Athens is the one city on this blog that has more articles attributed to it than any other. I spent a long time here in 2014, becoming a staunch defender of it. It’s misunderstood; people cite initial disappointment in finding a city whose grittiness and edginess doesn’t live up to the expectation of a city entirely coated in classical Greek architecture. And with Greece branded by its economic crisis, Athens remains pivotal to its recovery and is home to a start-up generation and artistic regeneration — it’s changing, thriving and carving its mark as an emerging European hotspot.
Night had fallen by the time the bus reached the poor suburb of Likoni, just south of Mombasa island. The muddy, pot-holed streets were still bustling after 7pm. Late night shopping was taking place by candlelight, and in a few cases, the glow of a naked light bulb. Over-ripe bananas were strung out above wooden market street stalls. Children were still traipsing past in pristine school uniforms, while women tended to pots heating over small open fires. I drank it all in, because I was leaving. Along with 400 other British tourists, I was being evacuated from the Kenyan coast.
Listen. Can you hear the bells of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi in Italy? What about the call to prayer echoing off the hills of Amman, Jordan? Did you notice the chatter of women on a balcony preparing the evening meal in Pushkar, India? Did you detect the remnants of a New York accent when ‘fuhgeddaboudit’ slipped out to betray the flattening effect that demographic changes in New York have had on speech? These are sounds from my travels, audio memories that are stuck in my mind as firmly as any visual memory I hold from my solo trips — if not more so.
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Published in the June 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)