I realise now that I’d got you all wrong. I visited in the height of summer and stumbled (and, ahem, sweated) up your steep hills and into your tavernas, not knowing where to look for authenticity, not knowing where to look for shade.
But now, here, in late October and with the gift of local expertise, you look completely different.
Younger. Older. More beautiful. More interesting.
You have more layers, more stories, more…reasons to fall in love.
Unless, of course, you’ve always been this way.
I just needed to know where to look.
Well, today erased those errors.
And while the computers whir and phones recharge and I have to wait to show you what I want to – please follow along on #thisisathens
So you don’t make my mistake.
I wrote these words only a week or so ago, when the sun still shone over Attica, Greece. I watched it slide into a deep, resplendent, burning orange over the Acropolis before the sky turned to black and the city lights sparkled.
This marked my third trip to Athens – and it was, by far, the most in-depth. The one I enjoyed the most.
I put this down to a number of factors: better weather, better preparation, better food.
But above all else, my success came down to one thing: getting in-depth recommendations from a local.
Or a few locals, in my fortunate case.
I was lucky in that a friend of mine has been living in Athens for about six months or so, making her able to bridge some of the gaps between home and here.
But I was also lucky to find out about the #ThisIsMyAthens project, whereby anyone can meet up with a long-term Athens local and have them show you around.
Now, usually, as a woman travelling alone, I’d be reluctant to meet up with (let’s be dramatic for a moment) a stranger in a foreign land.
But I was in luck: the system matched me up with Andreas, whom a friend of a friend had already met up with. He seemed to have survived more or less intact, so I was encouraged to give it a go.
The project itself is one of those heartwarming and humble gestures that leaves you feeling you ought to try harder.
Discouraged by the mainstream media’s portrayal of their country over the last few years, passionate volunteers gathered together online to show the REAL Athens. Their Athens.
They offer complimentary two hour tours (that you need to book in advance) where they show you what they feel is the best their city has to offer.
The tours are completely script free and the experience feels far more authentic than anything I’ve done in a long time.
With Andreas, we talked history, politics, religion, coffee, wine bars and where to find good food.
Much of this was discussed “off the record” so to be fair and to say thank you for his time, I’ll not republish the conversations here.
What I can do, though, is leave you with a photoessay of places instead.
This, after all, is how to see Athens with a local.
Hey, it was a complimentary tour! But I did head to Athens on this last trip as part of a project with Toposophy and the City of Athens CVB.