Living in Athens – Part 1

If you’re considering living in Athens, you might find this post interesting and helpful. I will share my experiences and my personal thoughts to make your stay worthwhile even if you’re just visiting, planning to work here, or living here as a stay at home mom like me. Athens, is the 5th most populous city in the EU zone, with two UNESCO world heritage sites; one being the mighty Acropolis and the other the Daphni Monastery. It is one of the biggest economic centers in the southeastern European continent with tremendous historical importance.

I moved to Athens with my family which includes my husband, my 18 month old daughter and my chocolate-brown Labrador in the beginning of this year. I knew very little about the place I would be calling my home for the next few years. My husband was offered a job here despite the financial crisis the city has been facing the past few years. But politics aside, let me talk about how wonderful and overwhelming this wide spread city is. So make yourself comfortable, get yourself a coffee and join me in my Greek Athens experience. And mind you, this is going to be one interesting (but slightly long) post. Grabbed that coffee yet?

The day I arrived, my husband took me to a restaurant whose name I could hardly pronounce until a few subsequent visits later. Now I have learnt that restaurants are called Local Greek Tavernas. If you go to any of these, you will never leave disappointed with the food that they serve. I’m sure many of you reading this already know how delicious Greek food is; mouthwatering and just yum! Our first week in Athens was spent exploring the neighborhood. I got lucky when I got here, I immediately made friends with a Greek woman who lives one floor below our apartment. When I say I got lucky, I mean it; it’s never a bad idea to make friends with people you are going to live with and see every day.

Our apartment is situated downtown of the city, 5 minutes from the heart of the city by car and 15 minutes by Metro. The Greek apartments stunned me, they are fabulous inside and out. The kitchen and the bathroom came decorated with colorful tiles and each room came ventilated with large double doors, with clear see through glass and a door with shade so you do not have to invest in curtains. And each room had its own balcony with large canopies to provide shade as the Greek sun can get tremendously hot during the summer. Overall, the apartments come spacious and the rents are pretty affordable due to the crisis they have currently. Once, we got settled in and made the house more of a home, it was time to explore where everything was and what to buy. We had to shop a bit at IKEA as newcomers we were aware of the ‘better safe than sorry’ saying. We also had some existing furniture in the house that we arranged to our will. And now, as in most of the European countries having their own language, Greece has Greek – and everything – whatever it may be, is written in Greek. But the other side to the drawback is that most Greeks speak English which makes it easier for you to find what you need.

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             [typical Greek farmer market called as Laiki]

Like I already mentioned, the Greek love their food, and I found out during my first week of stay that a few streets across where I live, there is a Farmers’ Market which takes place every Friday and another one every Tuesday a few blocks further. So the Farmers’ Market is called a Laiki (pronounced Lai-aa-kee). You get the freshest produce, everything from fresh vegetables, greens, fresh eggs in various sizes, and sometimes if you get lucky, you could get fresh fish and fresh seafood. The laiki happens in one long street with stalls on both the sides with vendors selling all the stuff you might want to enhance your cooking skills. Not to forget, the vendors sell some amazing local wine for 1 Euro (!) or sometimes 2. So, this Laiki is area specific; you might want to check with your neighbourhood friends on which days these markets take place. But don’t be disappointed if you cannot find one as there is an all week Farmers market which happens every day except Sunday at the Monastiraki – Omonia Streets in the Center, where there is a huge farmers market and super huge fresh seafood market with meat market. A small tip, you might want to think of waking up early to hit these markets as it can get utterly crowded after 11am. Here you can find the spices, the famous Greek Kalamata olives, fresh Greek Feta and the Greek yogurt, Greek olive oil, the Greek Mastic spirits and wines – some really robust colorful things. I would say you would never be tired of shopping here.

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[supermarkets of Greece – left to right: Sklavenitis, Carrefour, AB City]

For the supermarket purchases, a Greek local suggested I shop only at a supermarket called Sklavenitis, Greek owned with a wide range of items available for affordable prices compared to the other markets I did research on. Trust me when I say this as I learnt from my mother in law to start saving on household purchases so I do all my research perfectly. But that’s another story, and then, apart from the supermarket I mentioned there is AB city, again Greek owned, which I would pick after Sklavenitis. Also, there is the French owned supermarket Carrefour, highly expensive and not at all recommended as for weekend shopping I would spend 50 euros at the Sklavenitis and 40% more at Carrefour, thus not my personal favorite.

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