I learned more about Greek and Roman culture than I had any other culture growing up having studied Latin for five consecutive years. However, as the years passed, I had forgotten almost all that I learned. Nonetheless, I was excited to visit Greece to refresh my memory, meet up with friends, and see the place that has been highly duplicated in various ways across the globe. Some of Greece’s contributions to the world include philosophy, the birth of the official Olympic Games, and literature. As a student of post-colonial culture, I haven’t been able to escape Hanna Arendt who wrote extensively about Greek politics in her text the Human Condition. Passionate lectures by our professor about the Vita Activa, the Agora, and the Greek Polis made me excited to see Greece and contemporary film hits such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Life in Ruins filled my head with Greek stereotypes.
And so I left the lukewarm city of London and landed in a pleasantly warm Athens airport at the end of May. I took a short taxi ride to Glyfada where I stayed for the bulk of my short trip. Glyfada is a short distance from central Athens, has a great night life, a variety of restaurants, shopping, and decent beaches. Wikipedia calls it the Beverly Hills of Athens. I didn’t get to see too much of Glyfada to verify that statement, but Glyfada is a lovely town.
By the time I reached my hotel I was tired and hungry. The hotel restaurant was closed and there was no room service (this was a very well-appointed yet no frills establishment). Assured of my safety, I took off by foot to downtown Glyfada. In less than 10 minutes I stopped at one of the first places I saw: The Bobo Restaurant.
It was a combination of Boston Market and McDonalds. In other words it was fast food with a home-cooked flare. I had a chicken kebab garnished with fries, two snack pitas, and a salad. I swear no matter what part of Europe I travel to, fries are added to every meal. At the very least, I know that I can always find something on the menu that I can eat. My first night in Greece was uneventful. After dinner, I watched TV and went to sleep.
The next day I woke up refreshed and headed to the beach for the first time since 2007. When I told my landlady I went to the beach she was surprised as she thought I had an aversion to the beach. I told her my aversion was not to the beach itself, but to bathing suits. The beach was less than five minutes from the hotel. However, I made a detour to pick up some bits from town: a beach towel, beach bag, snacks, and a journal. As I walked around town I couldn’t help but notice how friendly the Greeks were. As I paid for items or was approached in stores, everyone spoke to me in Greek until I explained to them that I spoke English only. This warm reception was quite opposite to that which I experienced in Croatia. Glyfada was diverse and I saw a range of people who were noticeably of African and Asian descent. Thus, I was treated as if I could be a citizen of Greece and not just a tourist. In Croatia, on the other hand, I was approached as the “other” or as the person who didn’t belong and people were immediately trying to place me. “Are you Spanish?” one person asked. “American right?” another person beckoned. No matter where they thought I was from, the obvious in Croatia was that I was not from there.
When I finally arrived at the beach, the sun was glaring down on me, but the sea breeze countered the heat and I was in pure bliss. I read, wrote, listened to music, ate, contemplated, and took in the scenery. I wasn’t at the beach long when the sun gave way to clouds, rain, lightening, and thunder. As I was prepared to head to back to my hotel, I encountered a Greek stereotype: the Greek man who adores black women. I indulged the stranger and spent some time chatting with my new friend at a café on the beach which provided the perfect cover from the rain. When the rain stopped, we headed back to the beach, but eventually the rain returned and I decided to bid my friend farewell as I dashed back to my hotel in order to plan my next move.
Torrential downpours thwarted any further planning so I sat at a café and chilled in my hotel until I met up with one of my childhood friends from Coatesville. Talking to my friend was refreshing and uplifting because we both share the joy and pain of living miles away from our friends and family. We talked about getting our favorite foods shipped to us, reminisced about our college days, old friends, and family. While Skype, Facebook, and other technology has made it easier to keep in touch, there is nothing like having the opportunity to catch up with a close friend in person. Moments like that I cherish the most.
The next morning I woke up early and headed to central Athens by tram. The tram ride was about an hour from Glyfada. Once in Athens, I decided to get on the hop-on-hop-off tour bus. They have these tour buses in various cities across the globe and I have been dying to experience a city from the top of a bus. Normally, I would walk around a city endless, but the tour bus provided a great way to see the city in the least amount of time and the least amount of pain to my feet! For the most part, I stayed on the bus, but hopped off and spent a great amount of time viewing the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis, the Agora, and other sites. The remnants of these edifices were no doubt massive and impressive. However, there were certain instances where I could only sum up what I saw as “a bunch of old rocks.” I wasn’t entirely moved by what I saw, but just took it in as a part of history.
Later that evening, I met up with a friend of mine whom I befriended in Philadelphia. She was doing a tour of Greece through her graduate school program. We headed towards Plaka where there were tons of eateries and souvenir shops. After we ate, we were showered with attention from the Greek men. It felt good to be the object of attention (in a good way). My friends and I no doubt took advantage and had a great night in Plaka which also was my last night in town.
My final day in Greece I woke up early and caught the tram back into Glyfada where I met up with my new friend. Although I tried hard to avoid it, we ended up at Starbucks. After a light snack, drink, and conversation, I grabbed my bags from my hotel and headed to the airport.
I don’t know when, but I can guarantee that I will return to Greece in the near future. The beaches were lovely, the people were friendly and warm, and there is still so much left to discover from the countryside, to other historical monuments, and to the famous islands. If Greece isn’t in your travel plans, I strongly suggest adding it to your shortlist of vacations in the future!