Europe Tour 2011: Secret Athens

by Jamie Wong, founder of Vayable. This post is part of our European tour series. 

There’s a reason I had never before been to Athens. It gets a bad rap. As far as European capitals go, travelers typically omit it from must-see list, despite its historical prowess.  Unlike Rome or Paris, Athen’s glory days have not translated into a modern wonder.  In fact, the most common travel tip I get about Athens is to leave it.  The arrival of Starbucks and McDonalds coupled with an economic downturn have caused the city to lose its 400 BC luster, to be sure. But as it turns out, there’s more than just the Acropolis worth seeing in this town.

After an overpriced meal in the tourist center and a walking stroll through Athen’s largest construction site, the Pantheon, my friend Emilie and I met Andreas, a computer science student, outside the Monastri metro.  He was a friendly face amid a sea of visitors and pushy restaurant owners on the main tourist strip.

Img_4486We said hello as if we already knew one another, and in a way, corresponding ahead of time on Vayable warmed our introduction.  Andreas led us down a bustling tourist strip and down a smaller alley to what appeared to be a boarded-up warehouse.  He gasped as if his tour had been foiled and our destination had been shut down.  But as it turned out, even he had been fooled by the city’s hidden treasures. Sure enough, once we pushed passed the graffiti-laden door, we entered into a world of art, serenity and smiling faces.

Athens boasts an an art scene circa now akin to what most associate with Berlin or Brooklyn.  But in Athens, you have to know where to look for it.  Like many young people in the Greek capital, Andreas had his finger to the pulse of not only what was happening in art and tech in Greece, but in the world.  It was a humbling reminder to an American and a European, that while we may sometimes forget about the Greek, they have not forgotten about us.

One frappe, a cocktail and two secret gardens later, I felt like I had finally gotten to know Athens a little bit better, thanks to Andreas, his knowledge and the beautiful people and places that lie just below the surface of Athens.

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