Not a great first day in Athens, it definitely had its ups and downs....Today I was exposed to some very harsh realities that I knew existed, but knowing something exists and having it shoved in your face are two different things. I got a late start this morning after talking with my sister. I made it out of the hostel around noon and started walking towards the part of Athens where the ruins are. As I was walking down the street, there was a guy propped up against bouncing up and down, with his leg twisted at an awkward angle, holding out his hands for money. His leg had a huge open and bleeding gash. I gave him some of my coins and walked on feeling uneasy. I bought a pretzel from a guy who gave me a discount because my smile made his day and that cheered me up a bit. I found Athens flea market and wandered around for a while, I bought a thin white shirt with spaghetti straps and paired it with my shorts from Romania; the combo made me feel confident and beautiful. I got a few admiring glances and I actually forgot to be worried about the self harm scars on my legs being exposed. I bought my tickets for the ruins and started wandering at the temple of Hephaestus. It was odd though, usually I get a giddy feeling in my stomach when touring ancient places. I've loved Greek mythology since I was twelve years old and can rattle off a good number of myths on command. Now here I am touring the temples and monuments to these very gods and I can't seem to get excited. I saw the acropolis and the Parthenon; I saw sculptures and columns. Eventually I realized I was picking up on vibrations from the city. Athens is huge and sprawling, I was in the part of town that puts its best foot forward but it felt like the shiny side of a coin when the back side is corroded or brightly colored cloth with moth holes eaten through it. Despite the impression of life and light walking around the restaurants and vendors, there is an underlying current of misery. After walking down from the mountain, I felt someone forcefully grab my wrist and start tying a bracelet on, drowning out my protests with nonsense about Hakuna Matata and no worries, giving me a hokey blessing and then demanded payment for the bracelet. I couldn't untie the stupid thing so I gave him rest of my coins meaning I had nothing left to give the most wretched beggar I've seen yet. He was missing his arm and leg. His head was bald and covered in open sores and he couldn't speak. No one would give him money because they were worried that the person who brought him there to beg would take it all. As I walked back to my hostel, I encountered a woman crouched against a wall holding a cup. Her head was in her lap and she wasn't asking for money. I knelt next to her to see if she was ok and she just looked at me. She was so high I don't think she really registered that I was there. I asked her if there was something I could do and she mumbled unintelligible words. Eventually I had to accept that there was nothing I could do to help and walk on. I walked into a pet store to cheer myself up and was met with whines from the puppies in the window and birds shut in cages far too small. A small box so full of ducks they couldn't take two steps without bumping into another. They were bare and patching where they had plucked their own feathers out. I left feeling sick. To get back to my hostel I had to walk down a narrow street with three brothels on it, which would have been fine except for the men outside cooing and calling to me. I looked straight ahead and walked quickly. I heard someone behind me following and I was all I could do not to run. In the end it was just my backpack thumping but I was enough to make me scurry home. The outfit that I was so proud of suddenly felt cheap and sleazy. I have never wanted jeans and a baggy sweatshirt more in my life. I went upstairs room covered upin a blanket and drowned myself in Netflix. I know that these realities are common and there is far worse in this world. Th I only got a taste today. But my heart is sensitive and it hit me very hard. Athens is a beautiful and sad city. I'm glad to be leaving soon.
by Alyssa Smith May. 14, 2017 2132 views
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This my corner of the sky to share this trip of adventures with all my fellow humans. I hope to make a journal entry and photo dump every few days or so. For more photos, visit my Facebook page. Search for Alyssa Smith Utah and I'll be the one at the top.