Athens is an interesting city - it reminds me a lot of Seoul. There is a total lack of organization from the ground up. Streets are only a suggestion of where to drive - sidewalks, stairs and blocked off pedestrian roads seem to be just as good! There is a large police presence in the city probably due to the protests of the EU's demands in exchange for bailing the country out of bankruptcy. Even the police seem to be a little underfunded - we saw a police car patrolling the area around the Acropolis that was a rusty, hubcapless hatchback from 1982 or so. Not very intimidating to say the least. On the other hand - the traffic in the city is a constant stream of sleek Mercedes sedans with tinted windows. There is money somewhere - it's just not in the government! Another thing that was hard to miss was the abundance of feral animals wandering the streets. Cats and dogs - quite healthy looking in fact - were just everywhere - sleeping up on the Acropolis, on the front steps of expensive hotels or even in the middle of the streets! I guess animal control is also underfunded!The graffiti is hard to miss - it's EVERYWHERE except on the Acropolis itself. Graffiti that you can't read doesn't have the same effect. Greek letters spraypainted on a wall seem more interesting than English!
The city itself is sprawling and from above almost looks like a tide of white buildings pushing up against the mountains that surround the city. We were in the center of the city - the touristy area if there is one - and even here the buildings were decrepit. A lot of them were abandoned and falling into disrepair although a lot of the inhabited buildings looked about the same as the abandoned ones!
That being said - the city seemed safe. Granted, we were walking around during the day but I never felt accosted by beggars like I was in Bangkok or intimidated by the local population like in some areas of Seoul. There were very few beggars or homeless people - mostly just African immigrants trying to quietly sell knockoff handbags in the main square of town. The locals all seemed to think that we were just great - they loved the kids and Emmy got more compliments than I have ever heard in all my life. There are orange trees - with oranges - all over the city. The kids thought this was fantastic and they kept a constant look out for oranges in the trees. Every time we saw the oranges it was like they hadn't seen them 2 minutes before!