Put me on a plane anywhere and I’ll probably tell you how it totally met my expectations. Call it globalisation, or media overload. Blame it on the internet or on movie aesthetics, but when I went to New York — just to drop an example here of what I mean — it felt like I’d been here many times before. In fact, it felt like I’d been living there, even though I had zero orientation and really didn’t see any of the drive by shootings that I know from all these movies. But visually, it was picture perfect: me, starring in various movies and series, the NYC skyline is my backdrop and all those stories told unite in my mind and my heart even though they’re fictional or hardly interesting. It doesn’t matter: urban romance is something that has been influencing my travels forever, and rarely are the myths what grab my attention. Usually, I just try to compare everything to what I already know.
Now enter our little vacations to Athens. Marcus and I hopped on a plane and ended up in a place we knew exactly nothing about. I mean nada, except maybe for the little politics of our contemporary media in Germany. Yeah, Greece is in a dire state of economics, and we’ve heard a lot about riots and the fates of the poor Greek who’re obviously not very happy with the current situation. So with no information and no expectations we were hit pretty hard by reality: Athens is not just another dull place with old stuff to look at. Athens might, simply put, be just one of the most charming, versatile and provocative cities in Europe! With open mouths and stunned with disbelief we walked around the streets of Plaka and Exarchia, lively neighborhoods full of contrasts.
And by contrasts I mean stark, serious dichotomy. Antic ruins and temples in the background of modern ruins, left houses, closed shops. Graffiti everywhere — I mean everywhere, cheers to 1Up for their fantastic color work in the city (damn you guys, you’re insane!) — and a feeling of youthful uprising in the air. It’s hard to explain how all of this mingles up in a melting pot of visual overloads. You’ve got the mediterranean sea right next to the mountains right next to the temples right next to the impressive haven right next to the overcrowded streets, all that under a burning 30 degrees hot sun. I suppose we believed that Athens was going to be a bit more on the Florence side of European cities; boring and dusty, with old stuff to look at and plenty of museums to visit. Turns out Athens is more like Berlin than any other city I’ve seen (at least from a visual perspective). There’s dirt and grind and edge everywhere, but somehow, it’s charming. And: it’s young. Athens, like Berlin, has this strong vibe of a left and abandoned city that has every opportunity now to be squatted by activists and artists, students and scholars from all over the world. As soon as the last rich person has fled from the critical financial situation, Athens will be the first city in Europe to be taken over by a new system. Maybe that’s just our naive ideals; maybe it’s pure bullshit, but my romantic heart will beat for the idea of a revolution. Once upon a time, a wall came down in Berlin. And perhaps in the future, the invisible wall of a fierce and unthankful system will come down too.
But I’m going to stop with the socio-political philosophy right here. After all, we were on a vacation and we had to use every spare second of the day to soak up as much as we could. We rented out a car at the airport in fear of the typical South European traffic chaos (which turned out to be an overreaction. The metro and the busses were working just fine, but the road trip lovers we are, we were still kinda happy to have a car, blast loud and rude hip hop music through the windows and hold our hands out to glide into the fresh air). We hopped from beach to beach and were mesmerized by the clear blue sea. We got sunburned but we loved it. We spent hours appreciating the amazing weather. We had tasty food in Exarchia and Gazi. We strolled over a random flea market, we tried to take pictures of graffiti-bombed trains while they passed. We loved every minute and every second of our stay and we’re considering going again, because three days is hardly enough to see everything.
And then there’s the Acropolis. How can you not love a city that has so much culture and history to offer? I mean, yeah, sure, Berlin and everything. But this is where Europe was founded! And while strolling through the Olive Gardens at the entrance of the Acropolis (which, alas, we couldn’t enter because it was the day of the elections and they had closed it to visitors), just for a moment, we felt like this is a really special place to be. A capturing atmosphere, I swear to God.
Of course, no vacation goes down without the essential comparison to the nightlife of Berlin. What can I say? We went to Six Dogs, which is pretty much a place for everything: parties, drinking, hanging out, eating out, exhibitions, concerts. It’s cool, and it’s nice to chill there, but we were simply too tired to hit the party bus so we couldn’t actually tell whether they would go crazy like at Berghain (probably not, though). And we went to Bios in Gazi, which sports one of the most impressive views from its rooftop (Acropolis, of course). The music was great, right at the dark wave electronic stuff that we currently love so much. As if Jamie XX personally came around to drop a few beats. Whatever — again, we were too sleepy to continue, but there was no driving party momentum from other people either, so we must be excused. Next time, we’ll make sure to waste the day at the beach and actually get ready to party — next time.
In the meantime, we’re happy about our memories. We’re happy we met this old guy in Plaka on our way to the Acropolis, who told us about his shop closing down after fifty years. That’s what financial crisis does to you. His kitschy souvenir shop was a testament to trashy and absolutely random collections of old grumpy men. But he was charming in his own way, and we totally fell in love with it.
Athens is sure worth a visit, but be prepared: the prices are definitely steeper than in Berlin. While you can grab a beer at the Späti-equivalents of Kiosks all around the city, they’re not in the same league as here. That said, it’s not as bad as in other European capitals. So yeah, do it. Go to Athens. If anything, it’ll make you happy that the citys green and blue and red and everything will be a delight to the urban loving soul. If not, you’ll at least have a beach to make up for it. But you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for here — promise.