Athens is a city of extremes. Vital pieces of ancient Greek history—the centric site of the Acropolis, exhibits of ancient artifacts along metro platforms, or the hill of the Areopagus—exist boldly alongside Athens’ fast-paced modernity. The modern city is a sea of white apartment buildings with lush plants spilling off of balconies and small tavernas, whose patrons sprawl out across sidewalks and into the narrow streets, which are populated by impatient motorcyclists, colorful graffiti, and erudite Athenians, for whom the city constant state of flux has become routine.
The modern meets the ancient both daringly and seamlessly, prompting numerous interactions between the historical and the contemporary. The dialogue between Athens as the birthplace of democracy and Greece’s modern form of democracy exists in the sharp distinction between the ruins of the Parthenon and the image of the imposing Parliament House beside Syntagma Square. The dialogue between Athens’ past and present exists in the strange juxtaposition between the remnants of the Ancient Agora, the social trading center of ancient Athens and Varvakios Agora, an energetic, colorful market crowded with open fish and meat displays and bins stuffed with greens and vegetables. The dialogue exists between the preserved ruins of Athens’ 5th century BC fortifications around the Piraeus peninsula and the unseen distant borderlines where the refugee crisis festers and develops along chain link fences.
Athens has been my home for three weeks now. In these weeks, I have seen and touched and moved through Athens as a stranger, a student, and a visitor. Since it is a new city to me, I have encountered the modern and the ancient through the same eyes. The Athens that I have met and explored is incredibly multi-layered and complex—not to be defined by its immense historical value, but simultaneously not to be denied its budding global existence.