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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Photo Essay : Things I Loved about Athens


Athens 05

Greece was the first country I’ve ever been to outside Asia, and my first in Europe. To say I was giddy, scared, and excited was an understatement. I was only there for over a week, but it was one of the most memorable solo trips I’ve ever done. It was the first time I treated myself to nice and quaint hotel rooms, and the first time I thought of what I would be looking for in a place I want to settle in someday. It must have been the quaint and charming buildings in Old Town, Nafplio. But there was something about Greece (or maybe Europe as a whole) that pulled me in. I love how old and modern it is at the same time.


Hadrian's Arch
Hadrian's Arch, and one of the streets near Acropolis

I wish I could say I’ve seen much of Athens, but I didn’t. I was there for less than a week, that’s still a lot of days to roam around the city, I know. But still, I didn’t see much. I was there to attend my friends’ wedding, so most of my time was spent with them and in their house drinking wine, eating Greek salad, and just catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time. To be honest, it was just too hot during the day. I know, I am from the tropics. But the European summer heat was too dry and dehydrating for me. So we normally start our day at around 6pm. But really go out at around 9pm, right around sunset. They bring me back to my hotel at 4am the earliest (haha). So yes, most of the day I’m sleeping in my hotel and enjoying the aircon.

Plaka 08
Plaka

I wish I’ve seen more of Athens, but I didn’t. But what I saw and experienced, I liked. 

Athens 03
view of the city from Acropolis

I’ve never been a fan of big cities. I really don’t like skyscrapers and crowded places. Maybe that’s what I liked about Athens – there were no tall buildings to block the view of the mountains and hills surrounding the city and the view of the Acropolis. Which is also why I loved the view of the seemingly white city during sunset from the Acropolis.

Acropolis 01
at the Acropolis during sunset

I loved going around the city via the metro. The hotel I was staying at was only a block away from one of the stations, so the metro was the most convenient way for me to see the city. I loved people watching and just feeling so out of place at the same time. I was the only Asian in those train rides. I would get stared at, in a non-judgmental way of course (I hope), but it just feels interesting to be the only odd one out.

Acropolis Museum
the Acropolis Museum also sits on an excavation, where ruins can also be seen

I wish I could say I loved the ruins, but not really. I did like the Acropolis Museum where most of the statues and relics can be seen. I really liked the video shown at its top floor telling the history of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. How it was the temple for Athena, and that it was also turned into a mosque during the Persian invasion, and a church during the Byzantine period. And I hope to see the Elgin Marbles in London to see first-hand the Greek marble sculptures.

Acropolis 03
view of Parthenon from Ancient Agora

Parthenon 01
Parthenon

Parthenon 02

Erechtheion 01
Erechtheion

Erechtheion 02

But there really wasn’t much to see at the hill. But the view of the city from the top was really beautiful during sunset. 

Athens 04

But there were ruins I really liked. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an amphitheatre on the foothill of the Acropolis; the theatre of Dionysus; and the Ancient Agora.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus 01
Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Odeon of Herodes Atticus 02
Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Theatre of Dionysus
Theatre of Dionysus

Ancient Agora
Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora Nike
Nike, Greek Goddess in Ancient Agora

Agii Apostoli 01
Agii Apostoli, Ancient Agora

Temple of Hephaestus 02
Temple of Hephaestus, Ancient Agora

I loved walking around Syntagma, Monastiraki, and Plaka. I loved the narrow streets and the old buildings, the line of restaurants and really just the culture of al fresco dining. I loved the street performers at the foot of the Acropolis just as the sun is about to set, and those performing at night in the Monastiraki Square. I loved how at night, you walk along these dark narrow streets (the graffiti somehow makes it scary) but then your friends open up a door/gate to a building where there’s a rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis. Or a wide open space with a really cool bar/chill place inside.

Monastiraki 01
Somewhere between Plaka and Syntagma

Monastiraki 02
bought one of these for my place!

Athens 06
street musicians, foothill of the Acropolis

Athens 07
foothill of the Acropolis

Plaka 04
Plaka

Plaka 05
Plaka

Plaka 06
Plaka

Plaka 02 Plaka

Plaka 01
Plaka

And I loved how passionate and intense the Greeks can be when they talk. I was so fascinated by it. May it be the sellers at the market calling out for people to buy their produce, the people inside the metro, or my friend’s Greek family and relatives. I guess it reminds me so much of home, especially my aunts who from an outsider may seem like they’re arguing but it’s just really how they talk.

Plaka
Plaka at night (l) and day (r)

I wish I took more photos, but I didn’t. This part I kind of regret. But I enjoyed my trip more to be honest. I felt more involved in the places I visited, the sounds I heard, and the experiences I had.

Athens Sunset 01
Sunset from my hotel

My travels in Greece was like a new door opened for me. Next to mountains, I find myself drawn to old cities and towns now. After that trip, I knew I wanted to see more of Europe and experience more of its culture.