Thursday, June 04, 2009

random thoughts on athens


Way overdue - something I completely blame on tin can woman's april and with that a sad lack of inspiration - my random impressions of Athens. As in Greece. Which is the place where we went, back then. Beware of longish post.

: : From entering the Athens airport to leaving the same - a whole lot of smoking going on. Everywhere. Unhealthy, non-fresh and plain nasty. I may be naive, but I really thought most modern countries had come much further than that these days...

: : A very beautiful city - reminding me of Barcelona and Berlin - , multi layered, the mix of the omnipresent ancient, the history, the mythology, the gardens, the past ones prime withered old buildings and the top modern architecture is absolutely fascinating. On many levels.

: : I still mourn the fact that I never got to, as planned, study Greek in high school. It's such a beautiful language. Even if the Greek alphabet is parent to the Cyrillic alphabet (and me once upon a time studied Russian for years), I didn't feel it was that obvious how to interpret Greek signs and letters. Such luck that most everything was translated into English then.

: : The quite surreal scene with taxi drivers quarreling over us customers already in the backseat of the car - is this the Athens way? I am indeed a long long way from home - and ended with us being so totally overcharged for a 10 minutes drive. I later read in a local brochure that it's (unfortunately) very common for Athenian taxi drivers to try and earn even a week's wages from one drive with foreign tourists. I'm pleased that when taking a taxi to the airport the driver charged quite a bit less than we had expected instead.

: : Everywhere, big and small indentations on cars. I guess they drive a bit differently than we up north.

: : An amazing looking, trains running on time, effective subway system. So clean, so pretty, so modern (apart from some of the train sets). And with reasonable ticket prices. It really, really put the very less than clean, shabby, run down with constant delays, expensive tickets (if you don't have a so called monthly card) Stockholm subway system to great shame. I don't care if the train sets here are modern, there's a whole lot to be wished for as far as service and cleanliness go.

: : Things are quite expensive for visitors from non-euro countries.

: : It's an easy to get around, accessible city, by foot, subway - yeah! - bus or tram.

: : Dill, dill, dill - there may be a time and place for dill in food (though I can't think of when really), but not like the Greek way.

: : Way too little vegetarian options on the menus. When I have Greek food in Sweden I think it's fresh, good ingredients, flavourful and lovely. It's ages since I was in Greece and I have no recollection of the food back then - and granted I may have been less discerning as a teenager than now... - but I was just so very disappointed with what was offered. With one meal's exception, where were all the great Greek salads, the halloumi, the feta, the fresh vegetables, the fruit? And yes, of course we searched and had meals off the regular tourist tracks too.

: : Dito on the hotel breakfast. A total lack of vegetables and a whole lot of cakes and cookies. Who eat such things in the morning?

: : And what's up with the sugar overload in sweets and desserts and coffee? Gosh, that was just so... not... nice.

: : It was horrible with all the dead lambs with scalped heads and bulging eyes being roasted in the streets outside restaurants during (Greek) Easter. Not that I think it's less horrible when one observes that behaviour in Sweden or elsewhere. Nasty wherever, whenever.

: : My one food love during the trip was the simply amazing freshly squeezed fruit drinks, orange, fruit punch, banana, peach, available at most every café and restaurant. Now that's making the most of fresh and ripe local ingredients. I could live on those (and probably did).

: : A glass of water served with every order, without having to ask for it, in cafés and restaurants. Thumbs up.

: : The plethora of stray dogs and cats left me incredibly and totally sad. As well as made me think of how we keep our pets in Sweden. Those overall thoughts in a very own post to come.

: : I think it's quite strange that in many countries with warmer climate people tend to wear a whole lot more clothes than climate necessary. A lot of clothes and a lot of black clothes. In the hot spring sun.

: : Athenian women seem to care a lot about their hair and hairstyles. They look good. And their hair seem to be of a quite enviable quality compared to our in general sadly lack of oomf thin Scandinavian hair.

: : The swoon factor regarding intellectual men with grey temples charm is rather high in Athens.

: : Greek fashion and street style is just very not... me.

: : The Athenians seem to be friendly and accommodating, in general.

: : But the problem with countries, cities depending on tourism is not only that they are very touristy - I loath ingratiating, obtrusive throw ins and cringing sale clerks - if the tourists fail to meet the expectations, asking for reasonable substitutes, questioning things (in a polite manner) the ingratiating behaviour can quickly turn snotty and quite unpleasant.

: : It was actually a very good thing to (accidentally) travel to Athens during the Greek Easter, by comparison a liberating lack of hoards of tourists and a whole lot of free entrance to different attractions and must-sees.

: : The scent of Athens for me is the enchanting, wonderful all-embracing scent of orange blossoms in spring.

There will be more posts on Athens, Greece. And, needless to say, photos. If you just can't wait til the photos appear in blog, then you might want to have a look at Flickr.


CaliforniaKat said...

Smoking will be banned from all public spaces on July 1. There are laws now but Greeks pride themselves on being as free as possible.

There are dents on cars because everyone drives as they please also, that means as fast as possible, without respect for others and wherever they like. Many cannot parallel park and will rarely leave a note if they hit your car.

The metro is wonderful because it was built by Germans, not Greeks, and financed by the EU.

Older people wear black because widows and widowers are honoring the passing of their spouses. Young people wear it because they think it's fashionable and formal (that's mostly from lack of education about the rest of the world's fashion sense).

There are great places to eat but you really need to go later in the evening and see where Greeks are eating, or at least outside the touristy area.

Water, if in a bottle, is brought to you with the hope you'll drink from it and they can add a nice 3 euro (or more) fee to your bill.

People regard pets as "dirty" here and therefore do not treat them well.

Greek women are very hairy, period.

People everywhere are nice to tourists because they want your money, for the most part. It's different when you're a resident.

There are wonderful points of Athens, which is why I live here.

Kalo taxidi! (Good journey)

Pia K said...

Oh thanks for taking the time to make a very interesting input, CaliforniaKat! Some things I was aware of beforehand, but didn't put to blog...:)

Be as it may with the subway system, it's so very clean and without graffiti compared to the one we "enjoy" in Stockholm. That can't very well be the Germans work...;)

We were never "forced" to pay for something we didn't order at restaurants - that's totally a nuiscance in whatever touristy place you travel to - it was just the pleasant gesture with a glass of water.

Anonymous said...

Dear Pia thank you for your wonderful post , but i could not resist answering to the disinforming post of californiacat.
Since she utters a libel against our city and our country it would be nice for other readers of your blog to have the chance to read the other side of the story.

Dear californiacat.

1) The subway lines 2 and 3 are the new lines added (the line 1 existed since many years , please you dont need much then to read a wikipedia article or visit the official Athens metro website).

The Contractor for building this huge project was Olympic Metro, a consortium of 22 Greek, German and French companies that worked together.
The European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Greek state were responsible for the funding of the project.
The materials used in the metro stations and the whole idea of underground museums were proposals that have to do exclusively with the greek team and the attiko metro company , hundreds of engineers worked for years to deliver the elegant stations like syntagma.
To devalue the achievements of someone in the way you do is something that makes us sad.

2) Your comments about fashion are at least funny.

3)Negative negative negative almost in anything you say.
You discover conspiracy even in a bottle of water, from what i know in many many places (cafes etc) they bring you a big glass of water or sometimes a can.
In some other places (and especially in Athens were the water quality os not the best) they prefer bringing a small or bigger bottle of water.
I have never payed 3 euro for a bottle of water, i dont know in which "high" restaurants and cafeterias you go , that most of us ordinary people dont even know.

4) The high tide of your meanness is your comment about greek women.
The least that i can say is that you defame the thousands of other californians and americans with such comments...
Is there a normal person who could take seriously as an argument comments like : "greek women are hairy, period" ???
Its really sad and i am sorry for you.

5) And finally, the last cherry on your cake of meanness against our country. Another generalization.
All the people here are nice just because of the money of the tourists.
You are wrong californiacat.
And hopefully there are thousands of americans,germans,swedes,french etc. who have experienced the greek kindness and philoxenia and warm hags.

Take out your anti-greek glasses and stop trying to destroy other peoples experiences by defaming our country and the place that you live and work.

Have a nice day.

Pia K said...

Thanks for your visit, Kriton, and taking your time to share information and views!

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