Athens was cold and unwelcoming. If history was what I expected to experience, it was burrowed beneath piles of clothing, oil lamps, half-colored children’s books on the sidewalk, and a sour smell that hung in the air. Perhaps this is my jet lag talking, but the trains did not run, the lockers at the station were broken, and the streets were spray painted in colorless graffiti. The bus from the airport meandered through industrial neighborhoods with buildings that were labeled in large Greek letters as we merged onto a new highway route speckled with olive trees in the distance.
At six fifteen, the bus dropped off in an unnamed location close to a closed booth that sold ice cream and tickets to Hop On Hop Off tours. No place in sight was open yet. The buildings were grey and columned, and stray dogs lounged on the sidewalk. Backpack, suitcase, and guitar in hand, the city felt massive and inaccessible. But a sign peeked out from an alleyway that promised 24 hours of coffee and my heart skipped a beat!
The morning was arduous, both in heat and in post-flight exhaustion as I stalled until my Airbnb host was prepared for me to settle in. But what it lacked in infrastructure, Athens made up for in spirit: the culture and the people we encountered on this trip were warm, openhearted and welcoming. While the city at times felt dismal, one thing was certain: the food can’t be beat.