Thursday, August 2, 2012

Europe 2012: Athens

We woke up before most of the city and rolled our suitcases through the cobbled streets of Florence to catch our early morning train to Rome.  From there we were catching our flight to Athens.  Well, thanks to the earthquake in the wee morning hours, the train was late coming from Venice.  We anxiously waited around, watching the delay time creep up from 30 minutes to 60 minutes then to 90 minutes.  Frantically we did some mental math and decided to catch the next train that was slower but would still get us there earlier.  Ultimately we missed our flight by 45 minutes...wah wah.  After much negotiating, gnashing of teeth, tears and too many euros we were rebooked for a flight that night, meaning we had to figure out how to waste 6 hours in the Fiumicino airport.  We finally went through security and boarded the flight to Athens.  We nabbed the first bus into Syntagma square, walked about a mile through deserted streets at midnight and finally stumbled into our hotel with views of the Acropolis.

The next morning we ate breakfast on the hotel rooftop bar taking in the sights and sounds of the Monastiraki neighborhood.  We then wandered around the streets, ate lunch in Syntagma square and navigated the metro and teeming streets of Athens to make it to the National Archaeological Museum.  It was a small but great museum filled with bronze artifacts, tons of sculptures, finds from a sunken ship and much more.  We also tried to explore the grounds of Kerameikos but it was closed for the day.  That night we ate at the "must eat" place for souvlaki but were pretty disappointed.

Our view from breakfast each morning

People watching in Syntagma square

Stray pups all over Athens

National Archaeological Museum 

My favorite piece in the museum - bronze sculpture

The next day we toured two major ancient sites of Athens - the Acropolis and Agora.  It was sunny and pretty hot but we enjoyed seeing the massive structures and imagining what life was like back then.  We stopped for lunch at a window of a  restaurant selling souvlaki & gyros, it was the 2nd best meal we ate in Athens.  That afternoon I dragged Corey to a huge fish and meat market which was fascinating.  They literally had entire pigs or goats skinned and hanging from their stalls.  Many of the merchants sold chickens with the heads still on.  And even more offered every organ of each animal they had.  I wish I got better pictures but I felt really awkward whipping the camera out when they were trying to sell me their goods.

Making our lunch

Chicken, tomato, onion, french fries, tzatziki all wrapped up in a warm pita 


Taking a break in the shade

The Temple of Hephaestus 

Spices at the market
Meat vendors at the market

That afternoon we ventured to the high rent area of Athens and did some window shopping.  I was able to convince Corey that I needed a set of salad servers and a small cutting board made of olive wood (from olive trees).  We then ducked into a bar we had seen in the guidebooks and websites.  They are famous for making their own liquers, especially Ouzo, a very traditional greek drink.  I tried it and hated it.  Lets just say it tasted like alcoholic black licorice - blech!  For our final night we decided to try a traditional Greek restaurant that had good reviews online.  It wasn't the nicest or best lit location and the menu was completely in Greek, but our kind waiter patiently described every item in English and we had the best food we ate in Greece.  It was a great way to cap off our time.


M Brettos Liquer selection
Ouzo in the glass - definitely not my cup of tea!

Heading out our last night
All Greek menu
Delicious meal!!

 We had a fabulous time in Athens.  We were worried how we would be treated since we didn't know a word in Greek and with all their economic woes, we weren't sure how keen they were on "outsiders" if you will.  However, our fears were unfounded.  Every person we dealt with from our hotel staff to restaurant owners were kind and very welcoming.  The streets were dirty, busy and noisy but the sights were amazing, the weather gorgeous, the locals lovely and the food amazing!

Next we were off to Santorini!

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