Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! This weekend I was able to travel to Athens with my lovely girlfriend Rosa, who is studying in Amman, Jordan. There aren’t a lot of cheap, accessible destinations from Amman–particularly in western Europe–so we decided to meet in Athens and spend a few days enjoying the historic city. It was a great chance to finally reconnect after a few months but as history enthusiasts, it was an incredible trip to learn about the city’s past and experience its complicated present. As a Classics minor, I thoroughly enjoyed being in Athens; it felt like I was living out things I had learned in my courses. Also seeing the way people interact with a distant, mythic past was fascinating. Although the ancient structures drew great crowds, there is quite clearly a thriving contemporary culture. We met some interesting characters and, although Greece may not be well known for it, I had a very tasty beer.
Rosa and I only had a few days to spend in Athens–as we squeezed in our vacation between classes–so we attempted to do as much as we could in the few days we were afforded. We were staying very close to some of the main tourist attractions, which was incredibly convenient. We managed to see both the new Akropolis museum and the major sights of the actual Akropolis, including the Theater to Dionysos, the Erechtheion, the Parthenon and plenty others. The views atop the Akropolis were fantastic and it felt incredibly surreal to be viewing architecture I had read about in ancient accounts and textbooks. During the evening we decided to take a short trip to a nearby beach. Although the bars and stores alongside the beaches of Athens were mostly shut down during the off-season, we enjoyed the peaceful sunset.
On Saturday we decided to depart on a half-day trip to Cape Sounio, the southernmost tip of Attica. The cliff of Sounio has magnificent views and was once a major port. It also houses the remains of the Temple of Poseidon. The bus trip itself to Cape Sounio was beautiful as we drove alongside the Greek coastline but the final reveal, looking out over the horizon, was breathtaking. Sounio felt very remote but the nearby beaches looked pristine and I’m sure they would be very popular when in season. Our final day was the day of the race from Marathon to Athens: the original Marathon. Rosa had a few friends from Georgetown running, including Andrew, who visited me in Amsterdam previously, so we decided to spend most of our day watching the race. Afterwards we explored the Monastiraki Flea Market and managed to see the Temple of Hephaistos and the Ancient Agora of Athens. Finally we had to return to the airport and get ready for our respective flights. On the metro we met two students from Fordham who were traveling in Greece. One of whom, Mario, was close friends with another Fordham student who is studying in Amman with Rosa.
Throughout our weekend in Athens, Rosa and I generally enjoyed our interactions with local Greeks. We met some very kind and helpful Athenians who were willing to give advice and directions; one elderly gentleman took the time to give us safety tips and inquire about the future of our relationship. However, we also found that, as Rosa stated, “the Greeks are not as laid back as their Italian, Mediterranean neighbors.” We met a few Greeks who were quite short with us, particularly those working in the metro who didn’t want to spend time directing tourists. Although those who were a bit blunt with us were in the minority, they do stick out. Nonetheless, we had some lovely encounters with plenty of locals and found the Athenians to be welcoming and convivial.
Along with the fantastic sights, the tastes of the weekend were definitely worthwhile. We enjoyed some delicious meals with plenty of local flavor like lamb and veal or baklava. According to Rosa, who has become accustomed to a Jordanian diet, “this was the first time that I didn’t have rice for almost every meal.” Rosa was also surprised to find that beer was so popular in Greece, though it was mostly macrobreweries and imports like Heineken or Amstel.
However, we did find a small dive bar called Pulp that served a variety of craft beer. I opted to chose a beer from a Greek brewery whose name I couldn’t decipher (I later found it was a microbrewery which translated to Plastigga). I decided to try their Urban Ale and I was not disappointed. The beer was a Pale Ale and poured a hazy golden color. The head was small and the smell, though I am still getting over a cold, was not particularly strong (though Rosa disagreed.) The flavor was very delicious with notes of citrus fruits and light malts. The finish was smooth and overall it was a great beer. Rosa teased me as I took down some notes about the beer and the venue and ultimately I cajoled her into having a sip of the Urban Ale. Rosa is unfortunately not a fan of beer so I have been on the hunt for a drink that she might enjoy but, alas, this was not the one. Rosa grimaced as she tasted the beer and I laughed knowing what she would say. “It’s fine,” she insisted, “but I wouldn’t have a whole glass of it.” Rosa often says one thing concerning beer and she repeated this sentiment, “if I wanted yeast I’d have it in my bread, not my drink.” Clearly the flavors of citrus and other fruits didn’t strike her as much as they did me. Still, we enjoyed the short time we spent in Pulp with large posters of old comics, some rock and jazz music playing and the overall atmosphere of a local, dive bar.
Our brief trip to Athens was fantastic and we both agreed that we hope to return one day; there is only so much you can in such a historic city over the course of three days. Although Athens, and Greece generally, has recently been regarded as a somewhat unstable place, we generally felt quite at ease walking the streets and taking in the nightlife. Aside from the few curt people we met, the locals were friendly and kind. I was also pleasant to see that craft beer had made its mark in Greece, a country typically regarded for its wine. Septem is a very popular Greek brewery–which I have also seen in bars in Amsterdam–and with good beer like the Plastigga Urban Ale, I’m sure the craft beer scene will continue to grow. At the end of our trip I was very sad to have to say goodbye to Rosa but I was disappointed to have to leave Athens as well.