Athens: 7 Things That Surprised Me

I recently visited Athens for the first time and there were a number of things that took me by surprise. Here are a few.

1. Cats and Dogs

There were so many stray cats and dogs in Athens – I have never seen so many in a European country before. There were fewer dogs than cats, and most of the dogs seemed to have bagged guard positions at entry into restaurants and tourist attractions. Despite being stray dogs they all had collars.

Guarding the entrance to the Acropolis

Cats were pretty much everywhere. The locals seem to treat them very kindly. We saw bowls of food and water left on many door steps.

If you are a cat enthusiast, I would highly recommend taking the foot path from the main entrance of the Acropolis to the Roman Forum and going past the Dioskouroi restaurant. There are a dozen very friends cats here and its a great place to have a break.

Dioskouroi restaurant
Lunch time at Dioskouroi restaurant

2. All the buildings look a bit, well, dated…

Being a busy metropolis that is, home to nearly 4 million people, I expected Athens to be more like New York or London – full of new buildings, all in crazy shapes and sizes. But all the buildings in the centre of Athens looks like they were built in the 1970s and 80s and there is very little in the way of new development. I’m not sure whether it is a sign of a stagnant economy or something else all together.

Typical street in Athens

3. Graffiti

In Athens, most surfaces – walls, walkways even trains were covered with Graffiti. However, this did not seem to apply to the tourist attractions.

Graffiti in city centre
Grafiti on the train tracks

4. Litter (or rather, lack of it)

Athens has to be one of the cleanest cities I have been to, ever! It was all the more surprising as there was so much graffiti; and in my experience, graffiti and litter go hand in had. So the lack of litter was a real surprise.

5. People

Everyone we met during our two days there were very nice, and helpful and always smiling. Not that I was expecting anyone to be unfriendly, but I was blown away by how kind everyone was. It is no secret that Greece is going through some tough times, but despite this, everyone always had a smile on their face and had time for us – be it at the restaurant, cafe, on the boat or on the bus.

6. Metro

The metro in Athens was a very pleasant surprise. The systems is clean, reliable and the tickets are cheap. The metro was built for the 2004 Olympics. Most of the stations double-up as a mini museums that house artefacts found during the metro construction.

Archaeological displays at the metro station
Archaeological displays at the metro station

7. High Street Chains

Athens for some reason was not overrun with the typical Western high street chain shops that makes everywhere look the same. Instead, we saw a lot of local shops and cal produce to enjoy.

So, there you go. 7 things that surprised me about Athens. Have you been to Athens? What did you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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