Choose the Acropolis. Choose the Ancient Agorà. Choose Plaka. Choose Kolonaki. Choose the shopping on Ermou Street. Choose the marbles, the history, and the museums. Choose the cobbled streets, the souvenir shops and the panoramic view from the terrace of a fancy restaurant. Choose the cruise. Choose an idyllic Greek island. Choose the beach, the sea, the sun, and the cocktails with little umbrellas sticking out of the top. Choose to suck life in a disciplined way through a brightly-coloured straw.
It took me one hour just to find the path that goes through the wood to the monastery of Agiatrias, the first Orthodox monastery on the Meteora hiking trail. This was how I became familiar with hiking.
In my defence, I only had a basic tourist map found at the hotel, one of those maps focusing on restaurants and shops rather than on trails and useful directions. But, again, this was how I became familiar with hiking.
“Are you going to the islands?” an old man approached me outside Thessaloniki train station.
“Nope, I’m staying in town,” I replied, folding the city map and hiding it in my pocket.
“Why aren’t you going to the islands? Everybody goes to the islands to drink ouzo and party on the beach. I can help you find a ticket to go to the islands.”
I asked him to show me the way to the hotel instead but, since he was firmly convinced that, as a foreigner with a backpack, I must head to the islands, I said goodbye and took the first street away from the station.
Here we are at the last post of this Athens series, wrapping up my amazing trip to the capital of Greece. Before going to Athens, I wrote that my “mission” would have been to investigate how Balkan is Athens and now I can say that, despite an initial scepticism, I found a lot of Balkan vibes in Athens indeed. Food markets, bazaars, kiosks, shoe-shine men and vendors on the streets… you will spot the Balkan side of Athens just strolling around the city centre; for a further investigation, you can attend a live music concert, look for the Ottoman architectural heritage or eat at one of the many street food kiosks, where you will find the best Balkan recipes and –it goes without saying- the ubiquitous meat.
Athens is a motley town: each neighborhood has its own characteristic traits and atmosphere, a distinctive soul you can breath with a simple walk across its streets. Downtown Athens can be easily explored by walk, strolling from one district to another in less than few hours, leaving you the time to jump on a train or a bus and head to a suburban area. I really liked Athens’ suburbs and I was amazed by that fact that it didn’t take me long to get there: in fact, Athens public transport is really well-structured, which allowed me to explore so many areas of Athens in just one week, with an efficiency that could not have been possible in –let’s say- Rome.