I arrived in Athens July 2. The flight from Istanbul was uneventful, but the security checks and preparation required for moving between Turkey and Greece were daunting – sigh. What was I thinking to travel internationally during the covid pandemic?
This time, I stapled the covid vaccination card to my passport. During previous flights, I thought I’d lost it a gazillion times, but found it in the bottom of my bag at the end of a hectic day.
Luckily, my paperwork was in order, but getting to the departure gate at IST required multiple security screenings and presenting the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) over and over. It would have been easier to just tattoo the PLF QR code on my forehead!
I sat next to two rough-and-tumble Saudis during the Aegean Airlines flight. I didn’t pay extra for a seat selection on a 1.5-hour flight and was seated at the window, sandwiched in by two BIG Saudi guys. They practically climbed over me to get aerial shots of the Greek Islands. I came close to smacking one of them, and they backed off a bit. Gory images of Jamal Khashoggi flashed through my mind…
Athens is an endearing place, and I’m comfortable here. It’s a big change from Istanbul. Undecided if I’ll spend my entire 90-day EU allotment in Greece – maybe so? My apartment is comfortable, and I had a refreshing night’s sleep. It’s in the popular Koukaki neighborhood at the foot of the Acropolis and Filopappos Hill. I’m still getting oriented and organized, taking care of the humdrum – SIM card, metro pass, Euros, etc.
In Greece, you’re required to physically distance, but face masks aren’t mandatory when outside. That’s great, because in the heat, it’s miserable walking and climbing hills with a mask.
THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO IN ATHENS! It’s a wild and crazy place. My apartment is 5 minutes’ walk from the Syngrou-Fix Metro station. During my last visit in 2013, Athens was in the midst of austerity demonstrations in Syntagma Square. Now, Greece is part of the EU.
My apartment is in an interesting residential district, within walking distance to just about anything your heart could desire. The following attractions are a 10-15-minute walk away, and I will visit them several times. The hour of the day and position of the sun or moon creates fascinating reflections on the structures:
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- Acropolis Museum
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Athens National Gardens
It was dark by the time I ventured out last night, and every block I walked had two or more outside pubs overflowing with locals – afterall, it was Friday night. Although the Greek economy is slow, the people are calm and sweet. Athens has a soft, appealing ambience, and everyone I’ve encountered so far has been warm and welcoming.
The weather is hot, like the US West Coast, but today it’s only in the 90s, rather than 100s. My apartment is air-conditioned, so if things get too heated, I can retreat there. I unknowingly got a “farmer’s tan” with funny-looking t-shirt marks on my arms.
Athens is a good place to get a performing arts fix. They have outdoor concerts all summer at the Megaron Athens Concert Hall. A variety of artists and music are presented. The Musicians of Camerata are performing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on July 15, and I hope to get a ticket.
I talked to locals about less-touristed outlying areas to visit and am researching interesting suggestions – Milos Island, known as a “beaches paradise,” Kalambaka Village, and Preveza, described as a Greek “seaside gem and serious bucket-list adventure”.