ATHENS, GREECE: Notes on a City

Stray Dogs
The unexpected yet common observation that many will make in reflecting on their time in Athens is the presence of a large and widespread population of stray dogs. Before Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, the city gathered thousands of its strays to have them bathed and sterilized in an effort to clean up the city. Following the games, the strays were returned to the streets, but not to worry, these dogs generally prove to be harmless and are even known to become temporary traveling companions to those passing through their neighborhoods whether that means the National Gardens or the Acropolis.

Subway Ruins
The best-hidden, cheapest sites in Athens are its own metro stations. As work began to improve the city’s transportation system, thousands of years of history were unveiled. Statutes, pottery, roadways, and numerous other relics were cataloged and placed on display throughout the stations in which they were discovered. So when you are on the train be sure to pay attention to more than where you are going or you will have unfortunately missed some of Athen’s most recently unearthed treaures. Some of the biggest finds can be found at the station stops Acropolis, Syntagma, and Evangelismo.

Limestone City
Athens is known for its hills…Lycabettus, Philopappos, or the one you’ll have to climb to reach the Acropolis. What is less well known are that the pathways and stairs leading up these summits, as well as the less glamorous treks you’ll make while navigating the city, are built from limestone. In the event of rain or a newly washed down sidewalk, tread extra carefully or risk an unplanned excursion to one of the city’s emergency rooms.

Don’t Strike a Pose
If you’ve been to Paris you’ve probably posed in front of Rodin’s The Thinker or Michelangelo’s David in Florence, but you won’t come home from Athens having vogued in front of a famous piece of art. Considered disrespectful, there is no posing next to the art or artifacts in the city’s museums or next to the Evzone soldiers at the Parliament building. Save you best poses for photo opportunities at any of the city’s outdoor ruins.

Reminiscent of ancient Greek plays when men played female roles, women still appear absent from some aspects of modern Greek culture. Kafeneios are male-only coffeehouses where the patrons waste away the days over games of backgammon and discussion of politics. Generally, these cafes can be identified by the clacking of worry beads and the unmistakable all male crowds. Although women may enter, the stares they will be given are likely to be unsettling enough to deter them from making another visit.