Γεια σας από την Ελλάδα! (Hello from Greece!)
I’ve been in Athens for six weeks now and the semester is flying by. I absolutely love this city - from coffee to the noise, to the tiny side streets. As a history major, Athens is the perfect place to experience the blending of the old and the new. I’m constantly reminded of ancient history, of course, but the longer I spend time here, the more I become familiar with the modern Greek state. Greece is so much more than just its ancient history, and living here has made me appreciate that so much more.
As a student abroad, I’ve been trying really hard to elevate my experience from that of a tourist to that of a local. Here are a few ways to help in your journey:
First, explore past the touristy areas. This has been easy for me because Arcadia’s housing in Athens is in the residential, non-touristy neighborhood of Pangrati. Pangrati is packed with awesome coffee shops, restaurants, and bars that are run and frequented by Greek people. My friends and I are usually the only non-Greeks in a given place! Athens is much more than the Acropolis and Syntagma Square. By branching out, you can see Athens how its residents see it.
On this note, try to avoid chain restaurants. Even Greek chains - like the Greek “version” of Starbucks or Greek bakeries with locations all over the country - won’t provide the quality and experience of ducking into a local coffee shop or getting your bread from a local bakery. This is where locals frequent and this is where you’ll find culinary gems like the best iced latte of your life or a Greek pretzel that tastes like nothing you’ve ever had before. By supporting independent small businesses, you can really experience Greece like a local.
Thirdly, shop at the farmer’s market. There are markets everywhere in Athens, and at least two within walking distance of my house every week. This is where locals do their grocery shopping, and you should too! The produce is fresh, the prices are better than anything you can find in a store, and it’s a great opportunity to practice your Greek.
Another tip I can’t recommend enough is to walk everywhere. Although hopping on a bus, tram, or train can be really tempting - especially once you’ve figured out the public transportation system and it doesn’t feel scary - you’ll see and experience more of Athens if you walk instead. Some of my favorite memories from Greece so far have come from walking 30 or 40 minutes to a location instead of taking the bus. Put a podcast or music in and take some time to appreciate the city you’re living in. Plus, it’s great exercise - what more could you want?
Of course, these are just my observations from the first six weeks - I’m sure there will be more to come. I can’t wait to update you all on my adventures in Αθήνα (Athens). Γεια σας! (Goodbye!)