In the last 12 years I've been to Athens [the one in Greece!] getting on for 50 times - the last visit being in July 2012.
I'm not going to claim that I am a hard-core traveller, but
I have wandered around the city quite a lot so I'm sure I've got some information that might be useful to anyone
going there. Perhaps the type of thing you won't find in the guide books?
I've called this my guide to Athens - but is it a guide? I suppose it is in a way - but really it is more
a collection of my memories of Athens.
Although several of my visits have been holidays [spent mainly lounging around a pool] most of my stays have been
on business - and for me, that means teaching [although my last three visits were for
conferences]. When teaching, I would arrive sometime on a Friday - depending on the flight, anything
from mid-afternoon until midnight. Saturdays and Sundays were spent teaching from nine until five, then a flight home
on Monday, usually late afternoon. These times mean that my experiences of Athens are restricted to a few hours
during the day and lots of evenings. So if you are looking for lots of half and full day trips, visits and
experiences, this site might not be of much use to you.
When I first went to Athens the 2004 Olympics were four years away, and serious work in preparation for them had not
really started - the Greeks have something of a reputation for leaving things until the last minute. This meant
that I saw the improvements take place - and what a difference they made in those four years. There is no doubt
that, visually, Athens is a far nicer place to visit now than it was in 2000. However, after having a good look around
during my recent visits, that improvement has stood still - and you have to suspect that the economic problems of the
country will see few 'civic' projects in the near future and so there has to be a suspicion [expectation?] that
things might slide backwards as funding dries up.
Everything here is written from memory. It is not a travelogue. I made no notes - I even had to check some of my
old expense claims for the names of the hotels I have stayed in. If there are factual errors I apologise. Of course,
if someone wants to cover my costs so I can do the job properly, just get in touch ...
Speaking English in Athens
I am embarrassed [ashamed?] to admit that I speak no Greek [all the teaching I have done over there is in English].
OK, I can do; 'yes', 'no', 'please', 'thank you' and 'good morning/evening', but that's about all.
In Athens this is not a problem. In hotels, restaurants and bars the staff speak English, many fluently. Tourist shops
are also OK, but other shops can be a bit hit and miss - though if nothing else, vendors normally know the
products that they sell in a variety of languages.
Personal security in Athens
I am wanderer. Following a map is useful if you have a definite destination and a time limit. In my time in Athens I
have rarely had such a criterion - so I wander. I might know where I wanted to end up, but I just roam in the general
direction. In that way you see more of the place you are in.
This means I would sometimes spot something I liked the look of [normally a bar or restaurant] and never arrive at
my intended destination. It also means I sometimes found myself off the beaten track. Now let's be clear, I have
only wandered around the centre of the city, mainly around Omonia and Syntagma Squares and Plaka and its surrounding
areas, so I can hardly speak for the whole of Athens, but I have never felt threatened in any way.
Of course, I am a six-feet tall male - so not perhaps the ideal target for muggers or ne'r-do-wells, but nevertheless,
I have been in other cities where I have thought 'Oh bugger, I'm getting out of this area as soon as possible'. Not
so in Athens - though colleagues have said they have found themselves in 'dodgy' areas by mistake. I suppose I should
also add that I do not walk around with a wallet or expensive mobile phone in my
hand, passport sticking out of my shirt pocket or Euro notes hanging out of my back pocket - you should always
take sensible precautions and avoid unnecessary risks.