I love Italy; therefore, I always thought I'd love Greece. It's easy to lump them together as Southern Europe/Mediterranean countries and call them similar cultures since they both claim responsibility for civilization as we know it. Ah, but driving into Athens, observing the surrounding barren hills, passing by the various eateries, hearing a language so dissimilar from the romances...Greece immediately broke away from Italy in my mind and thrilled me immeasurably. Things are very different here; however, there still seems to be that indescribable inspiration that pulled me to Italy years ago. I was bound for a good week in a new country. Athens knows no boundaries. I couldn't find the end to the buildings that crawled up the hill slopes and towards the sea. I was far too intimidated to venture anywhere in town other than my hotel's neighborhood, for fear of never finding my way back. Athens certainly wasn't a planned city by any stretch of the imagination, so streets rarely met at 90 degree angles or seemed as wide as they should have been. Instead, I took a few steps outside and found the Plaka scene, a.k.a. tourist haven at the foot of the Acropolis.
Steaming and juicy gyros in minutes. Artsy fashion shops amongst souvenir displays. Trendy joints for moussaka blowing misty wind at the pampered clientele. I found everything I wanted (sandals, dresses, and gorgeous alleys), and all the prime opportunities for people watching I could ask for. And in between the buildings rose the age old columns of the Parthenon, the gods probably chuckling at all the ridiculous t-shirt designs and ruin-themed shot classes.
As much as these areas of towns piss me off, they also satiate all desires of shopping, eating, and observing things you didn't expect to see. One of my favorite parts about Athens was the fact that so many vendors were trying to sell these squashing, gooey balls that flatten as they're thrown on a board. Sad thing is tourists buy those. We all get sucked into the culture catered for us at some point, somewhere.
And with every turn down an alleyway, I found a moment between building and vine, stray cat and doorway, iron rod fence and flowers that made me stop, pull out my camera, and sweat away in the hot sun for that picture of the "moment." I would have taken a photo of trash cans if they were next to a wall of fantastic graffiti. There's something about these Mediterranean destinations that pulls my eye in and makes everything seem more romantic, even garbage and vandalism.
A city of vast expanses, charm and grit, and constant inspiration rising from every crowded street and pile of rubble. Athens has a history that will forever express itself. I like this city.