Athens – A Wonderful Wander

Our strategy is this, we do the big walking tour yesterday, to get the low down on all the things that are worth checking out.

Today, we go around and check out the things that caught our attention through the tour and hit the spots that we wanted to see outside of the tour.

We sleep in, and Bec decides that we are going to go out for brunch. She does a bit of trawling through the inter webs until she finds a pretty decent place for us to go and check out. Where we are staying is just outside the main centre of the city, so we are only a little walk from pretty much anywhere.

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We zig zag all the way along and find all these amazing little places to hang out. If money wasn’t an option, we could have spent all day just bar hopping throughout the suburbs.

Each suburb seems to have it’s own little vibe to it, and within each suburb there are streets that have their own feel again. Its like the whole place constantly evolves and changes as you walk through it.

We get to the place where Bec has found for us to eat, and there is all these tables and chairs set up out the front. Its looks like a pretty awesome spot to hang out, and I am down. Its almost like a gentleman’s bar, bit its a cafe, instead of being a bar. Bec looks at me a bit funny “I think this is it”
“Well, is it the place?”
“…I think so”
“Hey mate. Just a table for two, and could we have a look at the menu please?”
*in very a greek-like, greek accent “I am sorry, we no serve food”
I look to Bec, and Bec looks at me. I know that she is meticulous with choosing where to go. I am more the kinda guy who is like “Oh yeah, that place is open. We might get rabies, but at least it is open”. I think i mentioned in a blog post earlier during the trip that for Bec, food is a good investment of time, every time.

For me, unless I have planned of spending time intentionally relaxing and kicking back eating with someone, it is a task that must be completed as quickly as possible so that we can continue with the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love eating well, and I love just hanging out with the people I love over a drink or food or something, but if we are out and about, I just wanna get food in my belly and keep moving. I’ve really had to learn to just take a back seat when it comes to this on this trip. There have been times when we have literally been wandering for a good 45 mins, trying to find the right place to eat.

But! This is the trade-off. Bec’s profession is a chef, so she wants to enjoy good food.

I am a photographer, and I want to get good photos.

I cannot tell you how many times we have stopped on the side of the road for that “one elusive shot”, and Bec hasn’t complained, so it is only fair that we sometimes spend 45 minutes finding the right place to go and eat.

Geeeeeeeeting back to my story… I look at Bec and she is equally confused. She’s not the sort to make a mistake like this, but the map says that this is where it is. We decide to just wander until we find a good spot to eat. We continue walking the way that we were heading. Not a moment after we cross the road, we lift our eyes, and would you believe that the place that we were meant to eat at is right in front of us.

Bec is way happier. She had a place in mind, and she got the spot she was after in the end.

We sit down, and these Europeans have this innate ability to be able to sense when you are not from their country, so they straight away bring out their menu with a dirty big “English” on it.

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Very perceptive…

We have been told that we have to try Greek coffee. We tried the normal coffee thing, where you order a cappuccino and go along your merry way. But, Greek coffee is something else. Greek coffee (as far as I have been made aware) is like normal coffee, except there are coffee grinds at the bottom of your cup. It usually an espresso also, so it is just bulk coffee all in one hit.

You really gotta time how you drink the coffee though, otherwise you’ll end up with a mouthful of finely ground coffee that you’ll be picking out of your teeth for the next half hour.

Trust me…

I know.

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We order our coffees and order some brekky. We sit there and enjoy watching the people pass us by. Dudes riding down pedestrian only paths with their scooters, the oldies just hanging out on park benches together, chatting about the issues with Greece and how it should be solved. Families kicking around and parents out playing with the kids.

One thing I noticed really quickly was that there is a big difference with the way that European families spend time together, and how Australia families spend time together. People are often spending their time outside, in and amongst the community with the kids. So often in Australia just spend their family time at home in the backyard and stuff. There really isn’t the same level of community involvement as there is the European countries.

Its really cool to see.

Our food ends up coming out, and I get my meal, which is all mickey mouse, and I start tucking in. Bec’s egg thing comes out, and it is literally just cooked on the outermost surface. The rest of the egg whites are as runny as they can get.

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No exaggeration.

We ask for another egg, and we end up waiting literally half an hour for the egg to come out. Turns out that they decided to make the whole dish again. What is better, is that they then decided to charge us for the shotty meal. The waitress was too much of a headache to deal with, so we just paid the money and bailed.

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We walk further down the strip, and there is a cool mix of people just chilling and enjoy the day passing by, and people hustling at work. Its kinda cool to see them both in action at the same time. Usually its either people are just kicking back, or people are working. We spotted a soft serve ice cream machine at another place, which just looked like you would get your cone and serve yourself. My kinda ice cream, so we decided to give it a whirl.

I got chocolate, Bec got vanilla.

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I cannot tell you how good it was. Soft serves are soft serves, except this soft serve. It was probably just way more loaded with sugar and fat, but if sugar and fat is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. I was just saying that to be cool, because I actually do wanna be healthy and stuff…

With our ice creams in hand, we decide to wander through the city and see what we come across. A good friend of ours told us that if we want to see a city for what it really is, just go and get lost among it. This is what we decided to do. We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go. We had a cheap bar in mind that we wanted to get to, but we just kinda took our time wandering to get there.

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As we were wandering, we came past the edge of Hadrian’s Library.

Just out the front of the library was this black guy, who pounced on us quicker than a cat on a mouse. He comes over to us and begins making friends with us. He tell us about how he is from Tanzania, and how he makes these woven bracelets for fun, and that he is giving them to us out of the goodness of his heart.

We are so skeptical, it isn’t even funny, and we begin checking out pockets to make sure that we still have everything. Bec is already carrying the bag on her front, as we began seeing more and more doing this also. He ties these Jamacian-like bracelets around our wrists and begin giving us some native blessing or whatever.

For all we know, he could have just been making up some joke with his mates about us, and we would have been none the wiser.

He keeps telling us that is just a gift, which is really just a way to lead up to asking for money. He then tells us that he and his mates are performing at the library at 8pm, and that we should come and watch. I’m like “Yeah. If we’ve got the time, we’ll come down”. He knew, I knew and Bec knew that we weren’t going to make it, so he begins telling us how he needs a donation.

Knew it.

I tell him that we pay for everything on card and we don’t have cash.

We did have cash, but I just didn’t trust someone who was giving braided bands out of the goodness of his heart, to then ask for money, with the location of my wallet.

He is visibly disappointed in us.

He’s acting like his kids have just come home completely hammered, after they told him that they were going to their nieces’s first birthday party. He’s that kinda disappointed in us. I cant stop laughing though. I cant believe this bloke, “So, this is not from your heart to us anymore?”
“Not anymore”

LITERALLY!

This bloke actually admits to my face that his gift is not from the goodness of his heart, and that we should have just giving him some money.

He unties the bracelets from our wrists, takes the bands off, walks away and doesn’t even turn around. I genuinely cant stop laughing. This guy fully just back peddled. He was all smiles, asking where we were from, wanting to shake our hands and fist bump us and everything, and then when we wouldn’t give him the $, the just completely backflipped.

It was the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. I mean, I’m all for hustle, but everyone has seen this act before, and this is the first time I have seen this in action personally.

Its a joke.

Bec turns to me, “You are too friendly, and you just don’t know how to at no. You are too friendly with people when you know what is going to happen”.

She is dead right. I am still learning how to just say no. I don’t wanna destroy someone’s soul for simply trying to make a buck, but then I always end up in these positions, so I just need to learn to not even engage in the first place.

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We keep walking and come across this old dog just kicking back in the middle of a square. He’s just chilling out and everyone is walking around him. One thing that we learnt yesterday which is really cool is how the government doesn’t try to get stray dogs adopted out or put down, instead they will tag them and let them chill out in public. There are all these laws around animal cruelty, and it seems so absurd because you would assume that the dogs would be aggressive and be a threat every now and then, but that is hardly the case.

The dogs just go about minding their own business, not bothering anyone and just doing life. Whats more is that people don’t even think twice. Its like they just pass by and everybody minds their own business. I remember talking with a city planner who was talking about a project to facilitate the homeless in living on the street better, rather than trying to shape them into what would fit into society’s mould. Its kinda like that. The strays can just so their thing, and everybody is cool with it.

We continue to zig zag through all these markets, and there is literally everything you can think of not ever needing in life for sale there. Even a giant wooden dildo. Cant ever seeing myself needing to buy that, and I cant see anyone buying something like that in broad daylight either.

Its just bulk flea markets, but somewhere among this flea market is one of the best and cheapest bars in Athens. We finally stumble across it, and it’s front door is hidden behind a stall full of records and books. Its not open, so we decide to go check out another bar, its a good half hour away, but we are just going to sit there and kick back. That is about all we intend on doing, so we are happy to walk through more of Athens to get to it.

At least this way, we get to see more of the city too.

We get to the bar, and its really fancy and way out of our price range. So, with this in mind, Bec and I decide to call it quits and just go get some beer from a corner store and just head to a park and have a drink there instead.

That is exactly what we did.

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We ended up heading back to the park that our tour guide took us yesterday and we just kicked back on the park bench and watched this one pigeon walk around trying to pick up other pigeon chicks. He must have been the new recruit on the footy team, cos none of the girls knew who he was, or wanted anything to do with him. But, he certainly thought that they should know who he is.

There is people watching, and when that fails, there is pigeon watching.

Only marginally less exciting, but exciting none the less.

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We sat on the bench and watched runners pas us while we sip on our beers. This is one thing that I am really going to miss. I love how pretty much everywhere in Europe, you can drink on the street. Its a whole new world over here, and I had no idea what I was missing out on. You wanna have a beer on the beach? Then have a beer on the beach!

You wanna have a wine in the park? Then have a wine in the park! Have a wine in any park you like! Its 100% quality.

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With a beer each left, we head home and play some cards on the balcony as the sun sets. We crank the chilled out jazz tunes on the laptop and chat over life and continue discussing our future plans and what we want our lives to look like and what we want our businesses to look like. I always get excited at the idea of what we are going to do in the future. The truth is that you never really know, but it is exciting to dream, and I figure that there is nothing wrong with dreaming and focussing on what you believe might actually be tangible, and the more you commit yourself to this idea of what you want to achieve, the more you get comfortable with the idea of it becoming a reality.

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I guess it kinda helps take the scare factor out of it a little.

We keep playing cards, and we were meant to have a nap, but that kinda fell through, and all of a sudden, we realise what time it is, and find ourselves having to hustle to get to this place called the Stavros Niarchos Centre, which is just an amazing;ly beautiful place to watch the sun go down.

We haven’t go much time, so we grab our stuff, leg it down to the bus station, and there is one bus leaving in only a few minutes. We finally get there in time, and the bus driver arrives, drops off all the passengers, and then looks me dead in the eye while he drives away. I am so confused, and I know that this is the only bus that will take us to the centre, so I begin running after it, thinking that there might be another spot that they pick up passengers from.

There are a whole load of people who are equally as confused.

One lady even ran after the bus driver, into the middle of the road, but got no attention or sympathy from him. I still to this day, have no idea what the hell was going on, but I am pretty sure that he was meant to stop at the bus stop.

We re assess the situation, and there is no way that we will be able to catch another bus in time to make the sunset.

We leave, confused, and one sunset down on the bucket list. We’re not overly upset though. We got to watch an amazing sunset last night, and that was awesome. This time, we are more than happy to just hang out together and chill. We head home via the Falafafellas, which is a well known falafel joint in Athens.

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So much so, that even the dogs that come with their owners start getting excited about it.

When you can make animals excited about a takeaway place, you know you are winning.

We sit on the bench with our falafels and tuck in for the next few mins. Its a good way to end the day.

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We head home, get packed and ready for an early night.

We have to be up at 1:30 in the morning for our flight, so we decide to take the headache out of the packing and just get everything ready now.

Athens has treated us well.

Do recommend.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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