The National Gardens Athens The Lilac Road
The National Gardens. It was very peaceful despite being in the center of Athens.

I stayed in Athens during my time in Greece.

Before you ask, “What about the islands?” I unfortunately couldn’t afford to go, but Mykonos and Santorini is definitely still on my travel bucket list!

When I arrived in Athens, my Airbnb host met me halfway and drove me to my cosy apartment. He was a big, cheerful Greek man and I bombarded him with questions about Greece as I didn’t know all that much, except that they were still recovering from the recession. I asked him, “So, do Greeks have big families?” And he replied, “You got that from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, didn’t you?”

Statue near the Temple of Hephaestus Athens The Lilac Road
A statue near the Temple of Hephaestus

He was a kind and welcoming host and brought me food and wine for my stay in his studio apartment in the center. Even though the Acropolis was about a thirty minute walk away, the metro was very close by and surprisingly clean, comprehensive and extremely easy to use. However, the city itself is quite run down with graffiti everywhere. You could say Athens is quite hip and has plenty of cool bars and restaurants to chill in.

For my first full day in Greece, I walked up the rocky outcrop where the Acropolis and Parthenon sat and marveled at the ancient ruins there. It was hard to believe that this was the starting point of modern civilization. From the top there is a stunning view of Athens where you can see both the city and the sea, but be wary that it is extremely hot up there in the summertime as there is very little shade!

View of Athens from the Acropolis The Lilac Road
A view of Athens from the Acropolis

During my week-long stay in Athens, I explored the markets and shops which sold beautiful Grecian jewellery and sandals and bags – I loved the shopping there and went ham on gifts; I visited the National Gardens which was beautiful and blissful, even though it was in the middle of the city; I made a trip to the Temple of Hephaestus; and I ate plenty of fantastic, cheap Greek food. I also noticed that the people were really quite warm and lovely, and the men are very dark and hairy.

The Parthenon Athens The Lilac Road
The Parthenon
 Acropolis Athens The Lilac Road
A view of the Acropolis from afar

While I was there, I met a tall, handsome Greek man who I really liked for a number of reasons. He was different in that he was quite serious, but when he smiled it got me. We spent all night together talking, and even though he said we can meet up again before I left the country, he didn’t end up making it. We kept in touch, and I even flew to see him in Athens again before I went back to New Zealand. In short, our fling ended in disaster with me in tears on my final night in Europe. Nevertheless, he was the only man on my trip who really felt special and I’m grateful that I got to spend those brief, sweet moments with him.

The Acropolis Jenny Chang The Lilac Road
One of the downsides of being a solo traveller: no one to take photos for you! Here’s a selfie at the Acropolis. It doesn’t look like it, but it was very hot that day.

It was in Athens that I also ended up having a mid-twenties crisis where I locked myself in the apartment for a while because I felt completely stuck in life. Suddenly I was asking myself, “What am I doing with my life? What do I want to do with my life?” I had to do a total re-evaluation of the direction my life was heading in. My then dream of settling down into a career and living in Wellington just didn’t fit anymore. It was like I had to find another dream that wasn’t blurry but in focus with my life. I had felt this way for months, until I finally realized that I wanted to be a full-time travelling nomad and writer. It’s a dream I’m pretty damn excited about.

The Temple of Hephaestus Athens The Lilac Road
The Temple of Hephaestus. Hardly any tourists were around that day.
Black and white columns Athens The Lilac Road
Inside an ancient building near the Temple of Hephaestus

Anyway, apart from those things, my time in Athens was smooth sailing. I adored the Greek-style clothes, shoes and jewellery, the warmth of the people and how quick and easy the metro was to use. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and brimming with history and mythology, so it is perfect for anyone who has an interest in those things. Although I didn’t go out at night, it seemed like Athens was a very cool, young city with lots of things to do in every neighborhood. I enjoyed my time in Greece and can’t wait to go back again – this time to the picturesque and idyllic islands.

Flower tree Athens The Lilac Road
Getting lost in the pretty alleyways of Athens

Did my experience in Athens surprise you? Have you been and do you want to go one day? Let me know!

All images my own