I started my journey on Tuesday when I landed in Athens! It was raining and I didn’t validate my metro ticket, but I landed safely in Syntagma square, which I guess you could call the city center. Long ago, Syntagma square was a cemetery for the city of Athens. It’s not creepy at all that the city center used to be a cemetery.
I was in Athens for about 4 days, and observed quite a few things while I was there: some of which apply only to Athens, while others apply to the entire country.
1) The two favorite drugs of Greek people seem to be nicotine and caffeine. When I had breakfast one morning in a caffee, none of the other guests were eating – all were drinking coffee and the majority was smoking. You see people smoking on the street all the time – probably an equal number of men and women. Coming from Germany that’s not surprising, but after being in SF for a while it took a little getting used to 🙂 a guidebook I read went as far as to jokingly say that: “coffee and cigarettes is breakfast for Greeks”. A guy I talked to on the plane said I should try Greek coffee (apparently it’s different from normal coffee), but I’m still a little reluctant!
2) The weather here is quite deceptive. A couple of days before my flight, I thought it might be smart/beneficial to look up the December weather in Greece, and was greeted with news of constant rain and clouds. Of course I would choose the rainiest month of the year to come visit Greece -_- (it’s my curse!) Surprisingly though, it has only rained once since I’ve been here, and most days are fairly sunny. Don’t let the sun fool you though, it’s still freezing outside!
3a) The Greek language is SO DIFFICULT. I can recognize almost all of their alphabet letters because they are used a lot in science and math (something I learned in school is actually useful in the real world!!!) but they all have weird pronounciations, especially when coupled with other letters. Although Greek is considered an Indo-European language, it has it’s own branch and is considered most closely related to present day Armenian. That doesn’t help me in any way, so I’m just going to stick to my tourist ways and speak to everyone in English. Thankfully, almost everyone I have met so far speaks at least a little English 🙂
3b) The Greek language, like other Mediterranean languages, seems really lively and energetic. When I see two Greek people talking, there are usually a lot of gestures and hand movements involved, and it reminds me of when I was in Italy. I even saw this old man who was talking via Bluetooth earphones gesture around wildly with his hands – it made me smile 🙂 A girl that I talked to really put it into perspective for me: she said that the Greek language really encourages people to open their mouths when they talk, while languages such as English or German don’t. For comparison: “kalimera” is “hello” in Greek. I would have to agree with her, based on my observations.
4) Greek people like to have dinner late. Whereas I usually eat dinner at 6 (the way my mommy raised me!) and refuse to eat anything afterwards unless I’m drunk, Greek people usually have dinner starting from 8 or 9 PM onwards. My host, who had lived in France for a year to do his master’s, told me about how depressed he was because restaurants closed so early in France and he often had to go to fast food restaurants to satisfy his hunger. Whenever we walked around the city after 8 or 9, all the tavernas were completely full and often there would be live music as well. I forced him to have “lunch” with me at 7, and still feel bad about doing that. I think that’s one tradition I’m not going to pick up 🙂