Socrates, Plato, Sophocles and Tjhung

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

There's 30 seconds left on the clock and Athens is in trouble. It's on the verge of losing the biggest game of the year - a loss which would result in it being labelled
a hole', 'a ghetto city' for all eternity. And going on its general performance this week, it probably deserves it. Factors:
Is it the most expensive place that I've been on this trip? Yes.
Is it hot as all buggery? Yes.
Is everyone constantly trying to rip off tourists? Yes.
Does the cxity have a very serious and significant manky dog situation? Yes.
Am I staying in an area filled with drugs and prostitutes? Yes.
Is the city just one big, conrete, urban jungle? Yes.
Indeed, by right, considering these factors, Athens deserves 'the hole' label. But with the clock ticking down, the end in sight, athens plays its trump card of all trump cards - its 'go-to' man. Just as the Freo Dockers have Matthew Pavlich; just as the Perth Wildcats had Trevor Torrance; Athens has some of, if not the, best ancient sights in the world. Fucking brilliant. So, when the chips are down, the Parthenon emerges against the ever-vivid blue sky, powerful, majestic - the current renovations only partially detracting from its elegance - and as it does, the near death encounter with the manky dogs, the fortissimo blanket of noise from the cicdas and the constant 'killing mne' comments from Americans ("Man - this stuff is just so old..." - of course not nearly matching the all time hands down classic of "Man - Germany is so crazy - they all speak German here") fade momentarily in your mind. Only momentarily of course, because there are few states of mind that can block out a loud and piercing "Yeah - Sue Ellen - it's like really old".

The ancient sights in Athens are, indeed, pretty old. The Acropolis, elevated toweringly above Athens, exudes an aura of imprtance, arrogant in the knowledge that it was the centre of the ancient world. And even with the constant streams of tour buses coming through, it is both humbling and inspiring to stand where Socrates and Plato debated; where Oedipus debuted. Surpisingly, thousands of years after the end of the ancient world, the Acropolis now is nothing like the TV show (many apologies - couldn't resist - "Miite... - i'm a wog miite".)

What's so impressive about Athens is the sheer amount of Ancient sights around, many of which are excellently preserved. In particular, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Temple of Hephaestus are excellent, each ruined to a different extent but each providing great insight into their original structures and imposing presence. Several of the archaeological museums are fantastic as well. The National Archaeological Museum - a behemoth of a museum housing endless classical greek sculptures and treasures discovered over the ages (and lots of shitty boring pottery) and the Acropolis Museum - featuring bits and pieces of the Acropolis to be preserved - were certainly highlights of Athens. Oh - and the view atop Lykovitis Hill is spectacular.

Other than the Ancient sights, Athens has little. The exorbitant prices deterred me from seeking out any nightlife. On a couple of days, curious to see what Athens offered outside of my pimp and prostitute zone and the ultra-touristy Plaka district, I ventured out to random areas just to see what the deal was. Nothing at all. Such ventures merely confirmed my impression that, without the ancient sights ,Athens is just one massive superpit of a whole worthy of a Kalgoorlie comparison. It was interesting, however, to see in some of these areas, a significant number of chinese import/export businesses selling all sorts of random stuff out of a disorganised shop front. I have a small smile of understanding as I walked past each of them - not understanding in them but maybe just a bit in myself. As I passed, I wondered if South Seas still has that box of wigs.

Staying in prostitute area has not been all bad. I have learnt some terribly valuable things looking out my dorm room window. Did you know that greek pimps don't look at all like snoop dog. Rather, they look like some shabbily dressed little old man - no bling whatsoever. Not even a hat or cane. Certainly no white suit. Greek pimps have a lot to learn.

Perhaps they should go to a UWA pimps and prostitutes party.The food so far in Greece has also been average. Especially on my budget. The meal that I've most entertained by is the 'greek plate' when they take a kebab, unwrap it and place all of its ingredients separeately on a plate, and then try to charge 5 times to the price. Apparently traditional. More like a fucking rip off. But trousists visiting Athens are often stupid. "You - Sue Ellen - this is what is called a traditional Greek Taverna meal".

In comparison to Athens, Piraeus, essentially Athens' port city, is complete paradise. The city features a number of cafe-kined harbours, each indulging in the fresh seaside breeze. It seemed the best way to make the most of my 3.50 euro cafe freddo was to have 6 jugs of water accompanying it and trying to learn the rules of backgammon. A perfect way to spend and afternoon before going to see the local football team - Olympiacos, featuring some of football's great names, play a season opener. Rivaldo... Travelling the world watching football. Brilliant. Living the dream. Hopefully the picturesque calm of Piraeus is a sign of things to come in Greece.

So to the Top 5. Nope - not Japanese. Not chinese either. Well, Australian-indonesian-chinese actually. Au-der-lee-ya. Eastern europe has been brilliant for this - most people extremely surprised by an Australian of asian descent. Not used to it i guess. Below are the Top 5 instances of people presumping that I'm from an Asian country:

5. "Hey - China - Taxi!" Very common.
4. On leaving the hostel - the girl at reception ruffling through all of the Japanese passports, opening one - not me - finding another.
"Excuse me - I'm actually not Japanese"
"I"m Australian - Australian passport"
3. Walking into a travel agent to book a train ticket.
Girl at counter: Oh my God - when you walk in, I wonder - does he speak english.
Me: Yes - i speak perfect english.
Girl: Where are you from?
Me: China.
2. On the streets of Athens, trying to buy a head torch for a Welshman. Chinese street sellers.
Me: How much are these?
Seller no 1: Huh?
Me: How much?
Seller no 2: is he chinese? (in chinese)
Seller no 1: something along the lines of 'i don't fucking know'.
me: dor shao chyen?
Seller 1: lyo kwai.
Me: lyo kwai? C'mon. San kwai.
Seller 2: Is he chinese? (blah blah jung guor?)
Me: No. Boo jung guor.
Seler 1: huh?
Seller 2: Huh?
Me: Au-der-lee-ya.
Seller 1: is he chinese?
Seller 2: Is he chinese?
me: No. Au-der-lee-ya.
Seller 2: he looks chinese.

1. On a train to Athens.
Me: Do you know what time this train gets to Athens?
Girl next to me: Sorry- I don't speak chinese.
Me: That's good because I was speaking english.

Island it up. Ios...
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