Making Cruising an Olympic Sport
by your local Fairy Godmother
Dear visitor, you are the new kid in town. A bit lost, slightly curious, somewhat shy; this, however, does not stop you from being your usual hot self. You need contacts, but you don't know where to find them. Or you know where, but you don't know how to make them. Chill! You are not alone. Your Greek Fairy-Godmother is here to help you have a great time and expand your horizons way beyond "kalimera" and "kalispera". This is your very personal guide to cruising in Athens
So, where do I meet the boyz?
It's not difficult to find gay bars in Athens, though they tend to accumulate in three areas. You can find them in the area south of Victoria Metro Station; around the crossroads of Iera Odos and Konstantinoupoleos Street (the nascent gay village); and at the beginning of Singrou Avenue near the Temple of Zeus. For detailed information on bars, see page 14.
And what about the galz?
There are fewer lesbian bars than gay ones. Scientists are unsure if this reflects the comparatively lower numbers of lesbians, or the not so pressing need for ghettoed meeting places. The best lesbian & lesbian-friendly bars are En Merei, Aroma, Sodade, Troll, Fairytale, So Bar So Food. For detailed information on bars, see page 14.
A bit of fresh air? For men only.
Fed up with the bar atmosphere, loud music and pretentious guys? Then hit the parks - al fresco cruising has always been popular with the Greeks. You can easily combine a healthy walk with a workout. Two in one (no pun intended) for a pleasant evening out! Don't forget to carry your ID card or passport with you (it's the law, and the police like to check every now and then) and remember to leave all money and valuables, including watch and mobile phone, in your hotel safe. Muggings are very rare, but not unheard of. Bring along condoms, lubricant and common sense. Sex in public places is (still) a crime in Greece and if the police catch you with your pants down, charges may be pressed against you for indecency.
Zapion Park: opposite the Temple of Zeus in downtown Athens. Cruisy after dark, as is the road in front of the park itself. Not very big, so you tend to meet the same people over and over again. The positive side is that it's safe and well lit, and you are never really alone.
Pedion Areos Park: An all time classic, this big park spreads 2-3kms NE of Omonia Square. Many trees and winding paths, but as of 2003 the bushes have been criminally trimmed. Cruisy from the late afternoon, but especially after dark and till the early morning hours. Stick to the most frequented walkways, although the park has become much safer in recent years than it used to be. A private security company regularly patrols the park lanes, sometimes alternating with a police cab. ID checks do take place every now and then, but things rarely get anymore serious than that. If you are arrested for some reason, simply show your ID card or passport, explain nothing (or just say you were looking for a friend) and ask to contact your embassy as soon as possible (probably next morning).
Going to the beach
August can be unbearably hot in Athens. Air conditioning is definitely an uninspiring solution; so going to the right beach can be a revelation. So, pack your towel, suntan lotion (a must), hat (again a must), bathing suit (optional) and mosquito repellent (you'll need it, believe me) and take either a taxi (expensive) or express bus no E22 from Akadimias to Saronida, which stops at Limanakia (3rd stop. Alternatively, you can get to Glifada by tramway and then hop on the E22 there. Ask the driver or another passenger for the 3rd stop. This is a gay-frequented area comprising three consecutive coves between the southern suburbs of Vouliagmeni and Varkiza. From the two parking lots opposite the one and only canteen, you follow the trails down the rockface to the sea. There is not a single inch of beach or a tree in sight, only rocks: you jump directly into the water. But the view compensates for this minor inconvenience: naked (or almost naked) suntanned men sunbathing on the rocks are watching and rating your Esther Williams style performance! Impress them and seduce them (instructions follow). Together with the standard condoms and lube, remember to bring a bottle of water or two, since there is no bar on the rocks. Limanakia gets especially cruisy around sunset, and you'll often see boys at it around dusk. Before you go down on your knees, make sure you lather up with mosquito repellent, or you'll find out later that you're covered with nasty bites and who wants that?
There are two saunas in Athens, but they are both sub-standard. You'll probably have much better luck at one of the porn cinemas, which are hot cruising spots for gay men, regardless of whether the film shown is gay or straight porn.
Athens Relax, Xouthou 8 & Sokratous, Omonia (210 5222866). Open 1-8.30 pm Mon-Sat.
A sauna which features all the usual facilities including a steam room, rest rooms, sauna, private cabins, lockers, bar, showers and masseurs. You can rent a locker or a cabin. Rather expensive, compared to European prices, and very unusual opening hours for a gay sauna! There are also rent boys. Not recommended.
Ira Baths, Zinonos 4, Omonia. Open noon-8pm Mon-Sat.
A rather run-down sauna; don't be alarmed if an old lady takes you to your room. Cleanliness leaves an awful lot to be desired! No steam room, no sauna, basically just a dark room. Not recommended.
Athinaikon, (210 5243876) Kratinou 11, Platia Dimarchiou, Omonia. Open 8am-3am daily.
Gay films 10pm-3am daily.
Star, (210 5225801/www.star-cinema.gr) Agiou Konstantinou 10, Omonia. Open 8.00am-3.00am daily.
Huge cinema, with endless staircases, in neoclassic decor. Very cruisy, particularly on the 1st and 2nd balconies. Gay films on the 1st floor.
Olympic, (210 4294701/www.olympic-cinema.com) Filonos 88, Piraeus. Open 8.00am- 3.00am daily.
The only porn cinema in Piraeus, with gay screenings as well.
Greek Eye for the Gay Guy
This general information is all well and good, but it's of little use if you don't know how to approach a Greek man. I am sorry to tell you that there is no fast rule for this. People are different and exhibit an amazing degree of complexity, so take my words as rough guidelines only, rather than a double checked recipe.
First of all, most young (and not so young) Greeks understand English. You'll find various levels of language competence, but you're hardly likely to talk philosophy with them anyway.
In general, Greeks are a bit shy or hung up when they have to make the first move, so take the initiative. Look at them, establish eye contact, smile (you can't imagine the difference it makes), say 'hello', keep smiling and ask if you can sit next to them.
Unless they want to be left alone (but will rarely say so to a foreigner) you can start small talk at once. Avoid politics, religion and philosophy at all costs; you'll either end up boring them to death or causing a row. When, five minutes later, you have exhausted all possible subjects of discussion, you can ask openly if the guy would like to "do a bit more" with you or not. Up to this point avoid any body contact, unless your new acquaintance is already unbuttoning his fly.
In the worst-case scenario, if the guy is left unimpressed, you will be told that "you are not my type", in which case you can smile again, say good-bye and hit on guy number two on your preference list.
Don't start crying, don't swear at the guy, don't slap him on the face and don't threaten him with voodoo needles. With so many men around, why bother? If the guy accepts, well, do you need a fairy godmother to tell you how to proceed? Let him suggest where to go for further fun activities.