Athens was so different from Istanbul-not at all what I expected. The city reminds me more of a cut-and-paste collage that doesn’t blend so much as come together in jigsaw pieces.
History obviously dominates a lot of the space. It seamlessly integrates itself into the setting, rather than hide behind hoity-toity velvet ropes and long lines. Walking down the street, you will pass by cafes, weird sex shops, and then to your left is the temple of Zeus. The centerpiece of the city though, is the Acropolis, and it’s literally in the center of everything. You can easily see the iconic columns from many points of the city. Seeing the Acropolis was an extremely humbling experience for me. There is an unspoken but tangible awe that really just made me speechless while I was there. From there you also get a breathtaking view of the entire city. The Acropolis is like a masterpiece lost in time, frozen and preserved into our present day; it was my favorite part of Athens for sure.
But within the streets, you will come across so many different sectors. There are really posh, western brands and high scale gallerias (that contain more police for better protection). Then you will walk into grungier districts that look like they came out of a Hot Topic catalogue. There is X’lahia (I am destroying the spelling) Square, which is basically the founding father of Berkeley. Filled with graffiti and tags, the square is the center of youth culture. There are really hip bars and edgy looking teens smoking on all the steps. You’ll see a flourishing community garden that originally was going to be made into a parking lot structure before the residents occupied it. The culture of political activism is screaming from every building and every poster you see. It is also where the 15-year-old boy was shot point-blank by a police officer. Some parts of Athens are quaint and colorful, while others have an abandoned vibe about it. The cut and paste effect I think comes from the disconnecting overlap between the conventional, “European” aspect of Athens, and the effects of the economic crises. Put this all together and you get a very interesting mixture that makes Athens.