I was 18 months old the last time I visited Athens, so to say that I was excited to see my Greek family after all these years was definitely an understatement.

Our first few days were spent exploring Athens city with my parents. We visited the must-see Acropolis, the weekend flea market, and Amou Street, one of the major shopping strips in town. We of course broke these up with pit stops at a few hellenic bakeries and a souvlaki restaurant along the way.

While out and about, we also managed to meet with my Uncle Jason and his lovely family. It was so great meeting his wife Vivere and children Nicolas and Melia for the first time. After a bit of a catch up, Uncle Jason kindly took me and Derek out to a couple of cool bars in a hip part of Athens. One of the bars was known for its killer negroni, Derek’s favourite cocktail, and we agreed that it was by far the best we’d ever tasted. Thanks Uncle Jase, we had a “heaps good” time with you and loved seeing a different side to Athens.

One evening we were all invited to my cousin George’s house for dinner. Besides the incredible spread of meats (from his butchery), salads and pasta, it was there that I tried and fell in love with his wife Lena’s famous papoussakia (eggplant stuffed with minced meat and topped with cheese). We finished the evening with Lone’s delicious chocolate brownies, a few scoops of bourbon vanilla ice cream and cuddles with their gorgeous newborn, Panayotis.

Then came the time to say goodbye to my parents. We had the most amazing time experiencing Greece in a way that we’d have never done alone, with of course the added bonus of having Dad as our very own translator. I really am lucky to have such kind and generous parents. Thank you for everything guys. We love you so much!

Although my parents had left us we were still in very good hands. We were staying with my Aunty Lone and let me tell you, it was absolute luxury. She was basically our Greek mum. Not only is she a magnificent cook but she spoilt us with everything and anything she could think of. We had our very own space in the basement which was actually a self-contained unit; much nicer than the 12-bed dorms we were used to.

My cousin Antonia was also staying at the house with her partner Andreas and gorgeous baby Otto. When we weren’t out exploring Athens you would find us hanging out and playing with Otto and the family. We were lucky enough to be there for his first bites of pizza and even watch him take his first steps! These are memories we’ll treasure forever.

We can’t thank you all enough for opening up your home to us. We were ridiculously spoilt the entire time and loved every minute with you all. It really felt like our second home. Can’t wait to come back for more pasticcio and dolmades!

Apart from spending time with my family a definite highlight for us was visiting Exarcheia. Exarcheia is located in downtown Athens and is home to the city’s anarchist community. The neighbourhood has been a hotbed of ideological resistance for decades. Nearly every wall is covered in defiant graffiti and street art, the most we’ve seen in any city. Police no longer travel through here as violent clashes and molotov cocktails are almost always guaranteed. Although it has a volatile and dangerous reputation, we didn’t feel at all unsafe while there. In fact, a local even kindly pointed us in the direction of some more popular streets for street art.

Well, we definitely had the ultimate Atheni experience. History, food, bars, and all between some much loved time with family. What better way to say farewell than with one last gyros!?

– Neetz

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