When I stepped out of the train station and into Monastiraki Square, I just laughed. I laughed because I’d made it to Athens in one piece, and I laughed because I was so full of excitement by what I saw: people – everywhere – yelling and chattering and just general noise. Street performers. Indian rayon scarves hanging from shop doors, where souvenirs fooled tourists with their 'authenticity'. There were carts of fruits and berries; coconuts and homemade sweets; nuts and spices. But it was the colour which held me on the steps: none of the rich, deep colours I was so familiar with back home and in Germany; instead a pale palette of yellow, brown and pink; made beautiful by the smoggy air. And then, the Acropolis. Jutting out of the ground and overlooking the scene which I was so fascinated by, it received the full afternoon sun, soaking it up like non of us mortals dared to. It glowed, and it was beautiful. It held the pride of civilizations past, and was the heart of the present city.
It must be some sort of irony that the first two people I meet in Greece are Australian. Both are called Luke.
I say goodbye to the Lukes because I want to explore. The markets are alive and I willingly sacrifice my hours to them. And as disorderly as they seem they follow a pattern; every ten meters the shops repeat themselves: souvenirs, sandals, Ancient Greek-style dresses, purses, souvenirs, sandals, Ancient Greek-style dresses, purses. Yet it is quite impossible to loose interest, as if the first set plants the seed within the minds of tightened purse strings. The purchase idea is encouraged and watered; until finally, one walks away with an Indian rayon dress.
I turn the corner and a great, round, pink lantern floats slowly to the ground. I know I won’t catch it but still, I race to the roof of the hostel. But sunset is over and in its place, a spectacular man-made show of lights illuminates the city: the sun is replaced by the Acropolis itself.
Both of the Lukes are already at the rooftop bar. We talk about travelling the world and sangria. I eat Mousaka and drink overly-priced berry cider.
Athens’ lights blur with the smog, and the city skyline is turned into a glowing atmosphere.