Βγαίνω έξω, I’ll be back eventually!
Since coming to Παγκρατι (Pangrati) my daily step count has tripled. Without a car and in a city this walkable, it takes effort to get less than ten thousand steps a day.
This week, our Greek professor taught us the phrase “βγαινω εξω”, which means “I go out.” She said this is pretty commonly used to let people know that you’re going on a walk, a date, to meet friends, and really anything else that falls into that category. I can say with full confidence we are taking full advantage.
Following the example of everyone in Athens, we walk. We walk in small groups, in pairs, alone, and in lines. We walk up Ymittos mountain to see the Kaisariani Monastery, down ledges to see the Drafi waterfall, and into giant, ominous caves like Daveli. We walk along the side of the highway for two hours to get to Piraeus and go to the beach, and then keep walking until we find a spot that suits us. We walk up to Mt. Philopappus way too often, Mt. Lykavittos when we are feeling ambitious, and Aeropagus when we don’t want to walk too far to see an incredible sunset. We walk to hunt down plantains, stories, and incredible street art. Sometimes, we just walk to see what we stumble upon.
I love getting lost in the city, headphones in my ears and fanny pack strapped to my front. Sometimes I’ll hit pause on my music to see how many words I can pick out of a Greek conversation, but sometimes I just listen to the sounds of the city and keep them in so I can choose when to respond to people on the street. Don’t tell.
I am the biggest advocate for solo walks. Sometimes all it takes to recharge is to “alone cone” for a bit. Occasionally my walks turn into runs, but sometimes they slow to wanders. I have earned myself a bit of a reputation in this group for going rogue, but my roommates have my location, and I go home when the sun does.
Every week, we get a little more hopeful that COVID cases are going down and things are beginning to open back up. The shops opened for appointments and click-away this week, and the storefront-lined streets are unrecognizable. They βγαινouv έξω – to walk, sip take-away coffees, and snack on τιροπιτα (cheese pie).
Last weekend, my friend Sam and I went exploring in the countryside. After a 30 minute hike up a mountain, we found ourselves staring into the largest cave I have ever seen. The roof rhythmically dripped into the mud below, and it echoed all around us. The Davelis Cave Wikipedia page lists visitors’ supernatural experiences, glowing orb sightings and whispers in the darkness. Staring down into the depths of the cave, I felt so isolated, so small. Then, I realized there were two women already in the cave, giggling, sipping their take-away coffees, and snacking on τιροπιτα.
The more I walk, the more Athens feels like home. When I am standing at a lookout point like the top of Mt. Ymittos or Mt. Lykavittos, the city is endless. The neighborhoods sprawl into the mountains and crowd the shoreline, spilling into valleys and making it impossible to see the true curves of the earth.
At street level, the city swallows me. I am part of the movement. I wave to George, the security guard at the Panathenaic stadium, and our neighborhood cafe owner Dimitris wishes me a good morning and sends me off with more cookies. I am just a human walking among other humans walking. The only difference between us is that they are holding take-away coffees and τιροπιτα, and I’ve got a take-away tea and a κουλουρι, because I am way too lactose intolerant for cheese pie.