This post is a continuation of Five Things (Part 1) which you can read by clicking this link: Five Thing (Part 1)
6.) Excellent service. Eating out in Greece is not just a chance to eat delicious food, but to spend quality time with your friends and family. Similar in other European countries, you are never rushed to order or leave your table after finishing a meal. At cafes and bars you are usually brought the bill with your drink in order to keep tabs of what you’ve ordered over time, but at almost all other restaurants it is up to you when to receive and pay the bill. In addition to the leisurely meal service, you are almost always given some sort of a “freebie”. At restaurants, sometimes this could be a small glass of Raki (an unsweetened Turkish alcoholic drink) or a dessert on the house. Go to a bar and glasses of water are always first brought to the table first perhaps along with some snacks ranging from popcorn to full on veggie trays after you order. Finally, at cafes you usually get a sweet treat to accompany your coffee. All this excellent service comes with no additional cost as tipping is not the norm in Greece despite the occasional rounding up of the bill.
7.) All the outdoor space. From patio seating at Tavernas, street side cafes, and Polykatoikia style housing, the Greeks love to use their outdoor space. Even when we first arrived in January, space heaters were placed outside almost all restaurants, bars, and cafes so that their outdoor space could be used by customers. Many restaurants have their main building location with the kitchen and a few tables inside but with the main dining area across the street under the protection of the trees and some umbrellas. Almost all apartments in Greece are considered polykatoikias. Based off of Corbusier’s Dom-ino system of housing, these buildings have simple skeletons that can lead to multiple uses. All of these polykatoikias have balconies that look onto the street below. Having these street viewing balconies results in a neighborhood watch as people have their meals, hang their laundry, and take care of their plants. Whenever there is a loud noise outside on our street, half the people are looking out from their apartments balconies to see what the commotion is about. The result is an overall safer neighborhood at the expense of dealing with nosey neighbors.
8.) Not overridden with tourists. With the exception of the Acropolis and Syntagma areas, most of Athens is full of Greeks. I didn’t appreciate this until visiting Barcelona where it felt that everything there was made for tourism (Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, the built up waterfront areas, even the main pedestrian street was lined with tourist shops). I felt like the only locals were those working at the shops and restaurants. This compares to the currently less popular tourist destination of Athens. Especially in our neighborhood of Pangrati, avoiding the tourist clogged streets can be easy. While these congested places do exist (Acropolis, Plaka, Syntagma) and are getting worse as the weather warms up, we more or less can decide when we want to venture into these areas or stick to our local neighborhood.
9.) The ever present Acropolis view. No other city can boast the same grand view of such an ancient site. With limited high rise buildings, the Acropolis can be seen from throughout the city. Our academic building has a fabulous view from the 3rd floor library and some students even have a bit of it in view from their apartment balconies. One CYA administrator said that she felt herself constantly closing her office’s blinds that reveal a view of the Acropolis reasoning that whenever she looked at it, her work felt miniscule in comparison. At the same time, it is hard to not be inspired by these great works of architecture that always keep you company as you wander around the city.
10.) Greek kindness. Amidst the economic and refugee crisis, the Greeks remain a joyful group of people that celebrate every day of life. Overall, our experience has been a welcoming one with many willing to go out of their way to help us out. Greeks are eager to talk to you to practice their English (at the expense of me learning Greek) and appreciate it when you attempt to use simple greeting phrases. While some Greek habits remain peculiar, most have good reasoning behind them that makes them a convivial bunch. If searching for a country filled to the brim with hospitality, look no further than Greece.