I had been to Greece a few years ago on an island hopping vacation, but I was very excited to go back and finally visit the most famous tourist site in Athens that I had neglected to see on my first trip – the Acropolis, which I learned actually means “city on the edge.” For purposes of defense, ancient civilizations built the nucleus of their cities, the citadel, on higher ground hence the steep hike you have to take to see the iconic image everyone thinks of when you say “acropolis” -- the Parthenon, a temple to the Greek goddess Athena.
My hotel wasn’t too far and the weather was a very mild 65 degrees, so I walked there. On the way I saw many areas that I remembered exploring on my first visit, and I was immediately struck by how much slower the pace was without the tourist influx. The Acropolis complex was virtually empty by the time I got there so I was really able to take my time and look around at my leisure. On the way up to the Parthenon there are all sorts of ruins of old theaters, sculptures, cathedrals, etc. to look at, but of course none of that was anything compared to the temple itself. The view alone was magnificent but combined with the realization that I was standing in the same spot, and looking at the same structures, as ancient - as in 5 B.C. anciet - Grecians it was really something to behold.
This time around I felt I also got to see the true Athenian personality, and I have to say it wasn’t very welcoming! People were not as warm, friendly, or helpful as I remembered – everyone from the hotel staff to restaurant waiters had an air of no-nonsense abruptness about them. I guess the Athenian hospitality goes on hibernation for the winter.
The first night in town, we went out to fantastic Italian (go figure!) dinner with our local partners. Between wrapping up the day’s work and the horrendous Athens traffic it was already 10pm by the time we sat down to our meals. Apparently this was not uncommon for a regular Wednesday night because all throughout our meal people, some even with small children, were just being seated. Some were only getting their meals as we were enjoying our ouzo at midnight!
There is no doubt that Greece is definitely one of the more unique countries in Europe.