Icewhistle travel report: Athens

posted: 17 April, 2009
True ”travel” - not for work, not to play a show, not to visit family  - feels slightly strange to me. 

Also strange is stepping into a huge city - a ”real” city if I may be a bit condescending towards where I live - after so many months in the dreamworld that is Helsinki.
I went to Paris in February for work and that was a minor jolt, but I felt it more in Athens.  12 times as many people live in Athens than in Helsinki.  The city is huge.
There’s litter and it’s loud and there’s people everywhere and you can buy things after 9 PM and you can get a bottle of wine in the supermarket and there’s little old dirty shops everywhere, and the streets aren’t all perfectly paved, the sidewalk is uneven,
There’s graffiti, and many gorgeous old buildings.  It’s cheap to rent an apartment that is so big, you can’t touch all four walls at once, (Which doesn’t sound so amazing til you’ve lived in Helsinki).

There’s a lively market district that’s unfortunately located close to the site of some terrifying recent machete murders.
 Here you’ll find all sorts of flayed animal carcasses for sale,plus an impressive assortment of vegetables, herbs, spices, and the usual plastic junk that infects modern marketplaces like a disease.
There’s a million little cafés and tavernas, all filed with coffee-swilling elderly Greek men, such as this one.  It was slightly intimidating to enter,  yet provided that complicated ”authenticity” that all travelers seek.

Of course there’s the obligatory tourist stuff - the beginnings of Western Civilisation are certainly worthy of a visit (plus entrance is  free for EU students).
I’m sure Alain deBotton or someone has already written on this, but the whole time I was on this holiday, I found myself thinking not about Athens but constantly about Helsinki (and a little about Pittsburgh and Glasgow and all of the other places I’ve lived).  Comparisons are impossible to avoid, sure, but the differences between Athens and Helsinki really illuminated how much my everyday reality has shifted since I moved here.  I’m not complaining about Helsinki - there are wonderful things about it - but the excitement of a city with a pulse is hard to deny.
Of course we visited Aegina - to get to see this - the classic image of what Greece is ”supposed” to look like.
Did I mention the food?
Or the drinks?
Additionally: Great people (hooray to Panagiotis of Phase!/Reverse Mouth for his amazing hospitality), great record stores, great food (worth saying again), and great weather.  Credit where it's due: All photos were taken by Tara, pretty much.
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