The title is certainly not giving the city justice, with its charming old town, historic sites, faboulous market streets and great restaurants, and the many different neighbourhoods it has to offer. Sadly though, the highlight of our stay in Athens was not the city, but what happened right on the first day: While waiting for the handover of the holiday apartment and passing some time walking in the old town, our rental car was broken open and my dad’s and mine entire suitcases stolen. I was left with the clothes on my body, a credit card and ID card – and kilos of salt from the stay in Missolonghi, which I had kept in a separate bag (thank God for that!). I later made a list of items for the police and realized that almost 4000€ worth of items had been stolen, just from my bag.
After that incident, which was a greater shock for me than I would have thought, my perspective on Athens was probably somewhat negatively biased. Still, we all noticed that especially the city center of Athens had gone down since the last time we saw it. Grafittis everywhere to an extent that looked like nobody cared, shady groups of men standing around on the streets at night (without wanting to sound racist here, they did not look Greek). I did not feel entirely comfortable. But yes, the robbery contributed. Imagining the thieves going through my personal belongings, commenting and tossing them away, made me feel quite vulnerable. In addition to the practical aspects of not having any tampons, underwear or contact lense solution. (You should have seen me trying to explain “tampons” to the male pharmacy employee who had no idea what I was talking about. Greek women, like Indians, seem to prefer bloody diapers, a miracle to me).
It took us two days to deal with the practicalities of going to several police stations like in a kafkaesque story, talking to insurances (with a sobering outcome) and replacing the most important items (I got a bit carried away here, shopping things that did not really qualify as important). After that we began recovery and did a good job of continuing to enjoy our holidays, enjoying the view from our roof top terace (see picture) among others.
Among the highlights of our stay were the fact that for two days each we lived in two equally known but very different neighbourhoods – Plaka (central, but run-down/artsy) and Kolonaki (posh, boutique style), exposing us to very different perspectives. We also much enjoyed the market streets seemed with little food shops and to be honest also the touristy streets with their olive tree cutlery and jewelry. But the best discovery was probably a small neighbourhood called Anafiotika, which was a island style village nested next to the Acropolis hill. It is named after the island Anafi, where its dwellers came from about 150 years ago. They settled there as a group, designing the houses in the style they knew from their home. It was an unexpected find on the way up to the Acropolis (which was closed that day, another strike). Having mentioned all this, I should add in all honesty that I spent a good part of my time shopping at the usual international chains, using the theft as a welcome excuse.
Despite the unfortunate incident, we did enjoy Athens and even talked about returning in autumn, though with a better eye on our luggage.