My first day in Athens was an experience like no other.  In the matter of half an our I was in near tears at how cruel people can be while at the same time had my faith in the fact that people are generally good and want to help each other restored.

Before reading this story there is some background information you must know, firstly I am a journalism student who had just finished a month long International reporting program in Jerusalem and second, I am slightly obsessed with, and minoring in history.

When I arrived in Athens Friday morning, after spending the last month learning how to be a journalist abroad the last thing on my mind was looking for stories, all I wanted was to experience the over 3000 years of history in Athens.  I knew Greece was in a horrible financial situation, like all decent journalists I had watched the news, however I did not realize the ways these desperate people were willing to get some quick cash and few drinks.

When I arrived in Athens, I took the metro into the city to find the hostel I was hoping to stay at was full.  The hostel referred me to a nearby hotel, which was slightly pricier but I just wanted to drop off my belongings and start seeing this historical city.

Soon after heading for a walk down the main street in the area I was staying I was struck with the glorious view of the acropolis.  Being a history buff I had to run back to the hotel, grab my camera and then get as close as I could to the ancient history I saw in the distance.

I found a free tour of the city of Athens, which started from the base of the acropolis at 5:30pm, wanting to see as much as I could, I left at 2 to make sure I could do some exploring while still arriving on time.

I had looked forward to meeting other young visitors of Athens through staying at a hostel, with that option gone I hoped that I could meet people through the tour and being around the acropolis.  I got to the acropolis around 3:00 and kept walking past to see different views.  I ran into a couple of Greek guys around my age, they recognized the arsenal soccer jersey I was wearing and insisted that I use the 2 and a half hours I had before the tour to come for a drink with them.  Happy to finally make new friends, I went.

After 4 rounds of very pricey drinks I realized that I was expected to pay for all of our drinks, a total of 280 euros, which I did not have on me.  Feeling very threatened I agreed to give them all the money I had and go to an ATM to pay for the rest.  My ATM would not even allow me to take out enough money to pay for the rest and angrily they told me that would be enough.  I assume since they failed to pay the remainder of the tab that they worked for bar, luring tourists into paying for insanely high bills.

At the same time I failed to keep the journalistic mindset I had learned to keep in my month in Israel with me and failed to ask questions and follow through.  At this point I was just a pathetic tourist who had gotten ripped off and on the verge of tears I began to walk back to my hotel.  I didn’t remember the names of the people who ripped me off or the name of the bar it happened at.  I had also missed the free walking tour I had planned on attending.

On the way back to my hotel, one of the poor family’s undoubtedly struck by Greece’s financial crisis was sitting outside their house selling cold water to tourists leaving the acropolis.  They asked me if I could use a cold water, feeling bad that I couldn’t afford their small bottle of water I told them “sorry, I would love to buy a cold water from you but I’ve just been robbed and have no money left.”

What was meant to be a pure excuse for not buying their water turned into an event that restored my faith in the human race to do good things.  “that’s terrible,”  he says, “here take a water,”  he says something to his son in Greek who the runs inside to a fridge.

I tell him no, have no money left to pay for this, but he insisted I needed the water more then he did.  This man was clearly not well off, he needed the money from selling this water but he insisted I take one after going through this situation.  I felt bad accepting the cold bottle of water but he was so happy to provide me with it I could not say no.  His act of kindness turned a terrible start of the day into something truly special and unique, that bottle of water lasted me the rest of the day and made it turned what could have been one of the worst days of my life into a slightly positive experience.  People aren’t bad, but some are desperate.

The rest of my time in Athens was great.  All the greek people I talked to apologized for this happening for me and told me that these people were not Greek.  “Greek people would not do this,” they told me, blaming immigrants for ripping me off.  They also were confused as to why I came to athens and did not visit the Greek Islands.  Regardless of where they were from, I plan on coming back to Greece at some point in my life to take that tour of the acropolis, and hopefully see their Islands.