Some places take time to grow on you… sort of like the flavor of string beans or sparkling water. Athens, appears to be a run down city like a lot of what I saw in Spain last fall, with graffiti everywhere, and unclean streets and buildings. It’s also a very busy city. Well over half of Greece’s population is molded and pushed and shoved into the boundaries of this city, causing what I would call chaos. I would say that over 90% of the vehicles on the street of the city are taxis, and the rest are fancy bmws and peugots driven by the more wealthy of the residents.
We did our own little self-tour of the acropolis the first day, and must admit that we couldn’t have picked a better time of year. If we had waited until mid-April or even May, the tourists would be pouring in, and the temperature would be close to the 100s (f). Having summer weather might be nice for some, but when you want to be hiking up ancient ruins every day, you would be sweating your brains out. Not a great idea.
It wasn’t until the third day when we went outside of the city center that I really began to have a better feel for the culture or just the overall atmosphere. Although you can’t find rustic island life along the coast, there are some beautiful beaches and small towns to stop in and just spend an hour or two. We hopped on the tram and road it out of the city down to Voula where I made my first attempt at getting in the water. The beach there was very fine gravel, but unkempt since it was the off season for the beach owners. So instead of swimming here, we ate our lunch from Paul’s bakery, and then moved on down south a little. The second beach wasn’t even a ten minute walk from the previous. Here is was more rocky, with a few locals, but the water was crystal clear and beautiful! Although the water is quite chilly at this time of year, there were some elderly ladies out swimming, insisting that it was refreshing and good for the body… but because I didn’t bring swim shoes or fins, I didn’t get in too far because of the danger of sea urchins. Ouch. I know I should have risked it. ;P
Third stop down along the coast on bus 122 was Vouligami lake (can’t spell it right). It is a mineral spring, fed by the ocean (so salt water), with rejuvenating minerals in the water. It was close to twenty degrees warmer than the ocean, and so worth the nine euros that it costs to get in! Upon entering the water, you cannot only see the lake bed, but can also watch as small minnows eat away at the dead skin on your feet. I could touch the floor in most of the lake, but then again I am 6 feet tall. Here, we talked to a local gentleman who was kind enough to tell us about the history of the region, as well as the sights to go see around. To me, this is more inviting than a tour from a guide or reading it out of a book.
Overall, it was a once in a lifetime experience… and to get to visit Greece with my aunt was also an experience in itself. J I am sorry that I can’t share much more than that. I have had very little spare time this spring break, but hope to write more soon about our ongoing trip to Belgium and France this second week!