Walk #2, Athens in January

Walk #2, with: A new Greek friend

Where: Athens circular walk from Petralona, over Filopappos Hill to Thisio and back to Petralona

When: 19 January 2016

A friend from London put me in touch with several of her good friends in Athens, including this lovely person who - back in December - took me for a walk around the base of the Acropolis. Our conversation flowed so freely I asked her to meet me again in January as part of this 40 walks series. When it came to being 'written about' my new friend found she wasn't comfortable after all, so I've removed any distinguishing details from this account. Because that's how consent works: just because you said you were up for something, doesn't mean you're obliged to go through with it.

It was a cold but clear, sunny morning when we met and hugged warmly, pleased to see each other again after what had been quite a full month for us both, excited to resume our conversation. My friend presented me with some delicious cheese pie, homemade by her grandmother and carefully wrapped in tin foil.

We walked up and over rocky, leafy Filopappos (Grandfather) Hill, stopping on the ridge to look southwest towards Piraeus (Athens' famous port) and northeast towards the Acropolis and the other hills that punctuate Athens. It is undoubtedly one of the most topographically striking capitals, and one of my favourites.

Walking over the hill we updated each other on the past month's doings. In contrast to my intensely social and emotionally challenging month in Tel Aviv, my friend spoke with characteristic openness about having spent the month in introspective mode, thoughtful about a number of things going on her life. In particular we talked about the courage required to alter one's own patterns of communication with key family members - something we're both trying to do.

Next we walked uphill to a 12th century Byzantine church restored in the 1960s by Pikionis.

As we strolled down to Thisio, one of the pedestrianised areas close to many of Athens' ancient sites, I bought some coffees from one of the many hipster cafes in the area.

As we settled into a warm if typically smoky bar for an afternoon beer, our conversation moved on to the issue of taking responsibility for one's own boundaries in relationships with other people. I described a recent incident that was playing on my mind, and my friend - wise beyond her years - reminded me of people's tendency to stray out of their comfort zone and then blame the resulting discomfort on others; a helpful and timely insight.

Thank you for this lovely walk and for your warm welcome to Athens and Greece.