Athenian Subway Tour

Fountain with Grecian goddesses in background

Fountain in downtown Athens

Tour director Rachel recruited my husband Steve to help haul excess luggage across Athens, then treated him to a Metro ride back.

congested housing

View of Athens from the Acropolis

GoAhead Tour director Rachel strategizing with Steve

She knew that taking the Metro was dicey. During the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Greece had no resources to prevent illegal immigrants from flooding in, so Athens was overrun with desperate people, some of whom still struggle to survive. Many have turned to picking pockets, and the subway is an ideal locale for getting hands-on.
After having Rachel point out a few likely candidates, Steve noticed that though pickpockets dress like tourists, they reek of body odor – maybe because they don’t have access to a shower? Some drew suspicion by running up the escalators, probably making a getaway after scoring. So, between those escalator sprints, and the fear of getting caught, it seems likely that even pickpockets who’d bathed would work up a seriously stinky sweat.

A key tell to watch for, according to Rachel, is people’s eyes. Men tend to focus on cleavage, so males taking more interest in men’s hips are likely looking for loot. She noticed one guy motion to another, seeming to indicate Steve’s pants pockets. There she drew the line. No client/volunteer-luggage-handler of Rachel’s would be robbed on her watch. Despite Steve’s protests, she positioned him against a wall next to a safe-looking woman, then planted herself in front of Steve, arms crossed, eyes narrowed. He finished the commute without losing any worldly goods, but pride slightly bruised. He didn’t realize that Rachel’s guardianship had been sent by the deity Athens is named for. Opa, Steve was blessed by Athena, goddess of wisdom and protection!

Goddess statue wearing helmet and holding spear

Athena, goddess of wisdom and protection. Photo from

About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.