At 17 I moved to the USA for university and ended up staying there for approximately 8 years. Like anyone who leaves home for the first time, I missed my friends and family, the sun and beach and the sense of security provided by familiar surroundings. However, as I acclimated to my home away from home and throughout my frequent holiday and summer visits to Greece, I realized that aside from the typical longings, I felt the absence of some unexpected parts of Athens. Although there were a number of Athenian experiences I missed, the three most prevalent were the following:
Most people think of the Acropolis as the most impressive, awe-provoking structure of Ancient Greece and it really is, one feels inspired when standing before it. Still, whenever I looked outside at the rainy streets of East Coast USA, I would close my eyes and picture the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounio. Located at the southernmost tip of Attica, about an hour away from Athens, the temple looks out to the Aegean Sea. I have not found another place in Greece where the sun and the sea harmonize so beautifully; the memory of being there was enough to calm me at my worst moments, but the sensation of actually having seen it and felt it, even once, suffices for an entire lifetime.
Athens isn’t only about history and romance, a big part of what it offers is entertainment. My favorite? Athens Nightlife. Anyone who has experienced Greek island hopping knows that we generally have a great nightlife. But I do not think it is frequently associated with Athens. From summer clubs built on cliffs, with harbor and city views, beach bar outings often resulting in late night swims, to the winter cosmopolitan setting of downtown locations; from contemporary Greek and bouzouki sounds, to hip-hop, house and jazz beats; Athens nightlife fulfills all desires and preferences. Never have I felt a city’s nightlife so diverse and accessible.
Last, the most persistent craving, of course, revolved around food. Aside for the longing for traditional Greek cuisine, a real Greek salad, or the number one, on-the-go meal, gyro, the absence of fresh products in my meals was a chronic issue. Food is much more seasonally appropriate in Greece, and thus natural and fresh. So, in the summer, for example, you can smell a bright red, ripe tomato being prepared in the kitchen. Apples are crispier in the fall and oranges more succulent in the winter. Our meat is mostly domestic and is much tastier, not to mention healthier and safer to eat – all year long. Finally, there is nothing like Greek olive oil to enhance the flavors of any meal.
If you ask a Greek abroad what he or she misses most about home, you will come up with a very long list, frequently overlapping in topics and sometimes uncovering parts of the respondents’ personal life. But I think it certain that if someone were to visit Athens today and experience the breathtaking view from the Temple of Poseidon, dance until the break of dawn and feast on the gastronomic splendor that is Greek cuisine, they would miss it just as much as I did!