Tonight the Parthenon temple (Acropolis) which stands in the Centre of Athens is illuminated a vibrant blue colour. The reason? To bring attention to UNICEF's World Children’s Day 2019. Today also coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the child. Why the colour blue? Well that’s just the colour of UNICEF. Other famous landmarks around the world are also being lit up for this occasion including Petra in Jordan, European Parliament in Brussels, Shanghai Tower in China and the Pantheon in Paris. If you see anywhere else lit up in blue tonight we would love to hear.
Written and edited by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
For my 22nd birthday we decided on visiting another island, as it would never be possible for me to visit the beach for my birthday in England. After looking into it and not wanting to be sitting on a ferry for another five hours as we had been for Mykonos and for Naxos, we found Aegina only an hour ferry away from Athens and just as beautiful as the other islands that were much further away.
Also, it proved cheaper with it being closer, but also having our ISIC (international student card) cards gave us 50% off on ferries. So, with a group of 7 we booked our ferry and apartment and soon the time came to visit this beautiful island.
When we arrived on the island we hired two cars (which I would highly recommend anyone doing as it is quite a large island with monuments and sights spread out). We were there from Friday till Sunday and it was only 20 euros each, and this meant we could see more of the island.
After dropping off our bags we decided to visit the Cathedral of Saint Nectarios (or Agios Nektarios) which was so beautiful. This monastery had also only been built in the 20th century so wasn't as old as many of the other religious buildings we had come across in Greece. The flowers that surrounded the walk down provided splashes of colour perfect for taking photos in-front. Due to it being a religious monastery we all had to borrow these long skirts to wrap around our own clothes, which were actually pretty comfy.
After this we drove around 20 minutes across the island to the Temple of Aphaia, which almost looked like a smaller Acropolis, but with a beautiful view of the see and the many pistachio trees down below on the island. Due to this attraction being up on a hill you could see to Athens from there, which truly shows how close it really is.
With it still being around 25 degrees in October, we all decided to make the most of it and head to the sea for a swim and to relax on the beach for a bit. We found a pretty much empty beach, apart from around 5 other people, that also had beautifully clear water. (However, this was around 10/15 mins drive away from our apartment, so we decided to head back to a beach/ harbour near our apartment for sunset in order to have a couple of beers without anyone having to be the designated drivers.
With it being towards the very end of the season it is quite strange walking along with not many people around, with the restaurant’s being pretty much empty – although, it is almost the perfect time to visit somewhere like this as you are still able to swim and relax but can also walk up hills and see sights without becoming too warm.
The next day us girls made breakfast/ brunch while the boys went to watch the rugby down by the harbour. This meant that we had the upper hand on what we would do today.
We decided on the Wildlife Hospital, this seemed like a relaxed activity that we would all enjoy, so we headed on our way… trying to rely on google maps to get us there, as it was positioned in the middle of the island which is incredibly hilly. But, the girl’s car managed to get there, however, on arriving we realised it was closed to the public. With the boys saying that they were just “5 minutes away” so to “wait there” we decided to pull up into the space in front of the gate to the wildlife hospital and wait. Little did we know we would in fact be waiting around 40 minutes. While trying to get in contact with the boy’s car to make sure they were still alive we continually got told to wait, they wouldn’t be long and then as time passed we soon got stressed out phone calls saying they were lost on a dirt track somewhere in the island, with the maps suggesting they were only 10 minutes away… When they finally got to us alive they seemed to all be thankful they were still alive after Alex’s directions had taken them god knows where.
So, having wasted the most half of the day due to the boys we moved on to this chapel that was just a short hike away from where we parked up our cars but again provided some beautiful views. With Alex and Mitch climbing up some dangerous rocks, we could again see who truly valued their lives.
Keeping in the theme of religion and hiking we went to this village that contained only old chapel’s, this village is called Paleahora, which actually translates as old village. This was really interesting as there were dozens of chapels on these rocks as you made your way up to the top and each of them was in a different state of abandonment, with some having pictures and alters still in position as though they were still ready to take Sunday Mass. This also includes twin chapels of Saint’s George and Demetrius, here was were a medieval fortress once stood. I would highly recommend visiting this as it makes you think about what it would have been like when people still visited these chapels or whether there would be houses surrounding them, or whether these little chapels may have once housed people of the island?
After hiking for the majority of the day, we decided we deserved a swim in the sea and headed to the little beach nearest to our house. After seeing the sunset here again, we walked back, stopping off at the shop to cook ourselves some dinner and grab some alcohol we arrived back home. That evening when we had headed out to the kiosk, we came across a litter of kittens which were so adorable and seemed to be treated well here.
I would recommend Aegina, as not only is it close to Athens but it also has a lot to see and do. So this allows for a weekend get away that won't leave you with the only option being to head to the beach. It also has some amazing Pistachio nuts and products made from pistachio’s (pesto's, spreads etc) as they are all grown on this island. (So of course - save some money to buy some of these)
Article by Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
Edited and published by Elly Babe
So, to end a full-on week of activities and drinking with ESN, the Mykonos trip came around and we were promised another four days of drinking, sightseeing and bonding with our fellow Erasmus students. We set sail (on a five-hour-long ferry) to the island most famous for its windmills, on Thursday morning waking up at 4am for a departure from the ESN office at 5am. With around 200 Erasmus students we set off.
Alex and I became members of hotel 7 and hotel 6 became home to Dejan. When we finally docked in Mykonos, we were subjected to a lot of waiting around as the coaches meaning to take us were all on Greek time (meaning they’d be roughly an hour later than they had said). However, once on the coaches we soon made it to our small hotel where 19 of us were staying for the 4 days. We were quick to make friends and started asking around about what everyone was planning on doing for the day, and minds automatically turned to food. With the ferry only taking cash a lot of us hadn’t eaten since yesterday dinner time, and it was now around 2pm. Us and a group of 7 others headed off in the direction of any restaurant. To our surprise a couple of the people within the group were ones we had previously met on a clubbing night and at the Greek dinner. We found a place along the front and ordered immediately.
With food in our belly’s we looked for the nearest beach and found one that was already host to multiple other Erasmus students. We decided this would be where we would spend the rest of the day.
The evening called for pre-drinks with our new-found friends and a club night. A classic game of ‘Ring of Fire’ and a lot of laughing later and we decided it was time to head out. We ended up at ‘Scandinavian bar’ which was what was suggested by the ESN guides as we had free entry and a ‘discount’. We soon realised this would not be the best place to party. On arriving we got our free entry, however, for two drinks at the bar it was 18 euros – even with the discount. We learnt that this discount was in fact only 1 euro off. So being the smart students we are we decided best to go out to the kiosk around the corner and buy beer and mixed drinks from there for 2 euro and then go back in when we were ready to dance. (Little did we know this would become the schedule for each night out).
The next day was a group trip to ‘Super Paradise’ and being a bit hungover from the night before we didn’t pack accordingly. We forgot to pack drinks, food and therefore, became trapped in the beach club as it was in the middle of nowhere. Food cost 13 euros for a plate from a cafeteria-like setting and a soft drink (with our wristband). Alcoholic drinks were also expensive with it being 6 euros for a beer. This place we branded super paradise, but we soon relabelled it super * paradise (*expensive). However, we had a lovely time with the friends we had made, and the water was so clear as well as the beach being beautiful. This beach bar would have been a lot more fun had we not been students or even if we had been students with a lot more money. Little did we know that for 5 Euros we could have travelled back to the town centre at any point during the day. As soon as we found this out we soon travelled back to the town and got some cheap gyros to make up for the food we had in the beach club. This night was probably the most tired we were for the whole holiday; however, we refused to leave it on a bad note, and with a bit of group peer pressure we all managed to make it out to the club. The club we went to was ‘Argo’ this played better music than the other bars, but the drinks were still pretty expensive *que escape to the kiosk*. This was a good night, but we ended the night around 3am, with the other party-goers still going till 5am, as we needed our beds. Although, on our return home we sat on the rooftop by our apartments watching the stars and chatting which was an ideal end to the night. (Alea even managed to see a few shooting stars – to Alex’s annoyance he was always too late to see them).
The final full day was here, and we all felt refreshed as we hadn’t gone too hard on the previous night and got a relatively good night sleep, so we headed out to the windmills. The windmills weren’t that impressive, but the views of the little Venice and the white houses down the side towards the sea proved to be the main sight to see. The streets themselves of Mykonos were also incredibly beautiful as the alleys weave in and out. However, be careful as all the alleys look mostly the same, so it is good to gage some landmarks – like a shop or restaurant here and there, so you know you’re going along the right way. After this, another beach day was in need as we had a couple beers and watched the sunset over the sea. This evening, being the last evening on the island, we decided to party hard. This followed the same routine as the last couple of nights. However, we had all learnt not to buy drinks out apart from the kiosk, and this is what we did. This proved to be a good end to an eventful holiday.
These events – even if they don’t turn out the way you had set in your mind – are amazing ways to make friends and socialise with people who are in the same boat as you are. It definitely makes you feel more connected to the other people on Erasmus, and now we have a whole new group of friends from different backgrounds to socialise with and learn from.
Article by Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
Edited and Published by Elly Babe
I still can’t come to terms that I’m studying in Athens for a year. I’m mesmerized to say the least … I’m immobile like the statue at end of my dusty street. I’m broken to bits, chipped away but I’m still monumental.
I’m proud to be a resident of the ruins.
I live in the fucking acropolis; this means I’m in the centre of everything. I’m part of the unique culture, the rich history and the advanced civilization.
This was the right choice and I have no regrets whatsoever. Yet, I’m the tearless traveller who is always adjusting and adapting, I’m never happy with normality. I’m on the hunt for newness, I want my experiences to elevate me to greatness. I’m still finding myself (whatever that means), the search may last for eternity, but I have time. I got it inked on my skin just to remind me.
I did this by myself, I put in the work and now I’m living lavish. No one believed in the lunatic that’s been babbling on about an impossible trip, back home everyone thought I was delusional. I made my own destiny even when everyone doubted me. Who would have thought a boy like me would achieve his aspiration?
It was difficult for me to leave my past behind; the forgotten farewells stay stuck in my mind. People that I thought cared never even said goodbye.
I have been blessed with such a caring family; my guardians always look after me, they guide me even in my time of need. I’m the ultimate third wheel but they are glad to have me at every meal. I learned a lot from them because their relationship is very special. The Airbnb is meant to be a ‘me and you’ experience but I sleep alone. Honestly, I’m content with the fact that I don’t rely on a significant another. Loneliness is my richness. I lay in bed with a smile because I don’t need to argue, I don’t need to debate and eventually hate.
My suitcase is bigger than my accomplishments. I wanted to bring all my precious reminders with me, but I simply didn’t have any space. The excess weight cost me a fortune. My memories are made up by materialistic objects, people come and go but this stuff never loses its sentiment. I proudly hanged my paintings on the wall, along with my posters and photos. I have a stack of books that I will never read. This one has no cover, just the title ‘Astonishing Athens’ on the front. I tried tearing out the old pages in hope that I can focus on the new chapters. The meaning is lost in the various translations. My story is like the minotaur’s maze, there is no escape from the monster nor the myth.
The place where I rest is the owl’s thorn nest. I’m mighty but featherless, this flight is for the fearless.
The truth is … Eros is corrupt for he is unaware that cold hearted love to fuck up, they can’t comprehend the intensity of their lover’s devotion. They are doomed figurines that lack pure emotion. So, shoot your shot if you must, but please stop overhyping the actuality of love.
The nectar of my soul drips on Athena’s shield. Her silver spear is my rib cage, my organs are pierced but I stand straight with pride. The inner fighter in me will never die.
This city will always be alive, the archaic architecture will never fade away.
Dionysus dances on my grave tonight. I feel the ecstasy in the white wine. I’m a helpless actor in his play.
The battle between the ancient and modern is a recurring theme in the capital, the division in this new age is slowly tearing up the tranquillity. The way I see it, the Greeks are staying strong to their roots but are attempting to mimic the progress of the first world nations. Stick to what you know, cherish the traditional values that your ancestors thrived in.
Even the university campus surprised me, it was this big hollow building with graffiti on every corner. There were anarchist signs everywhere and anti-capitalism slogans on the stairs. It wasn’t as advanced as Brighton, things were old fashioned, and you accepted the slow-paced system. It all consisted on paperwork rather than doing things online.
The food is out of this world, everything is fresh and rich in taste. I don’t mind eating gyros every day, the westerns expectations have been exceeded, so just feed me anything. Drinking is obviously part of our daily routine, I enjoy saying Yamas every hour, bring the spirits to our table until I get my drunken superpowers. My confidence sprouts like a pretty flower, the way that her eyes are fixated is making me lose my will power.
I feel unworthy of the Greek glory, I’m taken back by the orange sunrise that slowly falls into the bright blue sea.
I’m like a fragile God glancing down at the scenery, the little white houses that are stacked on one another start to disappear as everything gets dimmer. I’m standing on a delightfully disintegrating landscape, resting on the late homes that are thousand years old.
The sangria is poured down into the rocks like blood.
It’s unreal at times. But this is the most that I’ve felt at home.
The Greek girl blissfully walks into the water at midnight, she slowly swims into the Aegean sea, the moonlights mouth consumes her whole, she is freed from all her sins as her body floats …
Poem By Dejan Inic (@durtday)
Published by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
The night before last myself, Elly and our friend from Brighton Rick (name changed as requested), decided to go to the Full Moon party at Bolivar Beach Bar. The night started out great, with us travelling first to Piraeus to pre-drink at Ricks flat to then getting a taxi to the night club around 12pm.
On arrival we got a free drink with the 10 euros entry, which frankly I knew I didn’t need, having finished off a litre of Vodka between myself and Elly I was suitably pissed by the time I arrived at the club. This had its benefits as I didn’t have to buy a single drink for the rest of the night. So, I am not able to tell you if the drinks were expensive or not. The club itself was amazing, as it states in the name it is on the beach which means there is plenty of room to relax but also areas to dance and get properly involved with the DJ. I had a great night until we left to leave the club.
Our friend Rick (the only person who knows how to speak Greek) had run into the sea and seemed perfectly fine, bar a little wet. As we went to meet our taxi, myself and Elly got up and helped Rick to his feet, who at this point fell facedown and was out like a switch. I sobered up instantly. Looking back, I am very glad that he had got dressed before passing out.
How the Greek staff and services dealt with this situation was incredible. They had clearly seen all this before and had done the procedure countless times. Pretty much straight away four of the staff grabbed a beach chair lifted Rick onto it and almost like a king being paraded through a crowd, he was carried through the party. Elly and I following behind like a royal procession. Once a bit further down the beach, by the exit to the bar the staff put him down and checked his pulse.
At this point, I thought the next step, as we would in England, would be chucking Rick in the back of a taxi and getting him back to our apartment to sleep the night off. However, when we asked the bar staff if we could take nick from there, they responded that the ambulance was on its way already and to wait for them to arrive. This was very surprising to us as he was just drunk, and as students we have been in this state ourselves or have seen many people in the state without getting the emergency services involved. In the back of my head I thought the ambulance would arrive, tell us off for wasting their time and send us packing. This, however, was not the case. The ambulance arrived and tried to ask us what happened, through gestures and the word “Drunk” being repeated. Then to our disbelief loaded the only Greek speaker in the group into the back of the ambulance. The very jolly, non-uniformed driver in his fifties with a greying moustache then laughed and said, “Jump in... to the after-party”. His colleague strapped us into the back, and we were off.
This after-party turned out to be the A&E and wasn’t a party I ever want to have the bad luck of returning to. The room was full of injured and ill citizens. Quite frankly to a recently sobered up Brit it was pretty horrendous. There was a man with his nose bandaged up, but with scarlet stains covering his black and white stripy T-shirt. There was screaming from a room, the door still slightly ajar but I remember wishing that it had been completely closed. And people in hospital beds filling the room completely apart from a small walkway through the centre. Luckily, we were put next to a bed with a teen who we later found out was also unconscious due to alcohol. Yes, we were in the intoxicated corner of the emergency services. We later learnt that the two women waiting with the seventeen-year-old was his mum and aunt, and it was the kids first time drinking.
The hospital staff proceeded to take blood from Rick and then to put him on the drip. At first, they asked me to hold his arm while they stuck a massive needle into him. As they started to withdraw the needle from the said arm, I began to feel sick and subsequently faint. Deciding that I didn’t want to add another patient to the already overcrowded hospital, Elly took over holding his arm while he underwent heart monitor tests and blood tests. I decided to take a seat (on a medical stall somewhere in the cramped room) and drifted to sleep. Waking up around thirty minutes after when Elly needed to leave for the toilet, I then took position of watching over Rick. Hours passed like minutes as our alcoholic dazes had long passed and we stood there worn out having been up for around 20 hours. It was now around 6:30am, and we had been there for a good few hours... and I began to hear the patient snore. I wasn’t having this, and got hold of the doctor, asking him if I was allowed to wake Rick and go home. He replied frankly “of course, of course”. So, starting off gently I began to shake my now sleeping friend, he stirred a little but not fully so I thought a few light slaps to his face while saying his name might work... until his eyes eventually opened, dazed and confused. I was so glad, not just to see him alive but of the prospect I would finally be able to go to sleep. As Elly kept him awake, I ran and got the doctor to take the drip from his arm. In a few minutes, after Rick had conversed with the doctor in Greek, he was out of bed hailing a taxi to take us home. As we left the emergency room, I saw the mother and auntie employing my rough but effective technique of raising the drunk, and I hope that it worked sooner than later, hospitals are never good venues to pass the time.
Looking back how the staff and the emergency services handled the situation was fantastic and professional, even though the hospital was daunting I never felt unsafe and it was the best place for our friend at that point in time. Even better, it was free, and no payment was asked for. I know now that I am in good hands in Athens.
By Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
Edited by Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
The flight from Rhodes to Athens was a quick but bumpy one. On landing in Athens I was thankful that the pilot had actually slowed down to stop and had not gone straight into the airport building, but I guess this was the Greek driving we were going to have to get used to.
From the airport our apartment was closest to the Acropolis tube station, which is central to the rest of the city. We took the blue line to Syntagma metro station and then switched to the red line and carried on for one stop to the Acropolis. This journey (for a 90 min ticket from the airport into Athens) cost 10 euros; however, a normal day to day (5 day) ticket costs 9 euros and around 5/6 euros for a student ticket of the same.
Food shopping proved to be difficult and expensive as the first shop we went to was a ‘My Market’ which was where we bought certain essentials for the house (bread, eggs etc), these small bits came to a large total of 26 euros. Although we soon found a Lidl by the stop on the train called ‘Kallithea’, prices were more reasonable here but still seemed to be more expensive than at home. With our hopes surrounding food shopping seeming to be cut short we found a bargain store in the shopping district (there are also others around in different parts of Athens) called ‘Bargain bazaar’ this seemed to offer more reasonable prices and there is an option here to buy pasta, rice etc. In bulk.
We also found a cheaper store for bits for the house to make it seem more homely such as rugs, bins, laundry baskets etc. This shop is situated in Piraeus down one of the streets close to the station. With this being a bit out the way we looked to find a closer shop offering the same accessories. So, it was just our luck when we came across a ‘Tiger’ in the shopping district where we were also able to get storing baskets and other little decorative bits.
The available attractions within the city are amazing and fairly priced for students as most places will have discounted tickets or will be free. The open-air theatre (said to be one of the best in the world) opposite the view of the acropolis promises to be an amazing and magical night as you watch a film while also looking at the lit-up Acropolis. This was 8 euros for us on a Friday evening; however, they have their student days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday where the tickets are only 6 euros.
Alongside this, you can get into most attractions for free with your student card, so it works in your favour to bring it along.
Another thing we found to do was sitting outside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This is an open-air music venue, and by sitting outside you can clearly hear the concert happening inside. Many people stand outside here dancing to the music with either their own beer from home or a drink from the bar outside that still served passers-by as the concert continued. It was only cost 5.60 euros for 2 beers.
Banking has caused us much grief in the first few days of living here. At an ATM that isn’t Attica bank (which offers free withdrawals), we learnt that it is better to reject the conversion rate as this provides you with a better rate when the money is withdrawn from your bank, meaning the 300 euros you get out may only come out of your bank as £270 (depending on the days exchange rate). Also, if you are planning on using your English bank card such as HSBC or Natwest remember to tell them you are going abroad and planning on using this card so that you have no moments of being unable to use your card when you need it the most. We have also signed up for an N26 card as this allows for bigger withdrawals from ATMs as well as allowing free withdrawals from a bank.
Finally, the vibe of this city is amazing and being able to chill and drink on the streets creates a warm atmosphere. However, there is still a need to be vigilant and remember that you aren’t in your own home town and things may be taken incorrectly and could cause you to be in trouble. There are threats of muggings and Knife crime within the city, however, as long as you stay out of the darker alleyways and try not to walk off anywhere alone where you are unsure of the neighbourhood then the city will stay amazing.
By Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
Edited and published by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
Everyone’s dreamed of moving to an exotic hot country and living out their best lives … for many people that is just a dream, but your university could be your ticket to making this a reality. For us the reality started to unfold about a year ago when we realised our course had the opportunity to do the Erasmus scheme. Being the travel enthusiasts that we are we knew we had to explore the idea even if it didn’t come of anything. The Erasmus scheme is something set up by the EU to allow students to transfer to other countries for education.
Rewind back 9 months and we’re sitting there in a crowded meeting talking about our options. Athens seemed like the most culturally rich city that could give us the best experience out of them all. After deciding where to go we had to go through writing about why we feel this would be a good fit for us, having to turn down living with our friends in Brighton before even finding out if we got a spot on the Erasmus scheme and lots and lots of waiting. Everyone around us started to question if there was any point waiting or if it was even going to go forward due to Brexit but for us it was no question that we would be waiting to find out if we got a place. However, for a lot of people this just wasn’t an option with the need to put down deposits and secure housing in Brighton, people started slowly dropping out leaving just three of us. This was sad on their part as it meant they wouldn’t be able to experience all the things that a year studying somewhere else would supply.
Thank God we waited! In April we finally started filling out the forms with our module information on them and the process was in action. By the end of May we had been guaranteed our spot at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and we couldn’t be happier. Our waiting and pestering our mentor paid off.
However, our planning didn’t stop there we still had to find a house, set up a bank account and book flights to Athens. The house hunting was one of the harder things as we kept finding places that would have been perfect had we believed they were truthful.
After weeks of hunting for the ideal place that ticked all our boxes we ended up finding an Airbnb that Alex managed to talk into letting us let it out for 9 months for the price of 300 Euros each. With this being right in the centre only 2 blocks away from the acropolis no one could believe our luck. With this all set, flights booked and a bank account set up all that is left to do is wait, enjoy our time with the friends we won’t see for a year and start deciding what bits from our 20 odd years of life we are going to fit into the suitcase we will take with us. Yikes.
We will officially be moving to Athens on the 11th September 2019 and will be staying there until June 15th 2020 so any tips on places to visit in or outside of Athens would be an amazing help. (or any advice about living in Greece)
Written by Elly Babe, edited and published by Alex Hood.
We are three Brighton University students who have been given the opportunity to study at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. This blog will be our way of sharing our experiences of living and studying in Greece, plus will include tips and advice for those also looking to study abroad or even just visit Athens.
Who we are:
Where we went...