Athens – Almost robbed, Avenue of pleasure
Greece was the country I was looking for. Different script meaning signs were harder to read, different people and culture from the UK. I wanted a culture shock! However, this meant that I had to do a fair bit of research on what to do once I get there.
I’ve always been curious about visiting a country where the alphabet does not have English or Persian/Arabic/Urdu letters. Greece with it’s economic trouble (and possibly reduced hotel prices due to low occupancy), and my wish to visit to Lebanon, I decided to put it en-route.
As with any other visit, the only question I ask is – is there a reasonably priced flight, and will I be safe as a practicing Muslim as I’m likely to stick out. I’ve seen programs where Africans arrive on boat, and Afghan/Iraqis/Syrians escaping war, famine and persecution pass through Greece (illegally) seem to get rough treatment as providing care to an influx of people in rapidly deteriorating conditions is hard. Another issue I had in my mind was the rising popularity of Golden Dawn, and street crime. However, asking around on travel forums, I might at most be mistaken for a rich Kuwaiti and was unlikely to face hostility. North-Eastern Greece has a huge Muslim population and there is one famous Greek-Muslim debater in London.
I did a full day course on Islam in Greece by a Greek-Muslim professor and decided I had some background.
The first day was probably one of the most shocking days in life. An elderly, due to cut in monthly pension did not believe he should have to scavenge for food from garbage to survive. This caused Syntagma staiton to close, and to miss the vital interchange. My husband took out the map to see an alternative route and some person trying to be helpful tried to tell something about how to get to Neos-Cosmos. While exiting the train, another person blocked my path to separate my husband who was already on the platform. I had to push to get out along with my luggage. Then almost immediately another person tried to separate me from my husband on the escalators by helping lift the trolley bag onto the escalator. My husband realized that I didn’t really needed any help with luggage at this point, and the guy did manage to separate us. The gang thought that my husband would focus on me while they tried to open his backpack to steal stuff which was on his shoulder towards the back. Luckily he has a habit of putting his bag in front when he can and quickly saw that the upper zip was undone – and the croissant that was wrapped in a noisy plastic bag was till on top meaning that they didn’t get to the valuables stored lower in the bag. He shouted to me saying that these guys are thieves – watch out and I clutched my handbag even more. I guess all the tricks and techniques and the “scaring” talk about keeping your belongings safe, using zipped handbags and keeping it on the front was handy. The gang did not look Greek! They actually started laughing and talking in a different language among them when we realised what they were up to!
At another station, we asked a Greek girl for directions – not knowing English she told us how to make our way around Syntagma. She then pointed at my purse and then at hers indicating I should always cover the top of my purse with my hand while traveling. I hated the fact that we had this attempt on us and the sweet girl was so helpful. We decided not to travel by train in Athens as till an hour later we still felt shaken. It also meant we weren’t going to North Athens for halal food and would stick with Fish and Vegetarian options instead.
After this, an Indian approached my husband asking if he needed any help. Husband totally kept his distance by saying bluntly; No, and Good bye. It’s really sad that a suicide caused on these chain of events for us. I wish that the pensioners who’ve given all their lives to the country would be treated well.
Our hotel was about ten minutes walk down Syngrou Avenue which I later understood meant something like “Avenue of pleasure” as it had a couple of clubs… even though the hotel was a well recognized international 4-5* star chain.
It had been a very long and tiring day. Exhausted, I was ready to hit the bed!!