In our “Chats With Expats” series, The Pappas Post catches up with expatriates living in Greece to find out what they love (and don’t love) about the country. This series aims to share insights about life in Greece from unique perspectives and allow our readers to examine Greek society through an alternate lens.
Name: Elly Symons
Where are you from originally: Melbourne, Australia
How long have you been in Athens: 2 years
Occupation: Vice Chair – Australian Parthenon Committee
** The Australian Parthenon Committee is a political activist group which aims to facilitate the return of the Parthenon Marbles to the Acropolis of Athens. The marbles are currently housed in the British Museum.
Favorite street in Athens?
I would have to say Dionysiou Areopagitou which is the pedestrian street along the south side of the Acropolis – it has the Herodion and Theatre of Dionysus, Acropolis Museum and several magnificent neoclassical mansions. I also like Kolokotronis Street which has many little artisan workshops, handicrafts, gemstones and old-fashioned haberdashery shops.
Your best friend from back home has just landed in Greece, where is the first place you take them?
For the first night, a walk through Plaka to take in the character of old Athens and then rooftop drinks is simply a must to take in the majesty of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. From the second day onwards, it’s time to explore the neighborhoods of Psiri, Koukaki, Thiseon, Pangrati and Kolonaki.
Best souvlaki in the city?
I really like Cafe Royale on the corner of Ermou and Aiolou Streets – the owner takes great pride and the kebabs, souvlakia and salads are of amazing quality and the serving sizes are huge.
One Greek food you will never eat again?
I really dislike cooked cabbage so I will never eat cabbage rolls again…
What’s your favorite Greek wine?
Where is the worst smelling place you’ve been in the city?
Anywhere near the main rubbish bins and Monastiraki needs a good clean up.
Is the Athens transport network better than the one in your hometown?
Yes, I think the Athens Metro is fantastic, especially the ones with historical artefacts! I haven’t really caught buses here and most of the taxis are pretty good.
Ferry or plane to your favorite island?
For shorter trips, the ferries are a terrifically fun part of the journey. But for anything over four hours the novelty wears off and I prefer a plane. Arrival by ferry, however, is terribly charming and adventurous.
One thing you miss from home?
A decent Melbourne Latte in a Duralex glass.
One thing you don’t?
Being a night owl, I don’t miss the fact that most entertainment closes so early in Melbourne. In Athens, life continues ’till very late!
What’s your favorite time of year to be in Athens?
September is THE perfect month to be in Athens – you still have amazing beach weather but the main crowds have gone and there are the outdoor theatres and concerts which are just magical.
Favorite museum in Athens?
Well, I am a total museum NUT and I love ALL museums. Athens is blessed with world-class museums from the largest right down to the many smaller cultural museums. But because of my work and passion, if I have to single one out I’d have to say the Acropolis Museum.
What’s your least favorite part about Athens/something that could be better?
I really wish the footpaths were better and the general cleanliness of the city. Some parts are so grubby and the tagging is simply ugly.
What’s your go-to beach in Attiki?
Well, as I don’t have a car, it’s difficult and the coastline is full of amazing beaches which I’m looking to explore. I went to Schinias once near Marathon and it was lovely but down by the coast any of the beach clubs from Glyfada down to Vougliameni.
Where is your favorite day-trip getaway (non-beach/island)?
In summer I think Epidavros is wonderful, the theatre is perfection. In winter Arachova is simply stunning.
Favorite coffee/hang-out spot?
I love Little Tree Cafe and Books in Koukaki, it is a taste of a Melbourne Cafe in the heart of Athens.
The graffiti — love it or hate it?
Good graffiti is art and I love it. Bad graffiti and tagging is just an ugly eyesore. I think the graffiti needs to be regulated in some way.
What’s your best Greek taxi driver story?
Well, I love chatting with the cabbies. You really get the feel for a place. Many are always fascinated that this “nice Australian lady” is trying to get the Parthenon Sculptures back to Athens and they are very grateful!
Have your Greek language skills improved (for non-native speakers)?
Yes, my everyday Greek has vastly improved but I still get tangled up by more “professional” vocabulary.
What’s your favorite Greek word or phrase?
I absolutely cracked up when I first heard “to tetoio” – “the that thing.” I was with a friend and she said “Pass me ‘to tetoio’” as if saying “the that thing” whilst pointing in its general direction was actually helpful in me figuring out what she was referring to…
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