Before actually going to Athens, I pictured dirt roads weaving in and out of fields full of ancient ruins. Of course, I knew it was more of a lively city than anything else, but I still associated it with Greek gods in ancient times. And even though it is a bustling city, there are plenty of ruins all throughout it, sometimes just feet from the highway.
Something else you’ll find all over the city are stray and abandoned dogs, most of them still wearing their collars; they are literally on every corner, on every street, and sprawled out in every patch of grass.
We found ourselves wanting to feed them and pet them, but we were warned that these dogs were not healthy and that we shouldn’t get near them. But that just couldn’t stop us completely… we did
find ourselves with a few homeless dog friends who followed us around a few places because we fed them what bread we’d brought for our lunch that day. Don’t worry, we didn’t touch them, and we weren’t attacked; we just couldn’t bare the sight of so many hopeless, hungry dogs that had been so heartlessly abandoned.
Anyway, we made it all the way up to the Acropolis and were able to see the Parthenon, a few ancient theaters, statues, and other ancient ruins. Looking back now, I’m still in a stage of shock that we saw and even touched some of the actual structures that we studied in high school and college. Amanda and I took some time to journal as we sat at the top of the Theater of Dionysus, looking down on the stage where actors used to entertain thousands of people. A view of Athens was laid out across the horizon, modern buildings and ancient ruins mingling together. As we sat atop those old marble seats with grass sprouting from the cracks, we wrote about what we were seeing, feeling, and experiencing. These few minutes made up what has become one of my fondest memories in Europe.
Another one of my favorite memories in Greece was when we’d find our way to a little square in the city center, where I’d buy a gyro and some gelato, and we’d sit in this square each day and enjoy the sounds and sights of Greece.
There were men playing instruments, trying to earn what money they could. There were fruit stands and nut stands set up at every corner, where strawberries or pistachios were piled high and sold by the bag.
As we walked along the roads, little children playing their accordions serenaded us. On the subways, little girls would hold out their little money cups, smile, and sing loudly in Greek. I remember listening to a young girl with a long black braid sing from the other end of the subway as I looked out the window and watched orange and lemon trees in people’s front yards pass us by.
Athens was definitely the city of citrus fruits & street performers and beggars, but it’s also the city of nightlife. I’ve learned about myself over the past few months that I’m kind of a grandma. Instead of going out late at night, sometimes I’d rather just watch a movie or go to bed. But in Athens, our friend Ryan took us out on the town one night, and we had such a good time; we ate pizza at a nice restaurant, then we sat outside of another restaurant and listened to the music pouring from a club down the street. It was surprising to see people still out and about when we left to catch the last subway at 2:00 AM; Ryan said that most people stay out all night and catch the subway when it opens again at 5:30 AM. When we questioned him about how they can stay up all night and work all day, he reminded us that Greece is not like America—most people prefer laziness over hard work, so they have afternoon breaks from 2-5. Most Greeks take a nap or rest a little, and even when they do work, it’s not with the intensity that most Americans do, so they are always fully rested and ready for a night on the town.
Ryan is a friend of ours who we know from Pineywoods, a church camp that Amanda, Rachel, and I have worked at for years. He’s lived in Athens most of his life with his parents, who are missionaries. He was our very own tour guide and translator, which made our experience of Athens city life and nightlife so much better! His parents, who travel all over the world, happened to be at home during this time, and they housed and fed us during our stay. They were hospitable and kind, thoughtful and protective. The way they live and love as Christian examples is completely inspiring, and I feel blessed to have met them. To help say thank you for their hospitality, Amanda, Rachel and I crashed the Greek super market and bought what we could to make something as close to a Tex Mex meal as Greek ingredients would allow. We had to improvise a little, but the meal was a success, and Ryan’s family absolutely loved it. The one downside was that it wasn’t spicy enough, so Ryan’s dad brought out this special dried and crushed pepper for us to try. As a disaster-relief missionary, he travels all over the world to places in need; he got this specific kind of pepper from Armenian locals during a mission trip there. We sprinkled it on our fajitas, and it was amazing. He saw how much I loved the spice, so he immediately went to the kitchen, found an empty spice bottle, and started scooping every bit of this dried pepper into the bottle. I continued eating, not really knowing what he was doing, but then he handed me the bottle. I refused to take it, of course, because he’d gotten it from such a special place and special people. But he refused to NOT let me take it. He smiled, looked me in the eye, and asked, “Is this spice more special than you?” After a short pause and a smile of recognition that he’d found a way to make me have to take his spice, I reluctantly (but gratefully) put the bottle in my pocket as if it was a piece of gold. It’s by far my favorite souvenir, just like Greece is by far one of my favorite countries.
Ryan & Amanda
Greek Changing of the Guards
(yes, they really wear this…)
For those of you who’ve read my blog since the beginning, you’ll appreciate the fact that I actually saw the CHANGE happen this time!
Greek Lays 🙂