How to run Athens prop­erly

Carien du Plessis is on a mis­sion to run the globe. #Trend­ing catches up with her in Greece in the midst of the eco­nomic melt­down

CityPress - - Voices -

Place: Athens, Greece Dis­tance: Who’s count­ing Time of run: 7.45pm to 9.20pm (sunset: 8.41pm) Date: Satur­day July 4 – warm Rat­ing: Greece light­ning Rea­son: Po­lit­i­cal tourism travel to the ref­er­en­dum Route: From Me­tax­ourgeio up Ly­ca­bet­tus hill and down around the Na­tional Gar­den, back via Omonoia Square Trav­el­ling on a whim some­times takes you to weird places, sans guide­book, and you end up with just your in­tu­ition, some for­got­ten an­cient history ed­u­ca­tion and a half-assed map to rely on. Ad­mit­tedly, I was a bit luke­warm about Athens, hav­ing di­verted from my trav­els in the Balkans to check out the ref­er­en­dum. It’s not ex­actly a par­adise is­land.

There was also the mat­ter of mo­ti­va­tion. Hav­ing ruled out do­ing a grand run from Marathon to Athens on the orig­i­nal route of the first marathon – be­cause Haruki Mu­rakami, in What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning, said the road was full of traf­fic, pol­luted and hot – my mo­ti­va­tion was low.

Inspired by the Greek salad I had for lunch, I picked a green-look­ing space on the map named Ly­ca­bet­tus. The youth hos­tel re­cep­tion­ist gave the thumbs up to go there, but only be­fore sunset.

Two blocks af­ter putting away the map, I lost my way among the dirty back streets near Me­tax­ourgeio, where the worse-for-wear pave­ments smelt of the clow­der of cats the lo­cals feed there.

Un­like the Ger­mans, the Greeks are fear­less. In fact, most are ad­mirably skilled at jay­walk­ing. But let’s leave the Eu­ro­zone pol­i­tics there.

The gen­eral rule when you have no clue where you are is to take the road up­hill. At the top of the dirt road was a tar road. There I found a church and a wed­ding party, and the air smelt heav­enly sweet. Above the church was the sound of chat­ter and, around the cor­ner, the steps lead­ing to it.

The hill­top was so crowded I thought the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of Athens – and half of its tourists – had sought refuge there. Still, there were sur­pris­ingly few run­ners, but as most women were wear­ing im­pos­si­bly short shorts, I felt over­dressed in my run­ning tights. There, peo­ple took turns to take self­ies with the Acrop­o­lis in the back­ground.

Most of the high-rises in Athens look like par­o­dies of 20th-cen­tury South African hol­i­day flats – prob­a­bly be­cause they tried to look Greek be­fore Tus­can be­came the rage. Due to what ap­pears to be lim­ited space, the street lights hang sus­pended be­tween the build­ings.

Mak­ing my way through the neat and leafy Kolon­aki neigh­bour­hood on the down­hill – with its gal­leries, hipster bars, restau­rants and mu­se­ums – the charm of Athens made me slow my pace.

A lit­tle later, the Pana­thenaic Sta­dium was re­vealed in front of me. This is where the first mod­ern Olympic Games were held, in 1896. See­ing it made my tummy float and turn – that feel­ing when you fall in love and lust at the same time, or when you en­ter the sta­dium to fin­ish a Com­rades and the crowd is cheer­ing you like you are Bruce Fordyce. That sort of feel­ing.

Out­side the Pana­thenaic Sta­dium hung a ban­ner from the #NAI (yes) rally the night be­fore, and the splen­did venue made me wish that I had been with those who’d voted “yes” and not the “no” crowd at Syn­tagma Square.

Home was about four metro stops away by the time I re­alised I was tired. Public trans­port was free, but I pushed on.

I whooshed past the of­fi­cial-look­ing Zappeion – where jour­nal­ists were busy do­ing live cross­ings – the mag­nif­i­cent Tem­ple of Zeus – perched al­most shyly on ground full of an­thro­po­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion – and the Arch of Hadrian. The lot looked dra­matic and even more se­duc­tive in the semi-dark­ness.

By the time I got back to my place, I was head over heels. There is no way of run­ning Athens. It runs you. Taken from the blog Carien Runs

the World

VIEW FROM THE TOP Carien du Plessis takes a sweaty selfie at the top of a hill in Athens, Greece, with a great view over the city and the Acrop­o­lis (top of pic­ture)

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