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I have yet to see a Greek spray Windex on his cuts and bruises, but certain aspects of Athens actualize what Ian was getting himself into in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
There are adjustments to be made while living in Hellas (the country’s Greek name). Strangers will touch you. Streets and signs look like hellish problems from your high school precalculus class. Don’t be shocked when rabbit is on the menu. Travelers, here is your forewarning: toilet paper is used, but not flushed.
It’s impossible to summarize Athens briefly or justly. Most of the public still imagines buildings of puritanically white marble etched with great faces of the past, but that’s the antithesis of Athens. The city’s tan buildings sprawl for miles, cloaking its hilly streets from a bird’s eye view. Although excessive graffiti mars most structures’ sides, incredible varieties of pine trees, palm trees and orange trees sprout from every balcony. The mountains fade gloriously into the the distance, and few things trump watching a Mediterranean sunset from your bedroom window.
We made the trip to the Acropolis and the Parthenon, but modern Greece is a lively experience even in its current economic state. The people are easily the greatest things about this city. On a trip to the commercial area known as the Plaka, a Greek man stopped and asked us where we were from. We told him that we were visiting from Minnesota, and we asked if he might know of a good place to eat. Instead of providing directions, he walked with us for three blocks to show us his favorite restaurant. The restaurant owners gave us free appetizers, and another Greek restaurant owner stopped us on the way home to give us impromptu Greek lessons.
I can’t imagine walking into a shop in Athens and not striking conversation with a local. My classmates and I are fluent when it comes to “Cheers!” and “I’m sorry” after just two modern Greek classes, but we’re slowly progressing. Although our language skills fall somewhere between pitiful and pathetic, Athenians are more than happy to help us out as they laugh at our miserable pronunciations.
Someone needs to get Macklemore to the Greek market. If their new song about thrift shops can go platinum, there’s no telling how successful a song would be about Athens’ vibrant neighborhood farmers’ markets. Blocks are lined with fruits, vegetables, flowers, olives and fish, and everything is priced so that you have enough Euro to buy some gyro after bargain shopping.
Yes, I have only spent days in Athens and, yes, we’ve only scratched the surface of what Greece has to offer, but it’s so easy to understand how Greece’s landscape and spirit has inspired so many to learn and create, and few things are more exciting than participating in this perspective.
Anastasia Straley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.