Athens, First Impressions

9:30:00 AM Brooke Neal 1 Comments

When we landed in Greece I was impressed with the airport.  It was new, clean, our baggage came off the plane quickly, the rental car associate was friendly and I didn't have to pay typical airport prices for a bottle of water.  From the airport we drove into the country side.  I was a little surprised at how many abandoned buildings we passed, but I chalked it up to being in the rural parts of Greece.  


My expectation was that Athens would be the showcase city.  I expected it to be the New York City of Greece, not the Detroit and honestly, that is about the best description I can give Athens.  As we drove into town I was shocked that EVERY building was covered in graffiti. People were loitering around, the streets were dirty, buildings were abandoned and as our GPS was telling us we were very close to our destination I began to panic thinking I'd booked a hotel in the wrong part of town.  


We were so preoccupied with finding our hotel that we forgot to get gas on the way in when stations were easy to find.  Once downtown though it was like finding a needle in a haystack.  Between one way streets, blocked off streets and narrow lanes our nerves were beginning to fray. When the GPS said, "you've reached your destination," we both scratched our heads.  The gas station which was actually only one pump, was inside a parking garage.  At least we found it. Unfortunately, it didn't take credit cards and I didn't have enough cash to fill the tank, so out we went again this time to find a bank.
  

Long story short--more one way streets, narrow lanes and dead ends.  After driving in circles for 15 minutes, I finally told Bob I would get out of the car to find an ATM.  The prospect made us both a bit nervous, but what else could we do?  I asked a restaurant owner for directions to the nearest ATM which was two blocks and a plaza away.  I kept telling myself, remember that landmark and don't forget the name of the street Bob left you on.  


I found the ATM, but guess what, it was not working.  I could not contain my words anymore as a few choice ones came spilling out of my mouth. I worried that Bob couldn't block the one way street forever and I had already been gone about 8 minutes.  As I scanned the plaza my eyes miraculously found an unmarked ATM on the side of a restaurant wall.  I grabbed my cash and dashed back towards Bob, around the corner, through the train station, past the homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk and lots of graffiti.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw he was still there waiting for me.


My first impression of Athens did not leave me impressed.  How could a European Union city and host to the Olympics look like this.  Why is the star city of Greece so run down?  In part the answer lies in unemployment.  Our tour guide told us with 60% unemployment among teens and young 20's the city is over run with kids with too much time on their hands.  

The next day with renewed energy and a fresh set of eyes I calmed down and enjoyed the city sites. Athens is full of things to see, it has great food and the people are friendly, but I won't be returning, at least not to the mainland.  Two and a half days was enough to get my fill of Greek ruins which you will see in upcoming posts.  

1 comment:

  1. I was shocked in Milan at all of the grafitti on the buildings too, but this looks like it really has way outdone " Milan. Sad to see all of the "art" and run down appearance. Glad you were able to find an ATM, and also that you found your husband again.

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