Athens to me seemed so large that paying attention to the people on the street at first seemed impossible. There were to many distractions, cars making noise, an almost infinite sea of people with their own noisy or sometimes not so noisy habits. It trains you to not pay attention because really paying attention would cost too much energy and you’d take forever to even set a few steps forward.
Because of the noise and such, Athens to me felt as if it had an atmosphere of anonymity about it. The people most often don’t acknowledge each other on the busy streets and only when you get to a more quite places do people again acknowledge each others presence.
I think that the atmosphere of anonymity and people who are trained by the environment to ignore each other can perhaps be called a culture of hyper individuality (a term I just invented but already exists in a different context). Everyone going about their own way, not really capable of caring about each other, because of the circumstances.
If we for a short moment look at the comparison between Athens and Rhodos, Rhodos seems to me like an ideal. There weren’t that many people and especially not that many cars with their own particular noise, the people in Rhodos seemed very welcoming, some of them were of course payed to be that way, so maybe it’s just the necessity to court tourists, so they buy stuff that made Rhodos seem that much more open. However, I think the training to ignore people that the busyness in Athens gave is at fault too. Anyway Rhodos to me felt like an ideal mix between the busyness of a big city and the close knit community aspects of a small city. I think because the environment teaches people to both care about the people there, because you’ll see them quite often, but it also teaches people on how to deal with strangers, because the city is large enough that everyone will quite often still meet strangers.
I think that in Athens there was also an attempt to regain some of the nice aspects of close knit small communities. There were oases of rest, for example near the parking garage with a museum of motor vehicles, and a playground for kids. cramped in a way in one nice little corner. Furthermore there were several cafes that felt like small communities. The people behaving like a good mix between the openness of small knit communities and the anonymity of the rest of Athens. So maybe we all strife for Rhodos, where there was the possibility for both anonymity and connection.