One thing Ash is absolutely passionate about when it comes to history is Greek mythology, so in the hunt for a birthday present a few years ago I naturally dug around for some cheap flights and treated him to a hotel break in the heart of Greek history: Athens! (am I the best girlfriend ever or what?!)
Greece wasn’t high on my travel list, and shortly after I’d booked the trip, riots kicked off in the capital as the country’s economy crashed. Needless to say, we were slightly worried about what to expect when we arrived.
But there were no burning buildings. There were no threatening protests. There were barely even any signs up – or in fact any sign at all that there had even been protests just a week earlier.
Athens was fascinating. It was surprisingly busy around the tourist attractions considering it was an off-peak visit just after some conflicts (I have some hideously overcrowded photos to prove it) but we stayed in a really beautiful hotel nestled in some quieter lanes, overlooking the Acropolis and you could see the Parthenon lit up at night. So while the day times were fairly crowded in places, the rest was pretty perfect. Even the weather was great in March.
The only problem was, I wasn’t really feeling Athens. It’s just a city, and if it weren’t for the amazing ruins or the Acropolis towering over it, it wouldn’t have any real character. It didn’t feel like Rome, with winding lanes leading to another hidden gem. Yet that’s the closest I can compare it to and Rome wins hands down. In Athens, I just didn’t get any feeling of grandeur in the streets at all, and there was no charm to make up for it.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the trip though. I highly recommend going if you have an interest in the history and architecture. If you’re just looking for a city break, I’d probably look elsewhere.
I did like all the lanes surrounding our hotel, where we discovered some delicious goodies.
One thing that I discovered down one of these lanes and surprisingly fell in love with? Froyo!! I know I shouldn’t be surprised given that Greek yoghurt is in fact rather famous, but it’s not something I immediately associated as part of our trip. But part of our trip it became, because we had frozen yoghurt a few times! Like gelato in Rome, froyo here was delicious!
I was also pleasantly surprised by the shopping streets – the “high street” shopping areas with views of the Acropolis, and the quaint market streets. Even with their tourist shops, the second street pictured below was full of interesting, handmade bits and pieces.
And when I say interesting, I mean mostly sex-related. There were a LOT of wooden penises. And a lot of very questionable pictures and calendars.
And of course no trip of mine would be complete without silly photos. Amazingly, I seem to have no pictures of the wooden penises! But I do have… sperm.
And me pretending to be a koi carp.
I don’t know how I felt about Athens. It wasn’t a love affair, but then I didn’t expect it to be, either. So I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t… anything, really. Would I go back? No, I wouldn’t make an effort to. But I’m definitely glad I’ve been there.
Instead, I’d love to go back to Greece, but (and I know it’s a typical tourist destination) the islands instead. Santorini, Mykonos, Kos. I’m not sure they’ll be a 2017 destination but they’re definitely on the list.