Athens is the birthplace of democracy and modern civilisation (and, perhaps more importantly, lovable ethnic comedian Nick Giannopoulos), and is one of the busiest and noisiest cities in the world. There are motorbikes and cars screaming through the streets, crowds surging through narrow alleyways, and little blokes smashing plates on the ground on every corner, but don’t let the hustle and bustle put you off, because it’s an awesome place to check put with a bottle of ouzo in one hand and a gyro in the other.
Seeing as I’ve been living on a diet of kebabs and beer for the last few months and feel like a heart attack is imminent, I decided to hike up Mount Lycabettus, a 300m-tall hill near the centre of the city that offers commanding views out over Athens. The trip over there involved almost getting run over about a thousand times, and the walk to the top had me huffing and puffing like a fat chick on a treadmill, but when I got to the top (and stop vomiting) it was definitely worth it.
Athens is unlike any city I’ve ever seen. From ground level it’s congested and dirty (it feels like it’s in Indonesia, not Europe), and from higher up it’s a remarkable and seemingly endless ocean of gleaming rooftops. There are very few building taller than four or five storeys, so the whole place is a flat, shimmering sprawl of concrete and metal. It looks like the entire valley has been loaded up with scrap metal of something – it’s actually quite bizarre.
Once I had my breath back and felt like I could safely head down the hill without pooing my pants, I moseyed off to get some lunch. Deciding that I’d have something healthy for a change, I went for a salad. In Australia, salads taste like shit but are quite good for you; in Greece, they’re delicious but as unhealthy as letting Charlie Sheen spoof up your arse. The concoction I was handed had a massive block of fetta cheese and enough oil to drown a baby (don’t ask me how I know that), and tasted wonderful, even if eating it probably took five years off my life expectancy.
With my guts full of deliciousness, I strolled off towards the ancient Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the ancient Olympics thousands of years ago, as well as the first of the modern Games back in 1896. I’m not sure if Dawn Fraser competed at either of those, but if she did, she probably won heaps of gold medals on account of there not being a whole lot of women around for her to compete against.
The stadium was the pride of Ancient Greece, with masses of marble stairs and heaps of fancy statues. It all went to shit, of course, but was rebuilt in time for the 1896 Games. I love visiting Olympic stadiums, and relished the chance to have a trot around the track. I used to be a world-class athlete but I, ah, hurt my ankle, so I didn’t break any world records today.
Feeling a bit cheeky, I went up to a big, tough, heavily-tattooed security guard and asked him why, if it’s an ancient Olympic stadium, there weren’t naked blokes wrestling each other for our enjoyment. The behemoth just giggled and said, “Honey, if you want to see some of that, me and the boys finish at five. Tee hee!” I swear that happened and I didn’t make it up.
Next stop on the tour was the Parthenon, but on the way I ran into a funny little fella wearing a skirt and silly hat, with a huge gun in his hands and an angry look on his face. I assumed he was in a bad mood because his girlfriend had busted up with him or his roommate had eaten all his Greek yoghurt or something, but then I saw another little fella dressed the same way, with the same morose expression on his face. I noticed there were all sorts of soldiers and riot police hanging around looking mean, so I assume either a foreign dignitary was visiting, or Craig McLachlan was about to perform for his millions of Greek fans.
After that detour it was time to make a beeline for the Parthenon, ancient temple that’s part of the Acropolis and looks like shit now, with most of it fallen apart and cracks all over the place. That’s why you should never hire a Greek builder – their stuff just doesn’t last. After dodging more motorbikes and pushing through more crowded streets, I sashayed up to the ticket booth, gave the sheila behind the counter my biggest smile, and ask her for one. A ticket, I mean, not a blowie.
“Twenty Euro,” she replied, and I told her to go fuck herself. The Parthenon might be famous and all that, but there’s no dimension where I’m going to pay that much money to look at a pile of rocks. I’d rather burn the money or give to some homeless prick to best on drugs and dog food.
Like learning to salsa dance, it was a tiring but worthwhile adventure that ended with sore feet and some Spanish bloke’s phone number. But it’s cool, because I’ll have plenty of time to relax, with a week or so out on the Greek islands. You’re in for a lot of underpants pics, you lucky bastards!