Early in 2017, we were presented with an opportunity to spend two months in Athens, Greece. We saved every dollar and began evaluating our wardrobes. Were our clothes European enough? Could we really afford to take this opportunity? Could we afford not to take such an opportunity?
This was no ordinary venture and we were not taking a two month vacation (although, we would get in some sites). But we knew, no matter what, this journey was for us.
I should explain that Jay works full-time in the Green industry. You know, grass, trees, pests, etc. Living in Pennsylvania, winters are not conducive to working with plants so he gets a layoff. He’s kinda like a teacher but with winters instead of summers.
Without several months off, we would have never been able to consider two months abroad. But we do have several months, so off we went. As I type this, we’ve been in Athens for about a month and we still have a few weeks left.
I’ve collected some great content for you and today is no different!
Here are 5 tips for a thriving trip to Athens:
1.Athens is not Santorini.
When people think of Greece, they usually think of the bright white houses and the blue domed roofs. Day dreams of rich blue water and warm air on the skin invade the mind
Athens is not that.
It’s lovely in its own city sorta fashion.
There are sketchy parts of town (which we accidentally found). You can get your pockets picked and your wallet stolen — just like any other major metropolitan area. And occasionally, even in the nicer parts of town, you’ll find protesters. However, there are lovely streets to get lost on, museums to visit, shops to explore, and an abundance of delicious food to try.
The buildings are more tan than white and the roofs are generally red clay and not blue but the city is bustling. Taxis can drive you. The Metro trains are easy enough. But walking is really the way to go. But don’t get too comfortable with your shoes! You’ll be pegged immediately as a tourist if you look to “casual.”
2.Greek coffee is not like “ordinary” coffee.
If you’re looking for a regular cup of joe then order a filtered coffee. But if you want a Greek experience, try the Greek coffee. Just don’t let anyone tell you to throw it back in one swallow!
Greek coffee is more like espresso and it’s served in a small cup. Unlike espresso, the grounds are served to you. At the bottom of each Greek coffee you’ll find all the grounds that were used to make the coffee.
Some servers will ask if you want it sweet. Medium sweet is generally what you’re looking for. As for cream, there is none.
Greek coffee is good but it’s not my favorite. I generally stick with a cappuccino. If you’re looking for a warm drink, it’s just a cappuccino unless you want it doubled (and I generally do).
If you’re still looking for the Greek experience but the Greek coffee doesn’t sound like your cup of tea (hehe) then try a cappuccino freddo. It’s a cold cappuccino with a thick layer of frothy foam topping it. It’s super yummy!
Total side note: Greeks don’t seem to serve their drinks hot. The best you can say is they they are served really warm.
3.If you know no Greek, stay near Monastiraki.
Monstiraki is close to the Acropolis and still very Greek but because it’s closest to the touristy attractions, many people speak English.
There are an abundance of shops, restaurants, and places to explore. The Metro line is clean and easy to hop onto. And because of the larger influx of tourists in this area, it’s more heavily policed which means you are less likely to have you pockets picked.
In the Monastiraki area, many restaurants have menus available in different languages but you may have to ask for them.
4.Greek schedules are very un-American.
During our first week in Athens, we learned very quickly that our American way of life was gonna have to alter. Greeks start the day much later than we do in the States (praise the Lord!!).
It’s not uncommon for business hours to be sorta vague. If a business is open before 9am it’s unusual. We’ve discovered that 10am is more the norm. A business may or may not close for a few hours in the middle of day especially during the summer. Of course, they’ll open back up and stay open until 11pm sometimes.
Greeks don’t rush. They talk and linger over their food. And they share. A group at a table may order a salad and it comes in a big bowl. Everyone then just sticks their fork in and begins eating.
Even after the food is gone, they will sit and talk and laugh for hours. No one rushes them out or gives them the stink eye if they sit at an empty table for several hours.
Personally, I love this! Especially considering many of the restaurants have outdoor dining with heaters during the winter months. You can sit for hours, people watch, and enjoy the company you’re with.
5.Eye contact is fine except in the case of the gypsys.
Eye contact in many large cities, like New York, is a faux pas. I don’t know why but that’s just the way it is. (Did you just sing that last part? Just me? Ok, then.) Athens is not one of those kind of cities. It’s okay to make eye contact and smile at people. Not in the creepy sorta way but in a friendly stranger-ly kinda way.
Except when in comes to the gypsys.
Gypsy folk in Athens don’t actually travel. That was new info for me. But they are out in full force.
They want to give you “free” flowers or tissues or balloons or play you a song. And they are bold.
When we sit at the outside tables of restaurants or cafes, they walk right up to the table. The wait staff aren’t gonna shoo them away so one always has to be ready to say no.
No eye contact isn’t a deterrent but making eye contact is sure fire way to ensure that they will talk to you.
Then again, maybe you’ve always wanted free flower that you have to pay for. If so, have at it.
We’ve been in Athens a few weeks now and I’ve been snapping pictures (just not of the regular gypsys) and gleaning all that I can. This journey has been uncomfortable at times but generally a very great adventure.
Here’s hoping your life journey is going well.