Athens, Plaka…Kalamaki!

Thessaloniki, 28/2 Time 16.45:

N: Oh, I feel SO relaxed on this trip! E: Yes, finally, no stress, no worries! N: We are going to take our walks in Plaka, rest in hotels, drink our coffee at Psyrri, we will… (And at this moment, someone has fallen on the floor and laughing their heart out.)

Athens 28/2 Time 18.45:

N: We were again one hour late! E: We will miss the tour at Van Gogh Alive! N: You had to wear heels. The worst time to let Thessaloniki flow over you! E: How could I know that we would once again be late? You go ahead so that we don’t miss the line and I am right behind you. N: Got it! We are off to a great start again!!

“And we ended up running like our lives depended on it..”

The trip to the Hellenic capital started with a shimmer of hope for some rest, but once again our plans did not come to be. No, it was not because of that one-hour delay, nor my new high heels (okay, those may be a bit at fault). We had not thought that Athens is such a “full” destination that offers that many options in historical monuments, activities and food, so no matter how much you want it, there is no time to do and see it all. So, with only (!) 8 days in our disposal to discover every corner of it, you can see why we ended up running like our lives depended on it.

Fortunately, during this trip, as well, the weather was our ally (only in Amsterdam & London did it give us a hard time)! At first we were a bit doubtful, as our arrival had been booked for the last day of winter, so we were not expecting too much. But everything went peachy. The weather is certainly different compared to Thessaloniki, but we were certainly not expecting it to be that sunny and warm. Everything was ideal for us to wander around the capital and enjoy its beauties.

“The entire history of the Western civilization”

Athens is one of the most historic cities in the world, as it holds an impressive history of 5,500+ years. But even more impressive is the way that it has managed to combine this history with the modern life, without distorting features of its character. The cradle of the Western world offers countless options of monuments, sites, activities, museums and events, even to the most demanding of visitors. On top of them all, both literally and figuratively, is the famous Parthenon, one of the most important monuments in the world. From the location that birthed democracy, as well as the entire history of the Western civilization, we started out on our tour. We could not even imagine the history hiding among the ruins of the Acropolis. But accompanied by the best team, a different and wonderful world unraveled before our eyes. Of course, our impression was completed with the visit to the Acropolis Museum with the magnificent view, the Archaeological Museum with the thousands of exhibits and the Theseion with the Ancient Agora.

We obviously did not miss the chance to tour inside the Parliament, while we crammed into the crowd to admire the unique Change of Guard, before getting lost inside the National Garden. The Panathenaic Stadium, the Benaki Museum and the Attica Park were our next stops, before strolling down to Piraeus. After spending a few hours at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, we walked along the Marina and the Flisvos Park, took photos of the historic Averoff battleship, ate at Mikrolimano and felt the whip of the sea’s waves! E: What waves? The sea was calm as crystal. N: I got carried away by the poetic imagery! E: Have you ever heard the phrase “Go jump in a lake”? N: Don’t get wise with me!

“Countless stops and gasps”

Our trip included walks in Dionysiou Areopagitou, the uphill narrow streets of Plaka and the Cycladic island below the Rock of Acropolis, a.k.a. Anafiotika. We did our shopping in the bustling Ermou Street and relaxed with some coffee on the terraces around the square at Monastiraki. N: Tell them about the Art Walk, when you dragged me along for hours to find the most beautiful graffiti in the city…E: I don’t know where to start when it comes to this wonderful experience! Kerameikos, Metaxourgeio, Exarchia, Psyrri and so many other areas. A different walk around the creations of street artists, which add beauty to every neighborhood of Athens.

For the end, we left the ascent to the hill of Lycabettus. A tiring trip, with countless stops and gasps! Probably the weariness of the previous days caught up with us. Nonetheless, the view from the top of the hill recharged our batteries. E: Thank goodness for the energy bars I had brought with me. N: What? E: The view, I mean…refreshing! N: Don’t tell me that you took the energy bars from the breakfast table. E: Of course I took them! I knew that the day would be full of walking and climbing, I had to do something! N: Oh, so you had to take them!

“So, is it Souvlaki or Kalamaki?”

Athens is always on the move. The Athenians are always speed-walking with their heads lowered in order to make it in time to their work or appointments. Unfortunately, the distances and traffic chaos of the city does not help them at all. Even though they are running, without affording to waste any time, they are quite agreeable and willing to give any piece of information, of course if you manage to stop them, hahaha! Nikos did not come across any problem with this, as he stopped countless “runners”, both for information and to ask them to take pictures (those poor people)! Most Athenians speak English and will easily help with anything you need, while we should highlight that there is absolutely no truth in the claims about the rivalry between the North and the South, this only exists in the minds of a few..

Well, okay, there is a little quarrel about the “Souvlaki”!! So, is it Souvlaki or Kalamaki? The everlasting rivalry will keep on bothering us for years to come…as there can be no middle ground! And you would be right to wonder who really cares what it is called, as when it gets in the mouth of either some Athenian or Thessalonikian the only thing you hear is “Mmm…is this for real?”! This is why the yummy delicacy is the first dietary choice of the locals. But in the capital you will not just find souvlaki, but every cuisine in the world, since more and more are entering the lives of the Athenians. But there is nothing like a Greek tavern! We are of course talking about the genuine Greek tavern, which you can find inside a narrow street at Pangrati, Korydallos, Sepolia and elsewhere. Under no circumstances do we mean the tavern at Theseion, where the only thing you hear coming out of the owner’s lips is “Hello sir, we have excellent quality of Musaca”!! So, dare to get lost inside neighborhoods and narrow streets and discover the real traditional flavors.

“No sleep before 6 in the morning”

Unpredictable and mysterious, Athens is always ready to surprise you at any time of day, and especially at night. After all, it is a city that lives for the night. How can I forget the incident when after an exquisite meal in Kerameikos, and while it was midnight, a makeshift band was playing a cover of “Talk dirty to me”, in the courtyard of a partly collapsed building?!! The locals, wanting to escape the problems and stresses of everyday life, find ways to have fun every time an opportunity presents itself. Of course, apart from the alternative ways of entertainment (of any kind), the capital offers the best terraces for drinks or coffee, beautiful underground and ground-level bars, dozens of clubs and places with live Greek music. Athens covers all tastes and more importantly…it does not go to sleep before 6 in the morning!! For the types that prefer the afternoons, on the other hand, a modern art exhibition, a theatrical play, some standup comedy or a concert are only a few of the options that the city can offer them, so they can also have a great time.

Athens hosted us for eight amazing days and offered us images, flavors and experiences that will forever stay with us. What was made clear is that it is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, strongly disproving the theory of some that it is a stop ‘n’ go destination. We, as a matter of fact, are already planning our next visit.

What do you say? Are you coming along?