Painted Greek alley

I was impressed by Athenian hospitality!

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25/8/2015
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I’ ve been to Greece twice now and had a great time on both of my visits.

My first trip was to the island of Corfu in my early 20s. I stayed in a villa by the beach in beautiful Arillas and had my first snorkeling experience during this trip. I was instantly hooked and spent hours looking for fish through my goggles. One afternoon I noticed some unusual objects peeking out of the sand on the ocean floor.

I dove down and retrieved, what turned out to be, a snorkeling mask, a New York State driver’s license and a €50 note. It was quite a find – my first buried treasure in fact! Needless to say, I swam back to shore and spent the money buying dinner for my friends at a beach-side tavern.

My second trip was to Athens. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the city given the hardships it’s faced over recent years, but Athens completely blew me away! I spent my days wandering through winding, painted alleyways and admiring ancient monuments. My evenings were spent exploring Pandrossou Street Market, sampling Greek cuisine and checking out some pretty amazing local bars.

I have to say that it was the people who really helped to make my stay so special though. I met some amazing locals who were eager to make me feel welcome: from the young couple who missed their bus to help me out when I was lost; to the waiter who asked for updates on my trip every time I passed his restaurant; and the dentist who bought my friends and I drinks to welcome us to the city. I was really touched by their kindness and impressed by Athenian hospitality.

 

I was able to explore the city with a local through the This Is My Athens program, which matches visitors with local volunteers to take you beyond the typical guidebook experience. Through the tour I experienced Athens much more intimately than I would have done otherwise. With help from my guide, Paolo, we explored Plaka, checked out an anarchist neighbourhood, and visited a Speakeasy bar. Chatting with him about his life in Athens helped me get a real feel for what life as an Athenian is like.

I love that feeling that comes with being surrounded by incredible landscapes and ancient ruins. It’s a really humbling experience, and I had a few of those in Greece. The first was at the Temple of Poseidon, which sits atop a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. The second experience was while exploring the Temple of Athena and the Oracle of Delphi on Mount Parnassus. The area is steeped in history and the view is stunning.

Even in Athens, you experience this feeling of awe. One moment you’re walking down a narrow alleyway and the next, you’re standing next to a 3,000 year old temple. It’s quite a feeling to be surrounded by so much diverse history and architecture.

The food was so good but if I had to choose a favourite dish I suppose it would be the fried zucchini balls. They’re cheesy and packed with flavor – what’s not to love about them? And of course I can’t forget the Gyros; they’re so tasty and they only cost about €2.

I brought home with me a bottle of Tsipouro (a Greek spirit produced from the residue of the wine press), kalamon olive pate, and a lot of photographs!

On my next trip to Greece, I plan to hike up to the monasteries of Meteora and spend some time learning about the history and traditions of the area.

I’d also like to do some island hoping; to Santorini for the beautiful scenery and to Zakynthos for the scuba diving.

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