I am pretty busy this week with projects and upcoming trips, and have also just returned from a field trip which I may blog about later. While I have time, I thought I would make a quick post for anyone wondering about my weekly routine in Athens. Here is a list of my usual activities and favorite places in the city.
On Mondays and Wednesdays I have an interactive, on-site class called Sports, Games, and Spectacles in the Graeco-Roman world. This is an academic way of saying that people are forcing me to run and do sports for credit for the first time since middle school. The first Olympics took place in 776 BC, where competitors ran the diaulos race naked, with their knees high and hands open in the correct athletic form. In later years, the combat sports of boxing, wrestling, and pankration were added, along with discos, javelin, the long jump, and the hoplitodromos race-in-armor. On an average day of class, we go to the Panathenaic stadium or the nearby gym to practice these sports as they were done in ancient times, except with fewer accidental deaths and more clothing. While Olympic re-enactments can be a little much first thing in the morning, it is also definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to run in the actual footsteps of the first Olympians. So far, on field trips around Greece, we have also run the length of ancient stadiums in Olympia and Nemea.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Ancient Greek and Aegean Art and Archaeology, which often takes place on site. On a typical day, I take a taxi in the morning with my housemates to the National Archaeological Museum, where we wait on the steps outside for the whole class to arrive.
After the class leaves I kill time at the museum for a while, then walk a few blocks to Caritas Hellas where I volunteer. Unlike many other countries in Europe, Greece takes in a large number of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and other areas. Caritas Hellas responds to this humanitarian crisis, as well as to natural disasters around the world and poverty within Greece, by providing food, clothing, counseling, and education to hundreds of people, many of whom are children. I volunteer at Caritas for a few hours once a week, sorting donated clothing and playing with the children of refugees.
On Wednesdays I have sports class again, as well as modern Greek language.
Thursday is the last day of classes at CYA, so that field trips and independent travel can take place on three day weekends. It is also the night that the Athens Sports Bar, part of a hostel near the Acropolis, hosts karaoke night. Our professor took my class there for a night out once, and since then I try to be at as many karaoke nights as possible.
While there are many places to buy good produce around Athens, on Fridays the street market—called the Laiki Agora—sets up right in front of my building in Pangrati. Stalls with piles of fruit and vegetables line both sides all along the street; at one end there are a few products like soap and potted plants, while at the other there are people selling fresh fish and secondhand clothing. Most of the street is taken up by people selling fruit, including huge bunches of grapes, bowls filled with different kinds of olives, tomatoes, eggplants, candy and honey, and everything else you could want. Grapes and pomegranates are in season now, so I have been buying them from the same vendor each week. I would provide pictures, but between the elderly Greek women pulling carts, vendors yelling to advertise their prices, and the general small and un-touristy feel of the market, I think I would feel awkward getting my phone out in the middle.
Other places I go on the regular:
Sometimes I go running on the path above the Panathenaic Stadium, which curves around the top of the stairs and is accessible through a small gate on Archimedous street. The track is pretty short, but I like it because there are lookouts around the stadium where you can climb up and get a nice, quiet view of the city.
I also spend a lot of time at Kekkos, a café and shop frequented by all the students at CYA. The owners at Kekkos are sweet and friendly and like to teach us new words and facts about Greece in their free time, and the café itself is great for frappes, freddo espresso, or all kinds of novelty sweets, sandwiches, pastries, and sugar donuts. This is also the place that first exposed me to free snacks in Greece: when you order and sit outside at Kekkos, the staff will always bring biscuits, or even a donut along with your coffee. Once when I was there with friends in the evening they even brought us pieces of homemade baklava. Since it is customary here to drink coffee and alcohol along with food, many bars and cafes will provide bread, olives, fruit, cheese, or other snacks to go with drinks. This is one of my favorite little things about Greece.