After spending most of 2020 and early 2021 at home due to the pandemic, I was eager to begin traveling the world again. With Europe open again to American travelers in early summer 2021 and having more relaxed COVID protocols, I decided to pack my bags and head to Athens (and Dubai) for two weeks.
Having been to Europe twice before, I had high expectations before the trip and was hoping for my third pleasant journey in Europe. As of September, Greece has closed to Americans once again, but since I traveled before the Delta variant surge, I had no problems entering the country.
Two flights and nearly 24 hours later, I found myself in the back of a Greek Taxi, breathing the fresh warm air around me as I made my way to Syntagma Square, the city center of Athens. At 9 p.m. in Greece, the streets seemed a lot less active than they would be in Los Angeles or New York, but I was told beforehand that Greeks generally close down earlier than Americans, so I was not shocked.
The next morning, as I sat down on the roof of Hotel Grande Bretagne for breakfast, I was taken aback by the view. There on the top of a mountain, stood the Parthenon, the gem of Athens. According to the editors of History.com, the Parthenon was originally a temple built as a symbol of power and wealth for the then flourishing Athens.
While taking a walk around the city center, the environment felt a lot slower than in the US or even London as nobody seemed to be in a hurry to get things done. While this feature could be a big nuisance if one were to live in Athens, it made a great place for a relaxing vacation as a slow pace takes the stress out of living.
Compared to other countries in Europe, Greece is also relatively cheap, with a meal for two only being around 30-35 Euros in the touristy parts of the city. In comparison, a meal for two in Paris was around 40 to 50 Euros when I went two years prior. According to the Human Development Report of 2020, Greece has a Human Development Index score of an impressive 0.888, with 1.0 as the highest score (a score that no country has), so the overall infrastructure and quality of life in the country is quite comfortable.
The next morning, we took a bus tour of the whole city, which proved to be an enriching experience. There are no high-rise buildings in Greece, so the drive through the city was relatively calm and uneventful. Our first stop was the Panathenaic. The Panathenaic was built to host the original Olympic games in 1896 and boasts a very impressive structure considering it was built over one hundred years ago.
The next stop on the route was to the Parthenon, certainly the highlight of the tour. After a 10 minute climb from our bus stop up the mountain that the temple stood on, we were treated to a majestic view of the city below us and of the temple which turned out to be a lot larger than it looked from the city.
While we could not actually go into the temple, the ancient scenery on the outside more than made up for it as we were treated with a picture of what it could have been like to live in Ancient Greece. Luckily, the day we visited was a cool and clear day, but some days in the city can get quite humid so prepare accordingly.
Overall, in the five days that I spent in Athens, I was provided with many unforgettable experiences, and if given the chance, I would definitely revisit this gem in Southern Europe.