Library are great places to trip over big bits of rock.  There are even ruins of the Byzantine period underneath the amazing new Acropolis Museum, which is built on stilts to protect them.

I feel sorry for Greece and her country.  The election conundrum came to light whilst we were there, and I thought the Greeks looked sad and lost. One gentleman suggested life had been better under the junta, but I doubt he was old enough to know this first hand.

We didn’t see the severe economic problems in Crete and Santorini, they are protected by their own tourist industries.

But in Athens, I think they are trying.  Many of the cafes that serve the tourists will quietly give a local child or elderly person a doner kebab.