So several people who had travelled to Greece prior to us, had recommended, either only a few hours, or a day at the most in Athens- a city, which was now ‘ruined‘, full of tourist traps and dirty! But, thanks to the horrible picture canvassed in our minds, our expectations which were quite low, were more than met and we had quite a lovely time here!
We landed back at Larissa Station from Meteora at around 10: 30 AM ( we got the direct train this time- VICTORY!!) and headed straight to our cute little B&B place in the chaotic, colorful and touristy heart of Athens, i.e. Plaka area, which is around 600 meters from the Acropolis. The plus point- couldn’t believe that I was walking on the same path that was once witnessed by Socrates’ sandals, The downfall- thousands of tourists were discovering the same thing with me!!
After freshening up, we set foot towards the city centre, the Syntagama Square, named after Greece’ constitution. At the centre of the Square, is the Greek Parliament which marks the birth of modern Athens and its break from the shackles of the Ottoman dictatorship. Marked close to the Parliament, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by an elite infantry unit of the Greek Army. We saw the change of guards, who change five minutes before the top of each hour. These army personnel are clad in kilts called the ‘fustanella‘, white birches and pom pom shoes. One fun fact is that these kilts have 400 pleats, one for each year of the Ottoman rule. We watched the ceremony while gobbling on pretzel like sesame rings called “Koulouri” .
We moved across Ernou Street (Shopping district) lined with Neoclassical buildings, the Church of Kapnikarea and ultimately reached the “Souvlaki Row” in Monastiraki. A Souvlaki is a delicious shish kebab wrapped in a pita which is dunk with tzatziki, a cucumber-yoghurt dip. We went to Thanasis, which is famous for its traditional souvlaki with secret ingredient sacred to generations. Must not miss this even for the Acropolis ! Okay that’s an exaggeration, but do try it!
With heavy tummies and snoozy eyes, we accelerated towards the Acropolis, hiking trillions of stairs. This was a good hour in the day to visit as most of the enthusiasts had covered their No. 1 spot in Athens, early in the day, leaving the magnificent site to a select few. God Helios was very kind to us who brought with him his buddy, Aeolus, the wind devil! (When in Greece, speak as the Greek 😉 )
Acropolis crowns the city and stands on a limestone plateau as a testament to its glorious golden age. The grand Odeon is a humongous amphitheater, where the annual Athens and Epidavros Festival is organized each year (June). We saw the rehearsal and set designing, while here. We missed the festival, by a day! Sigh!
The Acropolis has several stunning sights but the Parthenon without a doubt is its showstopper. It is an architectural wonder indeed – although the corner columns are thicker and the base tilts inside in the middle to protect the building- it gives the impression of the entire structure as having equal length and size per pillar, basically a magnificent optical illusion and also one of the reasons why it withstood the earthquake! There is plenty to write about the Acropolis, but suffice is to say that it is a unique model of ancient history giving us only a glimpse into what it would have been centuries ago. Despite its grandeur, you feel a little cheated here as all the statutes from the time have been looted into the British Museum and much is left to one’s own imagination!
After having walked back to the 15th century, our feet gave up and we decided to take a short nap! The stars woke us up after about two hours and the souvlaki in our stomach had long gone!
The streets were lined up with lots of musicians, little souvenir shops, the lit up Acropolis (yes our obsession with the place wasn’t over), couples taking their dogs out for a walk and lots and lots of tavernas serving their best food and outdoor cinemas. We took the Acropolis Loop, walking all the way to Thissio and Monastiraki district. It was the night of the European Football Premier League Finals and the crowd was bustling with energy! It was uber fun!
The Stofi Athenian Restaurant, which looked like the local favorite, was unfortunately sold out!
The city has a lot of energy! and due to the shortage of time, we missed on going to some really fun clubs, which I note here, for the next time:
- Island in Varkiza is a club by the beach to look out for in summer with a whitewashed wooden deck affording stunning sea views, and a background of ambient and lounge music.
- W, one of the liveliest clubs located in Gazi is a mainstream favorite to enjoy a little glitz, flirt and listen to R&B and Greek commercial pop.
- Brettos, in pretty Plaka, is an old-fashioned distillery has a wooden bar lined with stools, and walls stacked with shelves of coloured back-lit bottles. The liquors on offer are their own creations, numbering over 30 flavours, based by the glass.
Whew! After an eventful day, we strolled back to our abode, saying our good byes’ to the ancient gods, looking forward to our onward journey!