All the excitement about the Olympics has gotten me thinking about the place where it all began: Athens, Greece. Athens was the site of the ancient games, where athletes competed in the nude and events included chariot races and many of our current track and field events. Athens was also the host for the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and the city organized its third Games in 2004, where Michael Phelps won his first of (at press time) 19 Olympic medals. Athens is still on my to-do list of European cities to visit.
Currently, Greece is the epitome of economic crisis, and the cornerstone of the ancient Greek empire isn’t exactly the nicest place to visit. The U.S. State Department has issued some travel advisories, warning tourists of the danger surrounding political demonstrations and crime. If you go, you definitely need to be aware of your surroundings and have a plan of action in case things go wrong. I’ve personally traveled to places while there was some political unease, and I just made sure to keep my passport on me and have an idea of where the embassy is. Still, the history and sights (and, of course, food) of Greece is absolutely something I want to experience, and Greece is definitely not the most unsafe country you can visit.
Of course, many of the main features of Athens are linked to its ancient history. Naturally, the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, including the famous Parthenon (pictured), are a must-see. I’ve seen dozens of ancient ruins throughout Rome, and they don’t get any less impressive. My parents are currently building a stone wall in our backyard, and I reminded myself that these buildings were created the exact same way – no modern machinery to help with the heavy lifting! It also completely blows my mind that everything is still standing today, thousands of years later.
As with any city, discovering the modern areas and finding good places to explore, shop, and eat is easy. Athens has plenty of museums, markets, and unique neighborhoods to visit, and the Greek culture is definitely a fun one. I used to work for a Greek family, and the atmosphere was always entertaining! Take it easy on the ouzo and you’ll have a great time!