Why you want to leave me? Farewell to Athens…

Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when it’s to your second home. And the weather is gorgeous. And you’ve just seen a great friend you haven’t seen for years. And your Greek was just starting to pick up again. Basically, leaving Athens sucks, and I wish I could never leave! But alas, work and normal life calls. I better get on the phone to the British Council and ask for a job…

One of the things I love most about Athens is the fact you can’t put a spade in the ground without digging up something ancient. In all the metro stations, public buildings and even the airport you’ll find a little glass case full of priceless antiquities. Perhaps in Rome you might find something similar, but then again, it’s still not Athens for me.

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This random office block near our apartment was built atop ancient foundations. You wouldn’t find that in my current office in Bristol.

Another thing I love about Athens is the food scene, which is awesome. One of my favourite spots in the city is a bakery called Cap Cap, completely untouched by most tourists as it lies on the outskirts of the city, in Egaleo. It was here I met my good friend, Valia, and we chatted for hours over a coffee and some wonderful confections.

Well, the last time I went they only had one branch, but now they’ve opened up two more in leafy Kifisia and seaside Elliniko. They seem to be doing well for themelves.

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It’s usually got a different theme each time I visit. This is an old one, but you get the idea of how much effort they go to transform the atmosphere of the place.

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The current theme is wizards, so this lemonade was made to look like a potion, with the addition of bubbles and steamy liquid nitrogen.

Konstantinos thinks they’ve gone downhill, but I’d beg to differ. I was in such a hurry to devour my food that I neglected to take a photo of it, or of anything else in the cafe. But whenever an Athenian tells you to go to Cap Cap, the next thing they’ll tell you is to order the mud pie, which is basically a slab of incredible chocolate brownie topped with whatever the hell you want – Kinder Bueno, chocolate, cookies, and even fruit.

I genuinely considered ordering some to take away, but thought that might be tricky to get through airport security. I know because I once tried to smuggle a Cap Cap cupcake through Athens airport, and when they pulled the mushy hulk of cake and buttercream from my bag, they looked very confused.

We rounded off our trip to beautiful Athens with a segway tour, a fun if lazy way to see the city. Our tour guide was Portuguese, from Lisbon, and I was keen to know why he’d upped sticks and moved to Athens. We shared a love for the nation and its people, and that’s what brought him there, but he was frustrated with a so-called ‘lack of rules’. I imagine I would feel the same. Interestingly, his Greek wasn’t fantastic before he moved there either, but he’s much improved after living there. It gave me some hope…

Anyway, we toured round the Zappeion, and then buzzed past the presidential palace. Some important dignitary was visiting. I wish I knew who, because they were making an awful lot of fuss about it – closing the roads, shifting annoying tourists, playing jubilant music, etc etc.

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The poor evzones (soldiers with skirts and pom poms) have to stand their for hours, and have the sweat wiped off their brow by men in more comfortable camouflage.

So if anyone finds out who it was, let me know. I’ve been trawling Greek news sites and had no luck. I did see something about Yanis Varoufakis, though, whose t-shirt caused a bit of a stir on Wednesday. It’s the same shade as the one we saw the guy on the scooter wearing… could Konstantinos really have been right? I’d love for that to be true.

Continuing through the serene National Gardens, past Syntagma for the last time, then back through Plaka, I soaked up the last bit of sun and Greek atmosphere I’d see for a long, long time. Since me and mum are basically Segway pros (we chose not to wear a helmet, we like to live dangerously), we had enough time to zip round the base of the Acropolis, on the bustling pedestrian thoroughfare that is Dionysiou Areopagitou. This is the second most expensive street in Athens, and boy can you tell. Not a bit of rubbish or loose electrics in sight.

Our guide took us to the top of the Pnyx hill, which according to the Greeks was the first parliament ever, though I think the Icelanders would disagree with that. Suck it Iceland, the Vikings didn’t bother with democracy until a millennium later. I’m sorry, that was rude. Anyway, the views from the top are stunning, as you get a view of the entire valley and contoured landscape around the city. The best thing was, you didn’t have to walk.

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My attempt at looking cool. I think I am outshone by that beautiful temple over there.

Heartbroken at the fact I had to leave, I made sure to stock up on some naff souvenirs before we made our way to the airport. I definitely don’t need olive oil soap or a cute little ceramic Greek Orthodox church – especially since I’m an atheist – but I wanted it. I did also buy some black olive tapenade, which it turns out you can buy at Waitrose, but oh well. I’m a tourist and I’m allowed.

As my journey began, I had no idea it was to be so long and hellish. We waited half an hour in the stuffy confines of the metro for the next airport train, only to end up talking to some nervous British tourists who couldn’t find the train despite it clearly saying ‘AIRPORT’, with a picture of a plane on the doors. They were nice enough people, but we are dreadfully grouchy, so we were pleased to be by ourselves again in the airport.

I popped to the Eleftherios Venizelos exhibition, a small museum about the airport’s namesake. I studied this guy a lot at uni, as I find him utterly fascinating. The Greeks call him the father of their nation, because he brought a lot of ethnic Greeks and Greek lands under a singular state for the first time in history. I guess you could say he’s a pretty cool dude.

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Pleased to be seeing you again, friend. Hope my studies were worthy!

We boarded the plane and settled in for the journey, I got my knitting and Gilmore Girls all ready to go. However, another Brit was in the seat next to us, and he was very talkative. More talkative than me, would you believe? I know, it’s difficult. Anyway after the third hour of being intensely chatted to my neck was hurting and I was flagging.

Thankfully, my dad was waiting for us at the airport with the promise of a silent car and some sandwiches, which we gladly accepted. The world had other ideas for our journey, though, so not only did we get stuck in a car park traffic jam for 20 minutes, the M3 was also closed, big-time. The diversion sent us all the way through my old stomping ground of Egham (seeing my university and the students wandering about at 1AM strangely made me miss my life there), through some weird Surrey towns, before we finally were on the home straight.

We got in about 3AM, and needless to say I’ve done virtually nothing today, except watch Gilmore Girls and pine for Athens. Who knows when I’ll visit again, but I’ve made a pact with myself. I mustn’t be away for more than a year, because I get depressed if I don’t see it, and there is so much more to do there. I need my Greek to improve, and I’ll see my friends more. I promise that to myself.

Until next year, beautiful, crazy, sunny, wonderful Greece.


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