Wednesday, March 29
Anyone who has ever booked a hotel or Airbnb in a foreign city knows how difficult it can be to judge distances and the coolness of different neighborhoods. If you’ve never been to a place yourself, you just don’t know what the best neighborhoods are. Since we chose our Airbnb based more on looks and feel-good factor than location in the city, we ended up in the “Exarchia” neighborhood more or less by accident.
Before we finally booked our Airbnb, we naturally tried to collect as much information as possible about this district on the Internet. In the many travel blogs about “Exarchia”, mostly written by American tourists, there was a wide variety of things about this district. Starting with one author’s complaints about graffiti on the very run-down houses in the neighborhood and the resulting security risk, in her opinion. From warnings not to enter the district to stories that there are drug addicts on every corner who threaten to poke tourists with their used needles. Wow. That’s not how we imagined our month in Athens to be. Nevertheless, the somewhat hysterical travel blogs seemed exaggerated to us, so we continued researching this district.
After the first superficial research, we came across other reports and somewhat more neutral assessments of the “Exarchia” district. In several places it was said: yes, some of the houses are a bit run down and tagged with graffiti – but the district is not dangerous. The district is known in the city primarily as a left-wing student district. A few years ago there were regular serious clashes and street battles between the residents of “Exarchia” and the police, until the police finally withdrew completely from the neighborhood for a few years. As a result, this district is also known as the anarchist district. However, the author of the blog article, who was Greek in this case, made it unmistakably clear that “Exarchia” is still known today as a left-wing alternative student district, but that the police are now back in the district and there is no reason for tourists to feel unsafe there.
After reading the articles written by Greek authors, Christoph and I knew that we would definitely book our Airbnb in that district. We imagined the district as a somewhat wilder St. Pauli and after several weeks here in Athens we can say: For us it was the best decision to book an Airbnb in “Exarchia”! Although we were a bit cautious at the beginning, we quickly realized that it is no less safe here than in Hamburg, even at night. At no point did we feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Sure, the houses here aren’t all that well maintained and sprayed with graffiti and the presence of the police shows that things really did get a bit wilder here in the past. So far, however, we have experienced our “Exarchia” district as a super nice, alternative district with lots of great, modern restaurants, cafés and colorful houses. Due to the fact that the most adventurous rumors about “Exarchia” are still circulating on the Internet, tourism in the district has not really developed yet. We actually always feel like we’re the only tourists in the neighborhood, which made it easy for us to immerse ourselves in everyday Greek life in Athens. Everywhere we are greeted in a friendly, interested and a little surprised way. Often there are also small communication problems, since Christoph and I unfortunately don’t speak Greek and not everyone in the neighborhood speaks English. Despite the language barrier, we feel so comfortable in our neighborhood that we would prefer to spend four months here instead of the planned four weeks!