In 1987 Dan’s parents left Poland claiming they were going on vacation to Greece but actually planning on leaving Poland permanently. They drove to Greece and lived just outside of Athens for just over two years before little Henryk Daniel Palyska was born in Athens, Greece. In 1991, once their immigration papers passed, the family of three picked up and moved countries again – this time to Canada – and Dan has since never been back to his birthplace. Therefore, when planning our around the world trip, Athens was a must-see place.
Our first day in Athens was a right-off and a very frustrating but is written about in a separate post (The Rough Luck Continues Another Day), as to not taint this post.
We stayed about a 30 minute walk from Athens main attractions in a slightly run-down neighborhood. The area was predominantly Arabic and we found some excellent cheap food spots. It was also where, for the first time in the two months we’ve been travelling through Europe, we saw the Syrian refugees that are all over the news. The main square next to the apartment we were in was taken over with tents and families. There must have been well over a hundred people there, almost half of them children. We didn’t interact with anyone there, except for one time where I caught a little boy who had run away from his mom down the street and darted into oncoming traffic mid-way across the crosswalk(!!); and we exchanged smiles when I plopped him back on the ground in front of her (she must have temporarily lost sight of him as she was running down the street).
We have no photos of the make-shift camp site; we had planned on returning with our camera on our last day and when we did the entire square was completely emptied. Every tent was gone, all of the garbage that had been all over the ground was cleaned up and riot police were everywhere. It appeared that a few strangler refugees remained and were sternly being told to move by the police. We couldn’t understand any of the signs people were holding up and didn’t know what had happened. Later, our Airbnb host explained that the Greek government had cleared out every square in the city and moved all the refugees to a large stadium outside the city.
Our second day in the city we split up and while I relaxed in a coffee shop and explored the food market, Dan tore around town on a rental bike. He claims a bike is the BEST way to see Athens as the streets have very few rules and bikes can easily weave in and out of traffic beating most cars, especially during rush-hour. You can take the bike in the pedestrian areas and even carry it over stairs, for example to get to the top of Lofos Likavitou for these beautiful views:
We shopped at the local markets for veggies and made dinner for next-to-nothing almost every night in Athens. Once, we tried to go out for a nice Greek meal and after examining the prices on the menu posted outside, sat down. When we were given our menus the prices were significantly higher (2€ tacked onto a 9€ dish) and we learned that the menu outside was takeout prices. Frustrated that this was, in our opinion, false advertising we left and just went home to cook dinner. We definitely took advantage of cheap gyro pitas for lunch though!
The Athenian acropolis, is a of course a must while visiting the city. We visited it together in the afternoon and were astounded at the scale and beauty of the area. The entrance fee to the Acropolis of Athens was 12€ each and included a few other sites we didn’t get the chance to visit.
I always find it interesting that I was so dis-interested in history in high school but find it so intriguing when it’s right in front of me (making me wish I paid better attention in school and knew more about all the places we’ve been). To make up for it, I’m trying to read historical fiction novels on places we’ve been or are going to. I just finished a series based in Rome and might have to try one in Athens next!
Like every major site we’ve seen this year in Europe, the Parthenon was covered in scaffold; however, in this case I believe its permanent. The sign was extremely confusing as it said the rehabilitation of the site was completed in 2004 thus leading us to believe the scaffold isn’t going anywhere. The sign also mentioned the use of metal tubes as supports but the scaffold that was erected didn’t look structural at all. So, no idea what it’s actually for or if it’s staying.