Hello Athens, Greece 🇬🇷! Here is what I’ve learned about Greece so far:
1. People mainly speak Greek, but a few people do speak English. It is more rare to find people who are fluent in English. For example, in the neighborhood where I am staying (near Larissa Station), it feels as if virtually no one speaks English. But as you get closer to downtown (near Syntagma station), you will run into more people who speak English.
2. The infrastructure is considerably more dilapidated and rundown than what I saw in Doha, Qatar. One can clearly see the effects of the financial crisis on the city’s infrastructure. Sidewalks are either too narrow or uneven or there are no curb-cuts, etc. I don’t know how many times I’ve wheeled down a sidewalk and the pathway randomly narrows or there is a tree or hydrant or something permanently planted in the middle of the sidewalk forcing me to backtrack.
3. Prices of food are extremely reasonable here. If one wants to eat cheaply, they can easily do so. For example, yesterday I bought a piece of great quality pita and souvlaki for only one euro eighty cents. Obviously there is definitely more high end and expensive options as well if you so desire. And did I mention the food is delicious 😋 here!
4. The trains are generally wheelchair accessible, but compared to Doha’s metro system it is exponentially harder to decipher and navigate around. There is English signs everywhere, but it is written in less clear letters and, as I said earlier, people generally don’t speak English when you ask for directions. With that said, there are elevators and stairlifts wherever needed.
5. There is even a stairlift and a vertical lift up the Acropolis. Wheeling from the metro station to the Acropolis entrance was quite the feat because it was so hilly and bumpy, but it was an amazing sight!
6. You will see a lot of homeless people and beggars on the streets of Athens. And beggars are frequently seen in the public trains.
7. I told a friend I’ve seen this tactic most frequently used in Athens where people hand you a product and say they are giving it to you for free, then they ask for money afterwards siting their various plight. I’ve seen it so consistently and frequently used that it feels like they’ve all gone through the same training for this.
8. The prices of metro tickets and SimCard/phone plans are extremely cheap. For example, I got a five day pass for seven euros 💶 and a SimCard for 7 GB for roughly the same amount. Get your Greek SimCard outside the airport, it’s much cheaper.
9. I seem to see a lot of older people (55+) doing jobs I normally see 20+ to 30+ years old people doing.
10. Parts of Athens are breathtaking, but you do see a considerable amount of graffiti everywhere. Some of the graffiti is beautiful, and some not so much.
It’s been a process getting to know Athens, especially transitioning from a country where it was so accessible and so wealthy to one that has been less financially fortunate in recent years. It is a stark contrast for sure, but there is also a lot of personality, beauty, and history here in Athens that you do not get to see in Doha. I look forward to learning about a country where there is so much of our civilization’s history!!