As a young Sergeant in the Air Force, I was sent on temporary assignment from my base in England to Athens. The reason is not important, but I was in Athens for five months. Flying into Athens I was presented with an expanse of white buildings and a decided lack of high rises like you see in large American or English cities. Once on the ground I saw that the buildings were whitewashed, well kept and beautiful. Many years have passed and I once again find myself in Athens. Flying in I saw much of the same picture I saw all those years ago. However, on the ground, I was shocked by a decidedly different reality. The once proud buildings were dull and dilapidated. Graffiti defaced many of the now forlorn structures. Financial difficulties brought on by government mismanagement and changes demanded by the European Union have caused Greece to become the pauper of Europe. But, either despite or because of these difficulties, the Greek people are still proud, bold and hospitable.
This trip to Athens was only over three nights but a lot was packed into that time. I spent a majority of my time exploring an area called “The Plaka.” It is an area below the Acropolis with narrow streets lined with shops and eateries. There is very little vehicular traffic in this area. The shops sell just about any trinket a tourist could desire from “evil eye” pendants and bracelets to fend off evil to flokati (sheep skin) rugs. The eateries, better known as tavernas, provided the taste buds with delicious dishes and equally delightful drink to wash it all down.
I went to the Acropolis as it was part of the tour package. I have included a couple of old pictures from my first trip to show some changes. If you want more photos along with detailed information I suggest you go to Matt Barrett’s excellent site.
This photo I took when I was sent to Athens as a young Sergeant. Most people think this is the Acropolis. Actually this is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, which sits atop the Acropolis. Back then, there were no paved walkways or stairs. It was also pretty devoid of people.
The police patrol the area and these two officers are making sure the street vendors have proper permits to sell their wares. The other thing I noticed is that, unlike police in an American town who ride the same brand motorcycle, here one is riding a Honda and the other a Suzuki. The other thing I noticed is that sometimes I would see two policemen per motorcycle.
The Plaka District is an area of Athens with narrow streets lined with shops. There are shops of every kind here. Some are there selling trinkets to the tourists while others are high end stores catering to the rich and famous. Intermingled with these shops are tavernas, places that serve delicious Greek cuisine and drink.
. . .with a beautify mosaic of the Blessed Mother and child. Churches seemed to be the only buildings devoid of graffiti.
My time in Athens is done. Now it is time to head to the port to catch a boat to the next destination: Mykonos.
Copyright © 2017 John J Campo