|See the bitty Acropolis?|
Know how, when growing up, you insist you don’t like cabbage because you tried it as a kid and really didn’t like it much? Or maybe its taste wasn’t quite what you expected, so you remained cynical that it would improve upon further tastes? And all the grownups around you insisted it was this thing called an “acquired taste”? But then later you discovered that suddenly your taste buds had changed tremendously and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world? In fact, it was pretty good? For me, that was Athens (and fizzy water. Currently experimenting with shrimp).
My first trip to Athens was overshadowed in part by late arrivals, slightly sub-par lodging, an underwhelming Acropolis on a scorching day, as well as a stressful goodbye to my boyfriend, which included me crying into my Greek salad alone in a taverna and the old man running the place getting me a to-go box from across the street because I had ordered too much because I was used to ordering for two, rather than one. (Yes, I admit it, I cry in public sometimes. Particularly on planes and, apparently, at Greek restaurants. I conveniently left that out of last year’s post.)
Well, this time around, Boris was determined to show me the Athens he loved. We had 2 nights and a day-and-a-half to change my mediocre experience of Greece’s capital to a much better one.
Mission: accomplished! Here’s how!
We drank coffee, Greek-style. This meant sitting in a café, preferably outside with tables on the sidewalk or a patio, for 2 hours.
We explored areas of the city NOT on a tourist’s checklist. Where Boris had studied was in a much less touristed area of the city, so we headed there for an afternoon walk. Just getting away from the furor of Monastiraki, with all its shopping, and away from the Acropolis, with all the sales pitches and high taverna prices, was a nice breath of fresh air. We didn’t go in, but there are public gardens where you can walk, too.
We watched the sunset from the highest point in Athens. If you’re in Athens, I highly recommend going Nike on your itinerary’s ass and JUST DO IT. Lycabettus Hill is a nice (but steep) walk up from the Kolonaki district of Athens; if you’re feeling worn out, there’s a funicular; if you’re feeling swanky, there’s a beautiful restaurant on the top, too. From there, you can see all of Athens, including the Acropolis, the sea, the domino-like sprawl of the city, itty-bitty people coming out on their balconies to watch the sunset, too. Two Greek soldiers also came to take the flag down, which was a nice ritual to watch.
|Athens is so deserty! It’s like home!|
|I guess the panorama setting on my camera works…|
|I wish I had the camera skills to take better sunset photos slash how to use a real camera.|
|Lowering the flag|
|Folding the flag|
We got local advice on where to eat. Boris wanted to go to dinner in the area of Pankrati, and on our way along Agras we asked directions from two folks taking advantage of their porch. The woman vehemently recommended Επ’ Αυλη, at the corner of Agras and Arximedous Streets. She even was specific about telling us to tell this one specific waiter who had sent us. So we did. And we were NOT disappointed. I’m pretty sure it was the best meal I’ve had in Greece ever, from start to finish. The service was excellent, as was the atmosphere: an upstairs terrace with twinkle lights and a varied clientele. Stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, lentil salad and horta (steamed chicory salad) were our choices, and without asking we were also brought chocolate cake for dessert. A perfect meal.
We exercised. This sounds weird, probably, but it felt good to play a couple hours of volleyball with some friends in front of the stadium in Pankrati where the first modern Olympics were held. Although still very hot at 6:00 p.m. we managed to have a blast and get a good workout in, which is always good when you’ve been sitting on busses or riding ferries or being generally immobile as part of travel. (That day, we hadn’t been particularly immobile, but whatever, it still felt great!)
All of these sights and tastes and sounds completely changed my view of the city. No longer was it just a place to catch a ferry or fly into, nor was it a place just to see the ancient sites and get sunburned on the Acropolis. Plus, I got to see it all with Boris. His excitement at taking me to these places where he had such fond memories was just as important as were the places themselves.
|Top of the little church|