My first impression of Greece was that it isn’t nearly as conservative as South Korea. As soon as I got off of the plane and into Athens International Airport, I noticed the difference immediately. After my mini-revelation, I took off the cardigan that was hiding my spaghetti-strapped summer dress and thought, “I’ve a feeling I’m not in Korea anymore!”
The second thing I learned about Greece is that almost everyone there speaks English. While on the metro from the airport to my hostel, I met an amiable Greek woman who gave me some of the 411 on her country. Apparently, almost everyone in Greece knows English because the only place where their language is useful is, well, Greece; therefore, English has been taught in Greek schools for a long time. This turned out to be very true: In the four and a half days I was in Greece, I met only one person who didn’t speak English.
The first thing I learned about Athens is that it’s DIRTY, like, we’re talking graffiti-on-every-wall-of-every-street dirty. After I booked my flight to Athens, I read on Nomadic Matt’s travel site that “Athens is a dump”, and he’s right. Evidently, Greece’s capital city is nothing like its islands.
What I Did and Where I Went
Even though I made the wrong choice of visiting Athens, rather than say, Santorini, I decided I would make the best of my four-day-stay in Greece’s capital.
My first day in Greece, I decided to take it easy since I was tired and jet-lagged from my long journey from Korea the previous day. I took a city walk tour with people from my hostel, went to the flea market, and wandered around Monastiraki, my hostel’s neighborhood.
By my second day in Greece, I was rejuvenated and ready for a full day of sightseeing: I hiked the Acropolis Hill, saw the Parthenon Temple and the Temple of Zeus, and I checked out the National Archeological Museum all for free! Apparently Monday was a national religious holiday in Greece, so all of the sights in Athens were free to the public. I was so happy about saving 20 euro, I celebrated by buying myself an ice cream cone.
Despite the fact that I was in Athens, I was still determined to go to a Greek island, even if I had to swim there myself. My hostel informed me that a day trip to Hydra and Aegina Islands were an option because they’re the closest islands to Greece, so a day trip it was. I spent my third and fourth days in Greece laying on the beaches of Aegina Island and listening to the sound of the ocean.
What I Ate
I liked Greek food before I went to Greece, but now that I’ve been to Greece and had authentic Greek cuisine, I LOVE Greek food. It’s possible that I love Greek food more than Mexican food, and as part Mexican, I think that says a lot. I think the reason I love Greek food so much is because it consists of a lot of foods I like: chicken, pork, beef, pitas, tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil, cucumbers, and most importantly, FRENCH FRIES. Another great thing about Greek food is it’s cheap; the most I paid for a meal was 8 euro; the least I paid was 2 euro.
With the exception of the endless graffiti, I loved everything about Greece: the people were welcoming and friendly, the food was delicious, Athens was ridiculously easy to navigate (their metro only has four lines), and the country is one of the cheapest countries in Europe. I also liked how old-fashioned and slow-paced Greece is: I only saw one smart phone the whole time I was there and not a single Kindle or ipad. Also, it felt like I was there for a good, solid week, rather than four days.
So would I go back to Greece? I wouldn’t go back to Athens, but the rest of the Greek islands? Definitely.