Tag Archives: Athens

It’s a European Thing

A trip around Europe is a backpacker right of passage, especially if you’re an Aussie. Staying in hostels, bumping into the same people on same route and exploring the other side of the world.

Most enter through the gateway of Amsterdam, a city whose liberal attitude may appear shocking to most, intriguing to some and even normal to others.

I remember the flatness of Holland and the smallness of Belgium where you could pass through it and be in 3 countries in one day. There is the beauty of the canals of Bruges and the discovery of Italy, where every city is different.

There is the history of Rome and Pompeii, the craziness of Venice and the little gems you find along the way, like Verona. And then there are more ruins in Athens.

It’s the Asian culture of Istanbul that leaves you wanting more and the bleakness of Eastern Europe on the cusp of Russia. Closely followed by the opulence of Vienna.

Then there is the gothic wonderland of Prague, before finishing off with party time in Berlin.

My first trip to Europe still lives brightly in my memory, even though it was taken a lifetime ago. Each country had a different culture, language and even a different currency.

No matter how many times I go to Europe, there always seems to be more to see.

I have never been to Scandinavia, Liechtenstein or Poland. I missed Ghent in Belgium and countless other places in Italy.

Like Cinque Terre, Siena and the Amalfi coast. I never got to properly taste wine in Tuscany, see the fountains at Tivoli or go to the island of Sicily.

I missed out on visiting an island in Greece, I’m sure Eastern Europe is quite different now to what it was then; and the Cesky Kromlov seems to be the place to go now instead of Prague.

I know there is more to Germany than just Berlin, like Dresden, seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle and shopping at a Christmas market.

I can’t wait for my next magical European experience even if it is not in the near future, because a continent this diverse is definitely worth waiting for.

Related posts: It’s an English Thing, It’s a Spanish Thing, It’s a water thing, It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, Berlin, 1997, Part 2: To the East

Greece, 1997

At Patras harbour, all the backpackers followed each other in a line from the port to the train station to get to Athens.

When Sarah and I arrived in Athens, we headed to Syntagma Square to meet John who was the brother of a friend of mine from Australia. He lived in an apartment block on the top floor in a busy street where we would be staying while we were here. John knew a lot of people in the neighbourhood as he taught English in a nearby university.

On our first day we headed to the Acropolis of course. We climbed to the top of Mars Rock to catch the sun beautifully casting a shadow over the city. The Parthenon was under scaffolding and the Erechtheum had replica statues because the real ones were getting damaged by pollution. It was easy to see the layout of the Theatre of Dionysus and the Temple of Zeus from up here and it was a nice feeling to be on top of the city.

Heading back down, we went through the ruins of the Agora- the ancient commercial centre-to the markets of Athens old town in Plaka. We saw the bizarrely small Panaghia Kapnikarea church surrounded by the office blocks of modern Athens.

We visited the National Gardens behind the Parliament Houses which had tall palm trees, lots of winding paths and cats and dogs everywhere.

When John came home we went to meet one of his students Dimitri in a crowded pub with good music and a lively atmosphere. We all drank lots of ouzo and then headed to a house music nightclub.

The following day, we went to the original modern Olympic stadium (first used in 1896) and ate chicken souvlaki for lunch in Plaka.

That night, I saw on MTV that Michael Hutchence died at age 37 in a hotel in Rose Bay- police were still investigating the cause of death.

John drove us to Likavitos summit- the highest mountain in Athens that rises up out of the middle of the concrete buildings. We got a great view of the stadium, the Acropolis and the rest of the city by night. We went on a long drive to the beach lined with bars and coffee shops. It must be packed here in summer and totally different place.

The following morning it was raining, so Sarah and I decided it was time to move on. We took the overnight train to Alexandroupoli on the Turkish border. From there, we got the train to Istanbul in a carriage with Nat from Atlanta and Laurano from Argentina.

Related posts: Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella Italia, Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaSpain, 1997, Part 1: BarcelonaFrance, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing