Well, you already know that Athens has been more than adventure for me. Getting robbed isn’t the only reason for this though. Whenever I go on a trip, I try to make sure to step out of the comfort zones that tourists usually find themselves in and transform my mind into the one of an explorer. This way I create a deeper connection to the places and its people and leave a lasting footprint wherever I go. Sometimes, these things don’t happen on purpose. My time in Athens is not only a tale of getting robbed, it is also a story of getting lost. Don’t worry, getting lost is usually not a bad thing. It often takes you places which you otherwise wouldn’t encounter. Why not walk around the corner and see what’s there?
Walking only a few meters instead of heading straight to the tourist attraction might surprise you with whatever is hiding there. Take advice from locals, they know the place that you find yourself in and their ideas will lead you off the beaten path. This way Corrie and I found a little gem called “To Kati Allo” (Chatzichristou 11, near Acropolis Museum), a family-run restaurant, hidden between tourist-influenced establishments in the buzzing Acropolis area. They offer authentic Greek cuisine and the hosts are just lovely. If you don’t know what to choose from their menu, make sure to ask!
Going a little further and extending your paths might take you to captivating places. Why not walk up a hill other than the Acropolis hill and indulge in the breathtaking views this offers you? The perfect spot for this is the Filopappou hill in the centre of Athens. The scenery there is indescribable. What I found is that Athens is one of the strangest yet most all-consuming cities I have ever visited. The neighbourhoods range from touristic to upscale to a sub-cultural almost run-down atmosphere. When you’re on top of a hill, the sheer size of the city is incomparable. I have never seen a city that stretches so far to the horizon and yet has no skyscrapers or sites that you regularly associate with a capital city.
Our paths took us even further. Outside the boundaries of Athens, to the countryside. Even though you’re telling people that you’re going on a city trip, this doesn’t mean that your trails are limited. They day after I got robbed Corrie and I decided we needed time to breathe. In an impetuous mind, we rented a car and just left. We decided to drive down the coastline to Sounio with our roadtrip ending at the famous Temple of Poseidon.
But for us, this trip wasn’t about reaching the destination, it was about the journey itself. Stop at random corners, get out of the car, breathe in the salty air and let the sun streams touch your skin. Needless to say, the cape of Sounio is magnificent. Imagine a temple on top of a hill, close to the cliffs where the sea gently touches the earth.
You might think that this adventure was the day that stuck with me the most. Actually, it is only number two on my list of my favourite moments in Athens. My personal highlight was the day that followed our roadtrip. Me not being a religious person, I would have never thought that I’d actually say that a trip to a Greek Monastery would take me in as much as it did. The Kaisariani Monastery is located just outside the outlines of Athens. It is literally a 20-minute drive to this enchanting place. Arrive in the early morning and you will be completely alone there. Walk around the monastery’s premises and try to imagine what it must have felt like when monks used to wander around.
Since the sanctuary is fairly small, take your time to walk up Mount Ymittos. What we found there was pure serendipity: farmers being indulged in their daily routine of picking an olive tree. We couldn’t help but stop and admire their continuous effort in shaking the tree and picking up every single olive that hit the ground. After being engaged in a conversation that mainly consisted of smiles, hand movements and a few words that we exchanged in English and Greek, Corrie and I started picking up the olives ourselves. It is such a monotonous yet rewarding work and we could almost imagine ourselves doing this as elderly people.
After this, we couldn’t leave this place yet. We hopped back into our car and drove up the mountain. This journey took us around winding roads with the fear of crashing down one of the edges but we couldn’t resist driving up higher and higher. When we finally reached the top, another jaw-dropping view awaited us.
If you are craving for moments like these as much as I do, walk off the beaten path – and sometimes just sit on a street without being afraid that a car might hit you.