My wife Cindy and I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Athens.
That would be the Athens in Greece, not the one just north of Atlanta. Athens, Greece is named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom while Athens, Georgia is the home of the Bulldogs. As we’re both University of Florida graduates, it wasn’t difficult for us to decide which one to visit.
Greece has a population of over 11 million people, one-fourth of them living in Athens. From what I could tell, about one-fourth of them live on the same block as the apartment we rented.
The most interesting thing about Athens is its rich history. The Acropolis, its most famous historical landmark, was built more than 2,000 years ago. And there were people living in Athens 3,000 years before that.
In comparison, Athens’ long and storied history makes it seem like the Declaration of Independence was signed only yesterday.
Visiting Athens is like taking a walk through time. But before you fly the friendly skies there are a few things you should know:
If you are thinking of renting a car, don’t. Best I could tell the Rule of the Road is this: If it’s made of asphalt or cement, it’s fair game for motorized vehicles. That would include streets, alleys, sidewalks and paths in pedestrian-only parks. And a couple of stores.
Corollary to above: Every licensed driver living in Athens can parallel park a 12-foot vehicle into a 12 ½-foot space. If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay off the porch.
Be careful walking or you’ll accidentally step on a cat. I asked an Athenian why there were so many stray cats: “You don’t see any rats or mice, do you?” I was then told the absence of rodents in turn kept the snakes away. I guess their system is working since we didn’t see either during our visit, except for the snakes coming out of Medusa’s head.
Greek feta cheese is pure heaven.
The Temple of Poseidon – in neighboring Sounion – is absolutely breathtaking, not only for its architectural beauty but also for the way it majestically overlooks the clear blue Aegean Sea.
As a runner, just being in the Olympic Stadium – named after Spyros Louis, the winner of the first Olympic marathon in 1896 – was inspirational. I imagine it would have the same effect on a non-runner as well.
The Greek alphabet is pure hell. It is the sole reason people say “it’s all Greek to me” when there is no chance whatsoever of understanding something.
The roads are so confusing it’s as if the person who designed the transit system in Atlanta cut his or her teeth in Athens first.
And if I failed to mention it earlier, I can’t emphasize enough that you’re better off getting around in Athens on foot rather than driving a car.
But if you can parallel park a 12-foot vehicle into a 12 ½-foot space, consider yourself a big dog.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia with his wife Cindy, three cats and never enough visits from his grandson, Krischan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org