Not all of my spring break was spent relaxing on the beautiful island of Corfu. This past week, I was also able to spend some time in Athens, Greece.
For years, Greece has been facing severe economic hardship. These hardships are more evident in some areas than others. While I was in Corfu, I was taken aback by the beauty that surrounded me. While I noticed some abandoned buildings here and there, I wasn’t able to truly witness the devastation until I visited Athens.
Greece currently has the highest poverty rate in Europe – an estimated 20,000 are homeless- and as I walked through the streets of Athens I was able to witness this crisis firsthand, especially during the night time. There were countless people -even young children- sleeping on every side walk and street corner. It was truly heartbreaking and devastating to witness.
So why would anyone want to visit Athens? The city may not be the most beautiful in the world, and is instead poor, decayed, and suffering. But traveling is all about gaining a full understanding of the world in its entirety, both the good and the bad. While it was saddening to witness the crippling poverty and other impacts of the Greek recession, it certainly made me put things into perspective.
Athens is rich in history and culture. The city of Athens is built entirely among ancient ruins. There are ancient temples preserved amid bustling shopping centers.We visited Kerameikos, an ancient cemetery right in the middle of the city.
The ancient ruins are perfectly woven into modern Greek society. The Acropolis- literally – nearly blew me away. Among these monuments, the Parthenon was the most magnificent. It was amazing to visit something that I had previously only read about in textbooks.
We also visited Aeropagus, or Mars Hill, where, according to the bible, Apostle Joseph stood preached Christianity to the people of Athens.
It’s the little things that made Athens beautiful to me. Like how the Acropolis lights up at night, standing proud and tall over the city below. The way the people here welcome you with open arms. Sitting in an authentic Greek restaurant trying new foods – tzatziki, kebab, gyros, and more. Witnessing beautiful street art and walking through ancient ruins that have been so carefully preserved. I am truly grateful to have experienced Athens.