03 September 2013

{Athens is Edgy... and I Like It}

Remember my promise for Greece recaps?  Well, the time has finally arrived!  There's just been so much else happening in my life these days {although I'm not complaining!} that Greece has been unintentionally put on the back burner.  Until now that is.  First up on our itinerary was Athens.


As I hinted previously, prior to our visit, Greece had never been high on my list of travel destinations. Probably because something about it just screams crowds, tourists and commercialism.  But, as you'll soon realize, after our visit each and every one of my preconceived notions dissipated and the country now easily ranks as one of my top travel experiences.  We loved it there.  Athens included

I went to Athens not really knowing what expect... aside from the fact that a lot of people seem to profess strong feelings of hatred towards it.  I've read blog post after blog post detailing how dirty and unfriendly the city is and received many recommendations from friends to avoid it all together.  Not being a huge history or architecture buff, I also wasn't aching to see the Acropolis, although I knew it was something I would need to tick off my list.  It was from this point of reference that I touched down in Greece's capital.

As soon as I jumped on the metro, I could immediately understand why Athens often fails to meet visitors' expectations.  The city is indeed quite dirty, there is no shortage of graffiti and there are stray dogs and cats everywhere.  If you land in Athens expecting to walk into a historical oasis filled with ancient ruins as far as the eye can see... you will be sorely disappointed.  That is simply not what Athens is anymore.  

That being said, there are plenty of ancient Greek and Roman ruins scattered throughout a modern European city that now happens to be filled with a disgruntled youth who have taken a liking to graffiti.  I must admit that I was quite enchanted by all of the historical ruins juxtaposed against the current political and economic landscape.  From this perspective, I found Athens to be a vibrant place filled with lively restaurants, trendy coffee shops and an edgy atmosphere.  It's a living city, in every sense of the word.  One can easily follow the timeline from old to new and if you visit with this mindset, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

If you've never been to Athens... or have been and hated it, I urge you to give it another chance.  While it was certainly not what I expected, I found the unexpected refreshing and when you really look for it, there truly is beauty to be found everywhere.  I could easily spend a year or two living in this complicated and often misunderstood city and Jurgen agreed that he could too.  Put simply, Athens left us wanting more.

Later this week, I'll be sharing photos from the Acropolis and the more historical side of Athens.  I'll also be delving into the details of where we stayed, what we ate and how we got around.  Stay tuned!

I'm curious to know...
What are your thoughts on Athens?  Love it or hate it?
If you haven't been, would you want to visit in future?

{Linking up with Travel Tuesdays}

48 comments:

  1. This is really cool, I love the other side of it that you've shown... graffiti is kind of grungy but also edgy and sort of shows that there's... life? That it's still got people living there, expressing themselves.

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    1. Exactly! I feel like Athens needs to be appreciated for both its past and present history. When the two are combined it makes for quite a unique case study... and lovely place to visit :)

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  2. I love your take on Athens Jenna! We only had an afternoon there (unfortunately) but I quite liked the city. I'm not sure what people expect - the country has been in financial ruin for years and the unemployment rates are astronomical so it shouldn't be a surprise that the city isn't spotless (in terms of garbage or graffiti.) In any case, Joe and I have been aching to get back and our short stay certainly left us wanting more!

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    1. Yes! I think the bad reputation is partially due to over-glamourised expectations... because you usually only see the gorgeous ruins on TV and in magazines. But if you're visiting for more than just the ancient side of Athens, I think the city is actually quite captivating.

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  3. I love how you mixed all the modern edgy Athens flair with the ancient stuff we know and love. It was so fun to walk around the city virtually with you. One of my favorite thing about exploring new places is seeing how the locals "decorate" with graffiti, street art, etc.

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    1. Me too! I'm not really a huge museum person or history buff so modern culture and graffiti really grab my attention. I found the mix between the two perfect was perfect for me. Where old meets new :)

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  4. Unfortunately I'm in the haters club, but likely because I had very high expectations having studied classics and art history at university. Strangely, my favourite place to soak up Greek architecture is Sicily! They have the best preserved Greek temples in the world (they are incredible), if that's your thing. I am glad you enjoyed Athens though, oddly enough I feel bad for hating it, and I'm glad it's not a universal feeling. Maybe someday I'll give it another chance!

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    1. Haha, I don't blame you! If your passion lies in art and history then I can imagine that Athens might be disappointing. I had heard so many negative things about Athens already that I really had no expectations when visiting and was pleasantly surprised. I hope if you guys go back again it will grow on you... even just a little ;) Sicily sounds incredible... it's high on my travel list!

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  5. I actually had no idea how dirty and grimy Athens was .... but that won't stop me from trying to go! :)

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    1. Weird isn't it!? I also had no idea that there was more to Athens than the ruins until recently. At least now when you visit you won't be shocked. I went with no expectations and ended up loving it :)

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  6. EVERYONE tells me to avoid it - it's nice to hear another opinion. Maybe it's all about what time of year you go, and of course waht you make of it. I've never been to Greece, despite people raving about the islands constantly. Someday....

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    1. Don't believe them! haha, just kidding... sort of. I suppose it all depends on what you're expecting, but for some reason I feel like you're the type of person who would take a liking to Athens :)

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  7. Such lovely photos. I would love to see Greece!

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  8. So beautiful!! I am definitely jealous ;) I'm glad you had such a wonderful time :)

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  9. so gorgeous, i love when places pleasantly surprise you :)

    i love your blog..we are kindred travel lovers! xoxo the well-traveled wife

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    1. Thank you and thank you! We are kindred travel souls... one of a kind I tell you ;)

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  10. I have also heard a lot of bad things about Athens but I still want to go and really liked hearing your perspective :)

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    1. I definitely hope you're able to visit one day! There's not really any other city in Europe like it... to be honest it reminds me a bit of Johannesburg, which we all know I love :) If you go, be sure to let me know what your impression is.

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  11. I traveled to Athens as the final stop in a 5 week back-packing trip through Europe with a friend. She had been there previously and was wanting to return and I was the typical, naive traveler eating up every sight and sound I could get, so I didn't have any negative preconceived opinions about it, and really enjoyed Athens. We walked around the city at night, stayed at a relaxed and fun Australian-run hostel, ate delicious food to our hearts content, shopped, learned some of the history behind all the ruins. My only regret was that we couldn't stay longer! I felt like we didn't even get to see a smidgen of what Athens had to offer. Looking forward to your upcoming posts about it!

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    1. Ah, that sounds incredible! I also wish we had a bit more time to spend in Athens... three days was too short. Hope you're able to make it back sooner rather than later :)

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  12. Jenna, you just sent me back down memory lane. I went to Athens during my year studying in Paris and had the exact same experience you did. We were lucky because it was about two years before the Olympics were held (this is going to date me) and so they were busy cleaning up the city. We watched cranes piecing the Acropolis back together again - before, many more of the stones lay on the ground. And every once in a while you would round a corner and stumble upon another ancient ruin. It was a neat time. You are spot on when you say it is a living city. Even at night when we shut ourselves in our hotel - you could hear the rest of the city buzzing outside. So glad you enjoyed your trip and can't wait to see more! (More kitten pictures please.)

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    1. That is so incredible that you were able to visit pre-Olympics... it must have been exciting to be in the city then with so much happening! I'm glad to hear that you had a similar experience. I loved how from time to time we would turn a corner and almost walk straight into a ruin... the old and the new are truly intermingled. And I LOVED all of the stray dogs and kittens. Our guide (who was a college student) told us that the stray dogs are usually friendly, but when the strikes happen for some reason they know they should side with the protestors and start attacking the police. ha! How crazy is that!? Apparently there's one dog in particular who always makes the newspaper headlines for his valiant efforts.

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  13. These photos are just gorgeous! I've heard such mixed review re: Athens, but I think I would love it!

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    1. I have a hunch that you would love it too! :)

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  14. I can't say I'm a lover or a hater. I did enjoy the city, loved the shopping area, loved seeing the famous sites. As a friend called it though, it is a concrete jungle. When we were looking out from Mars Hill, you could feel the heat and hear the roar of the city below. I've been to a few other areas of Greece and have loved it. It's a big city and big cities always have a different feel than the rest of the country. Not bad, just different and always worthy of exploring! Great post!

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    1. Ah, so true... I loved how you've described it. Athens is, without a doubt, a concrete jungle. While I would be hesitant to describe the city as idyllic {as I would easily do for the islands}, I do think that Athens adds something unique and worthwhile for travellers. I found its contrasting factors to be somewhat captivating :)

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  15. i personally think that going to a country with really low expectations is the best way to travel : ) i've actually always wanted to go to greece but i haven't done much research so i had no idea that people gave it a bad wrap! guess that's a good thing though!

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    1. I agree! I always try to prevent myself from doing too much travel research in advance so that I'm able to form my own opinion and prevent getting set on a fixed schedule. The hatred for Athens just seemed to be everywhere... but I actually think it was good because when I visited I had no idea of what to expect... and ended up being pleasantly surprised.

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  16. That view from the top is really great. Now I think I will have to add Athens to my bucket list :-)

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  17. We spent three days in Athens and LOVED it. And we'd live there, too, although we'd end up with 400 pets. Some good friends of ours lived further North in Greece for a couple of years, and they gave us a lot of the low-down on every day life, and it does seem to have unique challenges (coming from the States/UK) but I'd still do it.
    We saw the funniest graffiti ever (it's near the end of this post: http://www.peachandthistle.com/2011/03/athens-modern.html ) and we still randomly say "No Fly Zone for Elephants in Plaka". No rhyme or reason, it's just funny!

    I'll be honest, though... we both thought Brussels was the dirtiest city we went to in Europe. Although Paul (my husband) says Brussels is tied with Sofia for him. I say Brussels was dirtier than Sofia. But we were also in Greece in March, intentionally to miss the cruise-ship crowds. Maybe they're the dirty ones, haha!

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    1. I'm glad you guys also had a good experience! I'd also end up with 400 pets if I lived there... did you know that the government actually vaccinates and feeds all of the strays? How sweet is that? :) I've never been to Brussels or Sofia, but I'll keep your impressions in mind if I ever visit. Oh, and that graffiti is hilarious!

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    2. If/when you do get back, go down to the Peloponnesian Peninsula- we opted for that as our "day out" trip (we were seriously torn between it and Delphi, which we still want to see!) and we just took the bus to Mikenes and Nafplio. Mykenai (Mycenae) is where King Agamemnon ruled, if you remember from The Iliad, and the ruins are fairly recently excavated. Nafplio is just a gorgeous little coastal town with a couple of castles. But the bus was confusing but cheap, I think less than €30 for the two of us, whereas an organized tour that way would have been €99 each! Plus we got to set our own time limits, which we prefer.
      I'm dying to get back as well. And thinking about it SO much after reading your posts!!

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    3. Thanks so much for the tips! When we went I really wanted to take the night train to Meteora, but we ended up not having time since we also wanted to see the islands. Would also love to see the Peloponnesian Peninsula, isn't that also near where Sparta was supposed to have been? I wanted to go SO bad. So many sights, so little time ;) On our second day there we spent the day on the tram exploring along the coast. I think our tickets were about .50 euro each... can't beat it!

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  18. All the guys in my office are Greek and I've heard about their summers in the sunshine for the last few weeks (and about how crazy Athens is, haha). After seeing all of your pictures here it's like Greece is calling my name!

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    1. It definitely is! I think you need to make a visit happen soon... you're relatively close! :)

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  19. i want to go to greece in the worst way. even athens! but especially the islands, oh those islands.

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    1. Ooo, the islands were incredible! Jurgen and I were legitimately tempted to just abandon our plane tickets and stay.

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  20. Greece is still on my bucket list!!!!
    johced-ourjourneytoeverywhere.blogspot.com
    xxx

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    1. You guys really must visit... it is amazing! Better than it looks in the magazines :)

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  21. I've have never been to Athens but really want to see it! I love how your photos mix the old and the new :)

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    1. You must make a plan to visit since you're relatively close {read: anywhere in Europe is relatively close}. I think you would quite enjoy Athens and the islands really are absolutely divine!

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  22. Aww I love that kitten photo. Such a cute animal! Thank you for linking up with me for Travel Tuesdays, hope to see you linking up tomorrow!

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose an expat lifestyle blog

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  23. that little cat is sooo stinkin cute! I'd have taken him home with me if I could have. I've never been or even left the US, so I would totally visit Athens.. it seems sooo pretty! Greece is actually where I want to go on my honeymoon, so my future husband better be okay with that! :-)

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  24. I loved all your Instagrams! I haven't ever really wanted to go to Athens - the Greek islands, yes, but Athens, no - but I'm really into looking at the city as "all of the historical ruins juxtaposed against the current political and economic landscape." That's such a mindful way of being a tourist! we should all try that :)

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  25. Athens definitely calls me. I'm used to cities being dirty and full of graffiti, Paris and Rome are examples of that. But they are beautiful cities that I love, and I can easily look past the bad side of every city I visit. Also, kitty picture, so cute!

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  26. Lovely photos :) Have you ever done a post about your camera equipment and editing process? I'm learning about photography and love all of the photos on your blog.

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  27. I have lived in Athens for some time, and I absolutely loved it! Once you spend some more time over there and meet local people, it's great! Their mind set not to worry about anything is impressive! I really like your blog! I kinda know how is to be away all the time because I am moving all around the world following my basketball bf. If you would please share which program you are using to edit your photos..
    http://jelenaslifeontheroad.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Jelena, thanks so much for your comment! Currently, I only use iPhoto for editing, but I'm hoping to get Adobe Lightroom soon :)

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Thanks for commenting! I love reading each and every one of them :)