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Distant Lands

Friday, 18 January 2008

Athens

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Visiting Athens with a child has serious ups and downs.  On the plus side, Greeks love children (I hate to generalize, but after 2 years with a baby in Athens, I can say that Greeks love children.  Tough men driving dump trucks would pull over to chuck the baby's cheeks when we were walking with the backpack).  So you will have lots of tolerance and actual help.

On the minus side, Athens hates strollers.  Not Athenians, Athens.  Last year a government survey stated that 50% of the sidewalks in Athens were unfit for use.  I think they got this number by looking at every other meter of sidewalk…sometimes every other meter is usable, but not often.  And that's where they have sidewalks.  And where no one has parked or set a dumpster on the sidewalk.

When there is a stretch of usable sidewalk, it will either be too narrow for a stroller (or wheelchair), usually due to the trees planted in it to keep people from parking on it; or it will be in use by the plethora (that's a Greek word) of scooters and motorbikes.
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As a result, you won't see anyone except desperate and insane American ex-pats pushing their kid in a stroller (down the middle of the street), except in a couple parks and at The Mall (the new shopping mall.

If you are sightseeing in Athens, you're in double trouble, because the Acropolis, the Plaka, Lykavittos, Keramikos, and other sites are completely rugged.  The Acropolis and Lykavittos are very steep hikes.  Additionally, most of the museums prohibit strollers inside.
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We found that the museums would allow the child to be carried in a backpack, and the Acropolis ascent was quite doable with the pack (especially because I wasn't the one carrying it).

Tavernas and souvlakias are pretty kid-friendly.  The nice thing about these is that when the kid gets antsy, he can wander.  If you don't want to wander with him, other people will take care of him.  On the Plaka I always kept a hand physically on him, though - it's just too crowded, with too many different types of people.

Sensitive kids can get overstimulated on the Plaka and surrounding streets, but pretty much all kids enjoy the Agora and nearby ruins.  My child loves dogs and cats, and Athens abounds in dogs.  Most of them are decent and healthy and friendly, but be aware that they are plentiful and run loose, and keep hand sanitizer nearby.

The new metro system makes touristing in Athens pretty easy, but again strollers are difficult.  Elevators are frequently out, and are always full of people who don't really need them, so I found myself hauling the stroller, with toddler in, up and down 3-4 story marble steps from time to time.

The museums will bore the kids (and many adults, although the National Archaelogical Museum is wonderful), but the bustling city and old ruins can easily make up for it.  And you can offer to potty-train them the ancient Greek way.
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Posted in Europe : Infant : Toddler by Raq W. at 12:01 PMPermalink

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