As I sit down to write this post, I’m seated outside of an Athens cafe, soaking up the sun, drinking an iced coffee, and looking at the imposing Acropolis.
Just minutes ago, I booked my ferry tickets to Turkey – I’m unbelievably excited. When I left Edinburgh just under four weeks ago, my plan was to make it to Turkey. I’m now only days away from meeting this goal. I’ll leave Athens tonight on a ferry heading to the Greek island of Chios – located only 10 or 15 miles away from the Turkish coast. I’ll spend a couple days on Chios before taking the quick, one hour journey to the port south of Izmir, Turkey.
I didn’t arrive in Athens expecting to be impressed with the city. I had heard, for the most part, negative things about Greece’s capital city – crowded, filled with traffic, and full of garbage. Athens is a massive, sprawling city of nearly four million people. This being said, as a traveler, it is very manageable with all of the main sights located in a central area. From my experience, it is also very safe and no more polluted than any other city of its size.
One thing Athens isn’t short of is stray dogs; they are everywhere. After my first night roaming the city, I determined that most of the dogs are harmless – some will bark and growl, but with a calming hello, they’ll quickly be your best friend and follow you as you wander about their city. Living their lives on the streets of Athens, you’d probably guess they’re not the cleanest animals – and you’d be right. This being said, I’ve learned that they are not really homeless – rather, they’re the proud pets of all Athenians. Nearly all of the dogs have tags which register them to a specific ‘owner’ who looks after them ensuring they are fed and watered. Additionally, volunteer vets in the city ensure the dogs are vaccinated and healthy.
I went on a quick walking tour with my hostel yesterday which touched on all the key sites in Athens. While not the most informative tour, I always appreciate the chance to hear about a city from a local. Case and point, learning about the ‘stray’ dogs of the city. The history of Athens is mind blowing. It is shocking to see temples, buildings, and ruins dating from the First Century BC. A person almost feels speechless walking amongst such history and beauty.
Since arriving in Athens, I haven’t eaten much besides Gyros – a Greek food consisting of roasted meat from a vertical spit (pork, beef, or chicken), onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki served in an oiled an fried pita. They’re delicious – and, more importantly, they’re cheap. I spent a good hour last night sitting outside of a great Gyro take-away/sitdown restaurant just taking the whole scene in. While clearly attracting a fair number of tourists, it was also apparent that Athenians eat gyros on the run. It was shocking to watch the lads behind the counter serving up the Greek specialty – anytime there weren’t customers, they’d quick light up a cigarette. They wouldn’t quite leave the kitchen to smoke it, but they’d at least try to lean over the counter away from the food. Health and Safety?! All the while, the old man who most likely owned the joint, sat at a cash register, smoking, waiting for customers, and watching his money roll in.
Earlier on in the evening, I was wandering the city and came to a small, rocky, hill which had stunning views of the city, its surrounding hills, and the illuminated Acropolis. It was a great place to relax, ponder, and take in the breathtaking city that is Athens. I was thinking about where I am now, where I’ve been, but more importantly where I’ll be one or two months time. I don’t know. Without a source of income, I’m afraid my days of traveling will all to abruptly come to an end. In a perfect world, I’ll find some sort of short term employment in Turkey – a hostel, a bar, a restaurant, who knows. I was thinking last night that I left home after graduation because the thought of immediately settling down to a career oriented job, working 40+ hours a week and 50 weeks a year was frightening. In traveling and seeing Europe, I had hoped to ready myself for the settling down. Last night, however, I realized that I’m more terrified now of that thought than I was a year and a half ago. I’m ready to go home to see my family, but I’m certainly not ready to stop traveling, meeting new people, and taking in all this world has to offer.