We were sitting in our apartment the other night with some of the other study abroad students and we were trying to decide how we wanted to spend our night. My roommate turned to me and said “How about we go have dinner in Athens?”. I still can’t grasp the concept of being able to just go into Athens for the night. A city that is one of the oldest in the world and has been inhabited for thousands of years is just a subway ride away!
I’m guessing this is one of the main reasons Greece is in an economic crisis. It is, by far, the cleanest and best ran subway station I have ever been in (being from Nebraska I haven’t seen many, but I’m also referring to “While You Were Sleeping”). The Metro subway system (pictured above) was newly built for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Not only is this system an extremely efficient way of public transportation, it is also a free museum for all its passengers. The walls leading you out of the tunnels are lined with pictures of how it was constructed (pictured to the right). During its construction, many artifacts of archaeological interest were discovered. They took these historic items and made them for all to see. There are exhibitions of the ancient artifacts and/or their replicas that line the walls at many of the metro stations. You can see anything from pottery to fossils as you follow the tunnels (pictured to the left). There is even a part of the station that is built around an ancient city that was dug up during construction and left in its place (pictured below). Some amazing artwork and sculptures are also placed throughout the system for you to enjoy as you wait for the next subway. The people of Greece really brought a whole new level to public transportation! I found the system very easy to use and am thankful it is in such good shape…even if it did put them in debt for who knows how long!
Our first order of business when we arrived in Athens that night was to find somewhere to eat. The streets are lined with adorable cafes that each have an employee whose only task is to convince people to choose their restaurant over the others. We were quickly persuaded to stop at a pleasant cafe with garden seating and amazing seafood…not to mention the free shots of ouzo. We decided to be adventurous and try the seafood sampler platter (pictured to the right).This is where I first tried octopus and anchovies, and quickly came to the conclusion that I am obsessed with octopus but don’t particularly like anchovies.
We sat eating, drinking, and talking about anything and everything for close to five hours. We were never rushed or bombarded with waiters. This is one of the things I like most about the culture in Greece. Everything is so relaxed and simple. People enjoy each other’s company and make the most out of every occasion. People actually spend more time conversing with each other than they do looking down at their cell phone…I find this extremely refreshing. I have experienced some of the best hospitality while in Greece and it still amazes me that you aren’t even expected to leave a tip. They let you enjoy your meal and when you are ready for your check five hours later you just wave down the closest worker.
As we stepped out of the cafe we were greeted with the most beautiful sight. I looked up and saw the Acropolis glowing on top of the hill (pictured below). The sight was truly breathtaking. Time had flown by during dinner and we didn’t even think it would be dark out. Seeing this ancient monument lit up in the night sky for the first time will be something I will remember for the rest of my life.