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Munchies

The VICE Guide to Athens 2014

Athens is one of the oldest cities on Earth, and right now also one of its strangest and most confused. Being a Greek has sucked for the last few years, so why would you want an authentic experience? This is how to have fun.

by VICE Greece
Jul 2 2014, 12:00pm

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

Athens is one of the oldest cities on Earth, and right now also one of its strangest and most confused. Ancient history lives side by side with the pockmarks of riots, and graffiti is scrawled almost across every wall. For a truly authentic Greek experience when you visit you should be aiming to burn down a bank, beat up an immigrant, tear gas hundreds of your countrymen, die of poverty, and party on a yacht. But being a Greek has sucked for the last few years, so why would you want an authentic experience? This is how to have fun.

Jump to sections by using the index below:

WHERE TO PARTY
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Our Racists | Protest Etiquette | Meet the Immigrants
WHERE TO EAT
WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
WHERE TO DRINK
WHERE TO STAY
LGBT ATHENS
WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
VICE CITY MAP

Photo by Konstantinos Dagritzikos

WHERE TO PARTY

Raves are hard to come by in Athens, but you may find yourself at a warehouse party if you know the right people. If you don't, your best bet is to hang around in Romantso, Six D.O.G.S., or Pixi club and ask people where the after-parties are happening. You'll look weird but it'll be worth it when you're smashing plates over your head with the beautiful varnish-skinned descendants of the people who invented anal sex and renounced 12 different gods. On Saturdays, SkullBar runs an after-party that lasts till 1 PM Sunday afternoon. It's a gay-friendly and debaucherous environment, with cheap beer and lots of people ready to love you for who you are, whoever you are, baby.

The warehouses around Orfeos Street are where most illegal raves happen nowadays. However, unless you are sure about the exact location and/or have a chaperone, don't bother trying to go on your own as it's dark, secluded, and impossible to find a cab ride back. In any case, you take your chances as to how good the party is because each rave will be organized by someone different. It could be the time of your life, it could be three Greek crusties dancing round a fire in an oil drum. Maybe that would be the time of your life—who are we to judge?

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?

You can never tell what the Athens police will do with someone they catch with drugs. They're illegal in all types and quantities, so it's down to the individual cop to decide if they want to punish someone for holding a gram of coke or three joints. Frankly though, nobody wants to mess with Greek police at all—they're not good guys. If it were me, I'd be very careful carrying anything.

Those who do decide to take the gamble still rarely ever buy drugs from the dealers in Omonoia Square, because they're not good guys either. When you can't trust the dealers and you can't trust the police, what you get is a big shitty desperate vacuum of mistrust that has led the quality of drugs sold on the streets of Athens to severely deteriorate over the past few years. These days, no one knows what they're actually getting, which is obviously not great at all.

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Photo by Alexandros Katsis

POLITICS, PROTESTS, AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?

OUR RACISTS

Prominent nationalist assholes Golden Dawn and other far-right gangs have been thriving in the recent political chaos, and they've done it by blaming all of Greece's problems on—you guessed it—immigrants.

In the last local election in Athens, areas like Patisia, Kolonos, Academia Platonos, and Agios Meletios were among the locations with the highest percentage of pro-Golden Dawn votes, so if you look "foreign" or just generally like an out-of-place tourist, it's probably best to avoid these areas after dark. I know that sounds ridiculous, but sadly it's true.

Avoiding them shouldn't be too hard, but even in the center of Athens you should avoid Patision Street as it's a hotspot for racist attacks, as well as any dark and secluded alleys near Omonoia, Viktoria, and Vathi Square.

Most of the city's squats have been broken up by the police over the last few years, however there are a few remaining. Most squatters are highly politicized and tend to be anti-establishment and anti-fascist. Again, the center of Athens is where all this takes place. Beware the squats run by drug dealers, which act as a nesting place for all kinds of crazy illegal shit. Scoring a gram is not worth propping up some human trafficking ring.

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Photo by Henry Langston

POLITICS, PROTESTS, AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?

PROTEST ETIQUETTE

As you may have seen once or twice in the news over the last couple of years, Athens is kind of protesty. These tend to hit the streets along Panepistimiou, Syntagma, and Stadiou. Anti-establishment and leftist parties are usually behind them, unless we're talking about a programmed general strike, which sees people from every ideology under the sun coming together for a stroll through the center of Athens. If you only have time to join one protest while you're here, make it one for the decriminalization of cannabis. You're probably least likely to get a brick in the face at one of those.

If you do find yourself caught up in a general strike, our best advice is to just leave Athens, head to Piraeus, and jump on the first ferry towards the nearest island.

But, if you're the curious type and want to join in with the protests, beware the cops. Most of them lose control once they get their batons in their hands. We're definitely not saying you should get involved, but IF you do, here's what you should take with you:

– a backpack (you're gonna look pretty silly running from the cops with a clutch under your arm)

– a photocopy of your ID (not the original, as you're probably going to lose it)

– a scarf (to keep the burning teargas out of your mouth and nose)

Maalox Plus (you can dilute these digestive medicinal tablets in water and put it on your face and eyes to stop the teargas stinging so much when it inevitably gets in your precious little eyes)

– lemons (use these when you run out of Maalox)

– Oh, and keep your tattoos covered so as to avoid identification, and don't wear your ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) shirt.

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Photo by Max Knight

POLITICS, PROTESTS, AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?

MEET THE IMMIGRANTS

Most immigrants in Greece come from Albania, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Afghanistan. Albanians started migrating to Greece in the early 90s, as did a lot of Polish, Romanian, and Bulgarian people. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the worst of the extreme nationalistic and pro-Nazi racist ideas have been targeted towards non-white immigrants, who use them as figurative and literal whipping boys for their own human incompetence. You can watch a film about immigrant life in Greece here, actually.

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(Photo by Andriana Polyzogopoulou)

WHERE TO EAT

Αυλή / Αvli (Yard)
Αγίου Δημητρίου 12, Ψυρρή,105 54 / Agiou Dimitriou 12, Psirri
A great place to experience home-cooked Greek specialties, like beef meatballs and village sausages. Try the ouzo here, it comes in bulk and starts from €3 ($4) for a small bottle—who knows, maybe you'll be the first non-Greek person to like the stuff.

Σαντορινιός / Santorinios
Δωριέων 8, Άνω Πετράλωνα / Dorion 8, Ano Petralona
This little family taverna in Petralona is well off the grid for most tourists. Everything is fresh and home-cooked, and it's easily one of the city's best locations in terms of value-for-money. You should sit in the little tiled courtyard, which looks like it's been conjured straight out of a Richard Curtis screenplay about an English couple having a terse argument on their Greek honeymoon.

Αναψυκτήριο / Anapsiktirio
Σαρρή, Ψυρρή / Sarri Str, Psirri
Other than various offshore accounts, this is Athens' best kept secret. Even the sign outside is deliberately misleading, saying just "Avαψυκτήριο/Καπνοπωλείο" which is the kind of sign a speakeasy would have. Inside, go through a curtain at the back and you'll find a small taverna serving home-cooked traditional dishes like rooster stewed in wine, or pasta with slow-cooked minced meat. The only drink on offer is beer but you can't complain about a place where you can enjoy a whole meal for €5 ($6.80).

To Σαν Φρανσίσκο / Τhe San Francisco
Κεραμεικού 99, Αθήνα / Keramikou 99, Athens
Sandwiches are fundamentally unambitious, but whatever—these are nice ones. They cost as little as €3.50 ($4.80), and there's a wide selection of beers. Just like the city that gave it its name, San Francisco is known as a gay-friendly place, though it's shitty on skyscrapers and island prisons.

Avocado
Νίκης 30, Σύνταγμα / Nikis 30, Syntagma
This is the location of choice for vegans and vegetarians. It's the sort of place that has beanbags on the floor instead of chairs, which I know will wind up some uptight Americans, but I don't care because you're all ridiculous and pompous. It's our city so chill out and sit in the fucking beanbag.

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?

Souvlaki
Souvlaki is Kebab—only better, because it's Greek and Greeks do everything better, especially food. It's pieces of pork or chicken (either in the form of a skewer or cut from a spit), wrapped in a thicker, oilier type of pitta bread with fries, tomato, onion, and tzatziki. It's delicious, and the fact that you can find it everywhere put together with its meat-carbs-veg juiciness makes it the best hangover remedy available to flabby tourists like you.

Chopped Liver Bites with French Fries
Greek Mothers always try to force feed their children things that are rich in iron. (Seriously, everyone here thinks iron is the shit.) Now, I'm sure your fancy country has moved on to something poncey, like potassium, but we're still rolling deep in iron. Anyway, do my mom proud by putting chopped liver and cold beer into your system before you hit the town.
Where: Moνοπώλιο / Monopolio (Ιπποθοντιδών 10 κ. Κειριαδών, Κάτω Πετράλωνα / Ippothontidon 10, Kato Petralona)

Loukoumades
These are fried doughballs served traditionally with honey and cinnamon and, in more recent years, with Nutella. It's our favourite comfort food by far, but a little heavy (it's fat / cooked in fat / covered in fat) so make sure you eat it in small portions and that you drink a lot of water so you don't pass out.
Where: Lukumades (Αιόλου 21, Αγίας Ειρήνης / Aiolou 21, Agias Irinis)

Cheese Pie and Milko
Greeks aren't big on breakfast. Families rarely sit down around the kitchen table to share runny eggs and soggy cereal. We reserve nagging and guilt-tripping each other for the most important meal of the day: lunch, served between 3 PM and 5 PM. To keep the engine running until then, grab a cheese or spinach pie (that is filo pastry filled with different types of cheese, or feta cheese and spinach) from the bakery on your block (they are literally everywhere) and wash it down with a frappé (cold coffee) or a Milko (the local brand of chocolate milk). I know it sounds like a weird combination but try it at least once—you'll either get the runs or swear off real breakfast forever.

Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish
The Greek mainland is a peninsula. That means it's a body of land with water on three sides—an island vehemently holding on to its Europe-shaped hat. The rest of the country is comprised of about 1,500 islands. All in all, Greece's coastline is 8,497 miles long—that's the 11th longest in the world. Google won't tell me how much water that corresponds to but it's, like, a lot. Lots of water means lots of fish. Which you should eat a lot of.
Where: Even the worst Greek restaurant will serve better fish than what comes out of the shitty seas near your hometown.

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

WHERE TO DRINK

Syntagma Square
Syntagma is that big square outside the Parliament where anarchists, fascists, communists, police, and everyone else kick the shit out of each other three times a year.

You should start drinking at Brettos liquor bar, where you can get half-bombed on specialty cocktails as early as possible and continue through to Syntagma Square itself. At a small alley (Ipitou street 4) close by, you'll find one of the nicest bars. Bluebird is almost invariably playing Donna Summer and serves decent cocktails.

Avramiotou Street
Avramiotou Street is a small alley near Monastiraki Square that smells like piss. The pick of the venues there is Six D.O.G.S., which takes up most of the alley and has three different spaces: the Garden, the Bar and the Club. The garden is a kind of massive quarry, with little tables cut into the walls. Sit there, smoke a joint, get pissed, and if you feel really ambitious, drag yourself onto your feet and watch some bands at the bar or some Greek people dancing to hilarious Euro trance in the club.

An alternative option is to head down the alley to Dos Agaves to drink tequila, but remember that anyone who works at Six D.O.G.S. will also know where all the best after-parties are happening. If you happen to spot an afro, above a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and a tropical shirt, moving from table to table around The Garden, buying people drinks and generally being a G, you're in luck. That's the proprietor, Konstantinos Dagritzikos. Go and say hi to him, it'll freak him out.

Lekka Street
At the center of the Athenian Historical Triangle, known locally as simply the Triangle, is the Speakeasy Bar on Lekka Street. This is a great hidden jazz bar, while next door's Capu bar has a slightly older clientele that spends its time waiting for the kids next door to get drunk enough to go home with them. Barley is also worth checking out, while afterwards you should head down Kolokotroni Street to Booze Cooperativa. This is a great multipurpose art space where everyone listens to Suicide and you can eat and drink while checking out impromptu installations and all that kind of crap you hate in London, but love abroad.

Exarcheia
The police don't go here. It's a semi-independent anarchist district covered in graffiti, full of bars and politics. It looks like Camden Town, but instead of posing for photos with Japanese tourists, the punks here violently oppose the police and government. It's from here that militant anarchists organize and right in the middle of it is the occupied university building—a massive statement of anti-authoritarianism. Odds are you're pretty young, so it should be easy enough to slip in to have a look, though if you're a fascist it might be best to leave your badges and jackboots back at the hotel.

You should go to Themistokleous Street and have a beer or two at Intriga bar. It's one of the oldest bars in the area and still one of the best if you want decent music and chilled-out people. Afterwards, take Mauromixali Street down to a new place called Warehouse, which is the sort of place you'll enjoy if you hate the word "mixologist," but enjoy getting pissed and talking shit about Marx with some guys in leather jackets.

Peiraios Street
After you see a show at the National School of Fine Arts, stop for a drink on the terrace of Bios bar on the way home. The view is incomparable—it's basically Athens, served on a plate—and the crowd is the type that wears linen and holidays in Epidauros. (We have a lot of people like this here so make them your friends, not your enemies.) Bios is a rare spark of light in the part of Athens that has the most awful bars. Its owner is also behind one of the newest spaces in the historical center, Romantso (just behind the Town Hall, on Anaxagora Street).

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Photo by Peter Nikoltsos

WHERE TO STAY

If you're happy with a dorm bed, head to City Circus (from €26 [$35.50] a night in a dorm), a hospitable and well-located hostel in Psirri. The train and metro stations are nearby and George, the in-house tour guide, knows all the best places to get pissed. They also run movie nights if you've had enough wild Greek protests and parties for one week and just need an evening in.

If you don't mind walking up and down Exarcheia and Strefi Hill, smelling weed all over the place, and bumping into sisa addicts, try Hotels Orion and Dryades (from €40 [$55] a night for a room). If most of your interest in Athens has come from VICE's coverage of the place then stay here, chill out with the anarchists and get mugged by the junkies.

Alice Inn (from around €50 [$69] a night for a room) is a boutique bread and breakfast with just four individually decorated rooms. If you can get a place here it offers a genuine old Athenian aesthetic in the midst of one of the city's most beautiful neighborhoods.

Alternatively, take a look at Fresh Hotel (around €100 [$137] a night for a room). It's in an ideal location to go out and party from and the higher floors have great views of the city, with balconies if you want to smoke. The bar on the rooftop has a pool but it's so fucking expensive it's basically a recruitment center for anarchos.

If you're planning on staying for any longer than about five days your best bet is to get a room through Airbnb. The best areas to look out for are around Rigilis Street or near Syntagma. The big advantage of this option is that you'll probably get an Athenian host to show you all the city's ins and outs and to help you translate what all the triangles on our street signs mean.

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Photo by Giorgos Moutafis

LGBT ATHENS

LGBT rights have been on the brink of a breakthrough over the last half-decade. Young people are more inviting and open and bars in the center of town are incredibly gay-friendly. Pride happens in June and there are also a few collectives and organizations that regularly put together events to promote LGBT agenda issues.

Generally speaking, if you find yourself kissing or holding hands with your loved one—or any loved one—at a bar, people will not bother to stare or react. As long as you avoid the areas where far-right assholes hang out [see the politics section of this guide] you shouldn't have anything to worry about. I wouldn't advise trying it in a church, though.

Most of the city's gay bars are in the Gazi area, as well as those run by collectives around Syntagma. The best way to find the best club night on any given evening is to sign in to Gay Romeo or Grindr. In 2014, the Apartment is almost certainly the place to be after 2 AM.

Oh, and sorry to be blunt—but Greece isn't the place to go bareback as HIV is on the rise.

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Photo by Andriana Polyzogopoulou

WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER

Faliro, or Falirofornia as it has become known lately, is the seaside area closest to Athens. Skaters, longboarders, and cyclists all hang out here. Our advice is to head to Flisvos or Batis Bay at sundown, where you can start your evening before taking a bus or tram and being back in the center of Athens within half an hour.

One of the most interesting underground places you can visit is the Kallidromiou Steki in Exarcheia (Kallidromiou 94). Motivated by an anarchic, anti-establishment philosophy, the team behind this venue put on live shows varying from kraut rock and crust punk to dark-wave and electro. A lot of their past shows took place to gather money for financial support for the legal fees of political prisoners or minority groups. It's only open on show nights and entrance is usually based on donation. You can get a beer for €1 [$1.37] but if you have an Instagram addiction be warned: It's seriously bad form to take pictures.

A historic site that doesn't usually appear in tourist guides is the old Gestapo Prison ("Place of Historic Memory") located in Korai Street opposite the Panepistimio Metro Station. This was an underground prison where people were confined by the Gestapo during WWII. Nowadays, it offers a glimpse into the lives of imprisoned Athenian revolutionaries during the Nazi occupation. It's emotionally powerful and also visually interesting as the walls were painted and carved by the prisoners.

Visit Mount Lycabettus by night. Get six beers, go there by sundown and reflect on Greece's superior history and inferior present. Don't be deterred by the couples having sex in the cars parked around you—it's a tradition as old as the mountain and it should only add to the scenery.

Embros Theatre is decent if you want to hear socio-political stories about Athens and meet people from the LGBT community. And then there's the fucking ruins, man. We invented society. We invented democracy. We invented everything, so the least you can do is come and stare at the Acropolis for a bit.

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP

Pickpocketing is common in Greece, especially in crowded tourist areas like Monastiraki Square, Thision, or Ermou Street. If you're sat outside a café, don't leave your phone, wallet or camera on the table or your bag out of sight. People will approach you looking to sell flowers, lighters or knock-off jewelery and then they'll Derren Brown your shit away with them.

Mugging is also a concern in Athens, but it tends to only happen at night in dark, secluded areas like Vathi Square, Metaxourgeio Area and Viktoria Square. If you're going to find yourself in one of these spots, try not to walk alone and keep your money and credit cards separately. For this reason, it's wise to carry a photocopy rather than your actual passport.

We know you want to sit with your laptop outside so that you can enjoy the sun, but you won't be enjoying it so much when you're running down Kolokotroni Street screaming at a thief's back. From our own experience, we'd suggest you keep the computer inside.

And never, ever ask a taxi driver where to go out. You'll end up in some shitty place that nobody in Athens has ever heard of, except for him and his mate, who runs it.

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST

Drink less than you do back home or at least be more chill about it. The one thing Greeks look down on is people who can't hold their liquor—and tourists tend to do just that. Vomiting and fucking in public, spasming on sidewalks, flashing pedestrians—these things might be seen as nothing more than youthful exuberance in whichever dystopian shitpit you call home, but such behavior is considered undignified here. Us Greeks are a very judgmental people, so smoke a joint instead, it'll make you paranoid enough not to be a dick and you'll find it suits the surroundings best anyway.

Never, ever comment on our financial situation. We are the only people who can joke about that.

One last subject you should avoid unless you have a genuine or professional interest in it is the Golden Dawn. People have grown slightly tired of discussing how scary the rise of the far right is and even more so, ashamed of it. Also, you never know who the person sitting at the next table is and everyone in Greece is nosy enough to listen in on other people's conversations.

Finally, please wear sunscreen. But don't apply it in the middle of the street. There's nothing more depressing and deserving of ridicule than a westerner's inability to tan.

Oh, and don't smash our fucking plates. No one really does that any more.

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID

People who wear swastika tattoos, shaved heads, and necklaces made with the heads of Pakistani immigrants should not be engaged in casual chit-chat.

Similarly, avoid anyone who still wears UGGS and pairs them with a Louis Vuitton bag. They are the users of the word "mixologist," the daughters of accountants who pose as investment bankers in the hope of spending a week in July on someone's yacht. They are blood-sucking, conniving mosquitoes. Stay away because the itch to marry rich is contagious.

Short, stocky men in close-fitting white T-shirts and capri shorts—every nation has its own variety of douchebag, these are ours, and they're everywhere. If you're a girl, these guys will try to sell you drugs, then fuck you in a toilet while saying depressingly macho things about your vagina, like calling it "a tight, tiny hole." Unless that sounds like something you could get into, be particularly vigilant outside the bars in Paraliaki.

The first sign of any bar, coffee shop, or restaurant to avoid is the aggressivetout stationed outside trying to harangue you into coming through the door. If they need someone outside it to force you in, it's not worth going into, that's a basic life rule.

It may be close to the sea, but the pseudo LA vibe of the Glyfada bar scene has nothing to offer except high-priced drinks and obnoxious nouveaux-riche surfers who can't actually surf.

Even if you're a student looking to party and binge, Ostria Erasmus Parties are mostly dull and boring. They can offer you nothing you haven't seen before and the people there will be just as clueless about the city as you are. It's the blind leading the blind drunk.

Besides a few LGBT bars, the scene at Gazi lacks any real character. It stinks of teenage desperation and shabby old men, and by the night's end you'll probably end up slipping on someone else's stomach acid, and the same goes for most of the clubs in the Paraliaki area. The local Greek bouzoukia clubbing experience—people sitting around flowing flowers (not plates) at the feet of singers and musicians—is definitely one to add to your bucket list, but Paraliaki is not the place to do it. The clubs there are trashy, overpriced, and a guaranteed disappointment.

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Photo by Ioannis Stefanidis

TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES

Tipping
The financial crisis has definitely made Greeks less keen on reaching into their pockets. Probably because even if they did, they wouldn't find anything. However, we generally remain a generous people at heart. If you don't want to be met with looks of discontent, be sure to leave something. Like most places, don't go under 10 percent and you won't embarrass yourself.

Handy Phrases
Good morning: Kalimera
Good night: Kalinihta
Thank you: Efharisto
We live here [while pointing at your address on your phone]: Edo menoume
Where can I find a meat kebab?: Pou boro na vro souvlaki?
Come on you dude!: Ela re malaka! [don't say this to random people or in an aggressive way]
Fuck you: Ade gamisou

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A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC

Here's some Greek pop music. You probably won't like it (we don't like it) but this is what'll be playing when you go out. Oh, and check out the hair on the Greek MCs in the first video. It's really something.

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VICE CITY MAP

So, that's everything. Basically: Eat fish, use a condom, and don't get as drunk as you might if you were an idiot in Kavos.

Καλά να περάσεις,

VICE Greece

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