We were interviewed by a local news station on on first full day in Athens. We’d only been out of our apartment for a couple of hours, long enough to find the Church of the Holy Apostles and tour the Acropolis. Both sights were awesome in their own way.
From the Acropolis there were breathtaking views of the city. The boys and I sat and tried to picture what it looked like when the apostle Paul journeyed there, what the structures looked like in their glory days, how his sandals felt on the ancient streets and cool marble. From the top Dylan asked if we could come back to that spot again. He couldn’t get enough of hiking around in a place filled with so much history.
From there we ventured down a walking trail, and that’s when we ran into the reporter and her crew. They wanted to know what we thought of Athens. The reporter asked if we thought the city looked impacted by their financial crisis, or if our expectations were being met.
“It’s wonderful here,” I told her, explaining that this city was the number one place to visit on my Europe bucket-list.
“We came for an adventure,” Tyler added. “We didn’t know what to expect, but it’s nice.”
We told her about our plans for the next few days to see the changing of the guard, eat as much baklava as possible, and bask in the sunlight. Then we told her about the warm welcome we’d already received.
“The people are all really nice,” I said. “I’d never know there was a crisis if I hadn’t heard about it before.”
The reporter seemed please. She thanked us and went on her way.
I’m glad she talked to us on day one. I meant what I said about not being able to tell there was a crisis going on. Up until then we’d seen some really beautiful things. That same day we visited the Plaka neighborhood where we found cute little shops, rooftop restaurants, and pristine churches. We went to the parliament, walked their outside mall, picked some fresh lemons and oranges, and marveled at the amount of cats that were everywhere.
But the following day we ventured further out of the city center. On our trip to the sea, we saw for the first time what Athens looked like away from the tourist destinations. There were run down apartment buildings, shanty homes, and more homeless individuals than I’ve seen in a long time. The day after that there was a protest in the streets, people marching, chanting and fighting against new taxes that would make it harder on those who work tirelessly as it is.
If we’d been interviewed on our last day, I’d be lying if I said you couldn’t tell that they’ve been in crisis. You can. And it’s sad because the people are amazing. On our first night we were directed to our apartment by a homeless man who couldn’t read, but knew where the landmarks are. I didn’t ask for him help. He just gave it when he saw me pull out a map. There were restaurant owners and merchants who sat and talked with us for much longer than they needed to. They all genuinely cared whether or not we were enjoying our trip. Most made recommendations, some even gave us free treats.
Despite the crisis, the people in Athens were amazing. The history remains rich. It’s still a place I’d visit again. I’m glad the reporter spoke with us on day one. I hope her story will bring light to a place that needs it right now, and I hope that the economy bounces back. When I return someday, I want to see the city at peace. I want to find flourishing businesses around every corner, in and out of the city center. But more than anything, I want to see the people as happy as they made us feel.
Click here to see a video slideshow of the trip.