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Feel the pungency!
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Discussion Starter #1
Athens. A city hated by so many, including most of its inhabitants, but I am not “most of its inhabitants” :) Sprawling, dense, and noisy, but also sunny, colorful and vibrant, with a bustling center hiding surprises at every corner, a unique mix of ancient and new, of traditional and modern, and a wild and varied nightlife offer that not many cities can match, Athens always fascinated me, and I looked forward to spending a few days in it every year when I was a student, when I had to go there to do some necessary document work. As life brings unexpected changes however, I have not been able to return there since 2007 when I left to pursue my master studies, and with the recent Greek debt crisis and all the drama my Greek friends seized the opportunity to make about it, I was curious to see how things had changed since my departure, because if you were to believe them the country had become unlivable. And here I get the opportunity I have been waiting for, as I have to take a trip during summer 2019 that might be a crucial turning point in my shattered life, and transiting through Athens International Airport turns out to be the cheapest and most convenient option. So here I am, on an early morning of late June, landing at ATH after a rather rough descent:

 

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Feel the pungency!
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Discussion Starter #2
The first change I notice at the airport is the amount of Aegean Airlines aircraft parked on the apron, as the airline, which was still rather small during my stay in Greece, had overtaken Olympic Airlines (which had always been plagued by problems and eventually closed down during the debt crisis) as the Greek national carrier, and subsequently expanded its offer of destinations at a quick rhythm, bringing back ATH to the world aviation map as a transit hub. It was this expansion that allowed me to find connecting flights between my home country and my destination, something that wouldn’t have been possible before!

 

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Feel the pungency!
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Discussion Starter #3
We disembark and head to passport control. The terminal is still airy, clean and organized, just like it was on my last passage, but a short and very unpleasant employee is standing now before the immigration desks, barking at the passengers the number of the desk that is getting free, as if they can’t see it by themselves. Like the state of the terminal, Greek rudeness and obnoxiousness hasn’t changed either! After passing the control, I proceed right away to the departure area on the first floor, as there isn’t much time before my connection flight. It’s shortly after 7am, but the main departure hall is already crowded with passengers, more than I remember it at any other passage of mine. And we’re still in June and the tourist season still isn’t at its height yet, so I try to imagine the amount of overcrowding to come in July and August!

 

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Feel the pungency!
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27,354 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
It’s however the intra-Schengen area to the other side, where I have to catch my flight, that impresses me the most and allows me to understand how the airport is serving now about 25M passengers a year although it was built in its current state to accommodate 16M. The security control area has been radically remodeled, and many additional metal detectors and X-Ray machines have been installed, together with the staff needed to operate them. After I’m done with the tedious procedure, I find myself in a consumerist paradise with the omnipresent perfume and cosmetics brands, but also a lot more:

 

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Feel the pungency!
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27,354 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
I wander for a while among the displays, curious to see what is on offer and maybe buy something more for the friend I will be staying at. The store is complete with dozens of olive oil brands and varieties, none of which I remember having seen in a Greek supermarket, olive oil soaps with various extracts, mastic products… And I can imagine the appeal of all these local products to the foreign visitor and what a substantial source of income they should provide to the airport:

 

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Feel the pungency!
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Discussion Starter #15
I encounter other eateries at the beginning of the gate area, all serving appealing specialties and teeming with passengers. I can’t help but think about our own airport, with that one sterile café found after the final security control ever since its opening, and the little store of overpriced souvenirs that constantly sits empty just like the airport itself, and how pathetic it looks in comparison to this bustling and colorful hub :eek:hno:

 

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Feel the pungency!
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27,354 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Great, very nice new thread/photos about Athens, cat :cheers:
Thanks, there are a lot more to come!

BTW, are you still here in Athens or not?
No, I only transited there and could visit the city for only a couple of hours on my way back, that's why I didn't get in touch with you like I had promised. My visa days were counted and I needed to take care of important stuff in France, so I couldn't afford to waste more days in Greece, but if all goes well in the next months, I will be back and we can meet over a coffee :)
 
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