Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 6: Last Day in Athens

Today was our last full day in Greece, and unfortunately it was cold and windy -- not colder or windier than Paris, but because we've become so used to sunny and warm weather in the 60s over the past few days, it was kind of hard to handle.

We started out at the Greek Theater museum, which was closed (boo). Then we went to the Jewish Museum, which we had a LOT of trouble finding at first, but which was nice. It was mostly focused on the resistance efforts during the Holocaust (but in the end, I think Greece lost something like 87% of its Jews in Auchwitz and Treblinka). Then we stumbled upon the Museum of Greek Folk Art, which was free, so we went it. Fact: All museums in Greece, no matter what their subject is, will have an extensive selection of traditional 19th Century greek outfits, which all look like a cross between Medieval and hippie garb, with LOTS of nice scarves. I have definitely been inspired to update my wardrobe when I get back.

Personal belonging taken from Greek Jews during the Bulgarian occupation. 

Hospital bed sheets from Bergen-Belsen. 

Then we went to the First Cemetery in Athens, which isn't actually the oldest cemetery in the city, so I don't know why it's called that. It's very extensive, and it seems just like Pere LaChaise, except that almost every single tombstone is white. This looks really really great couple with the blue sky and the green trees that surround them.

Then, we looked for a place to eat lunch because Sarah's dad said lunch was on him today. We didn't want to go to any of the obviously touristy places in the main squares, so out of exhaustion and hunger we stopped at the first restaurant we found elsewhere. It was right behind the Acropolis Museum, and it was delicious. We were the only people in there, except for two older men who came in later and who stared at us when we laughed too much at our own jokes. The food was delicious. We ordered four main dishes, all of which were great (moussaka, spinach crepes, squid with spinach, and a sausage that was DELICIOUS). We also got a whooole place of tzatziki sauce (do they really eat a whole plate of it at once?), and we split some really good Greek beer. Again, the owner spent the whole time talking to us, which was nice. He had been to a few places in the States to visit family, his favorite of which was...drumroll please...ARKANSAS! So maybe being from there wouldn't have been the worst thing after all, contrary to what I guessed in my last post. I have their business card, for the next time I'm in Greece.

Then we came home because we were exhausted, mostly from the cold, but also from being a little disillusioned. Today while walking from site to site, it was evident what bad economic shape Greece is in. Storefront after storefront after storefront was empty. The only well kept-up parts of Athens we came across during  this trip were the touristy areas, and everything else was unfortunately very run down.

If any of my readers are planning a Grecian vacation in the future (besides Aunty Judy & Uncle Rick, who already have their itinerary), I'd like to say that I think a week here unfortunately isn't a good idea. In my opinion, you either need MUCH less (Athens, while it does have many famous sites and museums, could have been accomplished in three days), or MUCH longer (it's not possibly to island hop and see Athens with only a week). Maybe this was just my experience (I will definitely admit that this is a possibility), but Sarah and I seemed to find that the necessary down time couldn't be filled up with enough. There are a LOT of cafes, but not the kind we wanted to sit in, and there were times when we felt especially nervous about getting ripped off. It's too bad, because I think all of these things have the potential to make the area a harder travel destination, and they need all the tourists they can get, apparently. I never thought of Paris as particularly user-friendly, but it is compared to Athens.

My final verdict is that of course I'm happy we came. I've officially seen the Parthenon in person, which was huge and impressive and definitely worth it. And visiting Athens kind of helped put things in perspective for me, because while I complain about Paris often, this trip reminded me how lucky I am to live there right now :)

Paris tomorrow! Must mentally prepare myself for the absence of polite people and inexpensive coffee everywhere I go!

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