So this post is well overdue, but I have to tell you about my first full week living in Athens. I have to say, I have become quite fan of the Athenian living culture. And here’s why:
The people. Everyone here are SO friendly! The Greeks love to talk, mostly about themselves, but the point is that they always make you feel welcome and appreciated. Their enthusiasm for life is purely contagious, and makes you feel like you have a purpose being there.
The culture. Greek culture is unlike anything I have experienced. Family permeates everything, and even in hard times Greeks still find reasons to smile. People in Athens are very happy and proud to be Greek, and love when you make an attempt to speak their language, no matter how bad it might be!
The food! This is obvious to say, but the Mediterranean diet will be very hard to shake when I come home! The cuisine is soaked in the best olive oil, and only the freshest vegetables, meats, and fruits are used. In fact, the food is so fresh that you have to buy the ingrediants and cook it in the same or next day, or else it will spoil. Also, every Friday, there is an open air food market two blocks from my apartment. There you find the freshest Mediterranean foods, olive oil, wine, spices, and lots of Greek food vendors pushing you over and screaming in Greek…it’s all part of the experience. I love it! Of course the only thing better than buying the food is eating it…and eating it at tavernas! Tavernas are Greek restaurants, but extremely different than U.S. restaurants in many ways. First, they don’t really open til 8 ish (dinner is super late!), and you normally always eat outside across the street from the actual restaurant on beautiful concrete squares. Food is always ordered in family styles and then everyone just picks until they are full! Normally they start with appetizers such as tzatziki (yogurt dip with cucumber and garlic), fried zuccini, salad, and feta (…lots of feta). So far my favorite dinners have been lamb, fried sardines, and octopus. Of course, wine is a necessity with every taverna dinner, so every meal has a happy ending!
Living arrangements. Everyone in Athens lives in apartments. However, something unique to Greek culture is that every apartment has a balcony! My balcony overlooks a huge Greek Orthodox church across the street, and is used for drying my clothes on close lines. In this sense, living in Athens is very traditional. I feel very old fashioned hanging my clothes to dry on my balcony after cleaning up the kitchen from a home cooked meal. Coming from a dorm style life at Holy Cross, this new independent way of living is both challenging and exciting.
Location. My location could not be better! My school is across the street from the National Gardens and right next to the first modern Olympics stadium (made entirely of marble). The section of the city I live in is called Pangrati, and it is a quaint residential neighborhood that I am growing to love. There are tons of small businesses, as well as a bakery at every corner (as opposed to having a Dunkin’ Doughnuts on every corner at home). I have yet to find a Chinese take out place or a McDonalds, but when I do I will certainly let you know!
SO, that is why living in Athens is so great, not to mention FUN. For my first weekend here, I went to an Athens beach, took my first Greek ferry to the island of Aegina, and then ventured into Gazi, the heart of the bar/club scene in Athens. There is a TON of cool things to do here. However, out of all that I have done so far, I will never forget the first time I stepped foot in the Mediterranean sea…that was when it really hit home for me where I was.
Here are some pics from my weekend excursions!