- Friday - The Alitalia flight from Milan to Athens was about 20 minutes late
taking off. Paul picked me up at Athens airport as promised. It was
wonderful to see Paul with a sign "Mr. Carr" - I've always wanted to have
special treatment at an airport - a first for JoeTourist®.
(Greek Taxi Tours
in Athens Greece)
The other surprise at Athens airport - since Greece
and Italy are both in the European Union, there are no customs or immigration. Paul dropped me off at
Harry's place, and Harry met me at the door and showed me the apartment.
It's very basic, but clean, and has a small kitchen, fair-sized dining room and
bathroom, and 3 bedrooms. I have the place to myself for the week, so
Harry recommended a local restaurant run by Albanians. It took me awhile to find
it, despite it only being a block away from the apartment. It isn't fancy,
but the food is good, and it's not too expensive. While I'm eating dinner, I see
lots of locals stop in to pickup takeout for dinner - a
I had: salad, pork & spinach, and a Coke (€10.50).
2006 - Saturday - After having some coffee with bread and marmalade as a
late breakfast, I join Harry for a shopping trip to a local open air market: fresh
fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as household sundries. Harry stocks up on
everything, and I buy some oranges. The oranges are tree ripened, and still have
some leaves attached to them. They are super sweet and juicy - lovely for
Greens at the Exharia market
Fish at the Exharia market
Olives at the Exharia market
After the shopping trip I walk to the National
Archaeological Museum, which
is only 15 minutes' walk away. As with the museums in Italy, it is endless.
Hundreds of stelae, statues, and other artifacts from ancient times are
beautifully displayed. Admission is €6, and they close at 3pm today.
I skipped lunch, but picked up some date and sesame cake at a bakery on the way
back to the apartment. I make some coffee and have a piece of cake for a snack
before I lay down for an hour. I feel better after the rest, but I think I'm a
bit lonely after being part of a group for the last two weeks.
Harry pointed out Strefi Hill on our shopping trip yesterday, which is a small
hill just a short distance away from the apartment. I hike up to the top and am
rewarded with good views of the Acropolis and the whole city. I take a few
photos, then look for restaurants on the way down, and find a couple which are
open. Ayah Restaurant, 43 Methunis: green salad (lettuce, tomatoes, olives, capers, cheese
on top), with a penne & cheese entreé - a bargain at €8.90. It was very good
food, and was much quieter than the Albanian place last night. I'll be back.
Lots of clients smoke in restaurants here, which is hard to get used to after
our non-smoking laws in Canada. Libya was the same - smokers everywhere, but
Italy has no smoking in many restaurants.
The Acropolis from Strefi Hill
Lykavitos Hill from Strefi Hill
April 9, 2006 - Sunday - Today is a full day tour with Paul. I decided to do the
Circle Tour starting with Corinth, since getting to these sites without a car is
difficult. Paul picked me up at 8am and we headed out of Athens. After returning
from the tour, I have a nap and then go to the Ayah restaurant again this
evening. I have: simmered chicken and rice with Rocket salad - excellent!
Greek restaurants will put oil and vinegar on most salads unless you catch them
first. As well, olive oil is poured on almost all main courses.
2006 - Monday - Acropolis - a full day!
April 11, 2006 - Tuesday - I slept in this morning, but by 10am I took the metro
from Omonia to Akropoli Station again, but this time I was heading the other way
to Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I initially walked in
the wrong direction and ended up in the Koukaki district at Syngrou-Fix metro
station, but soon found my way back.
Hadrian's Arch is located outside the fence around the Temple of Olympian Zeus,
right on very busy Syngrou Ave. It is very impressive in size, but has limited
decoration. Hadrian's Arch was built by Hadrian to mark the division between the
modern Roman city and the ancient Greek one. Admission to the Temple of Olympian Zeus is part of the €12
combination ticket I purchased for the Acropolis. It is a huge temple, but there
are only 15 marble columns left standing out of the original 104. The rest of
this site is mostly rubble, however the remains of the Roman Bath is worth a
Temple of Olympian Zeus
I then crossed the street to see the Zapion and the National Garden. The
Zapion and surrounding fountain, gardens
and restaurant is impressive, however
the National Garden is mundane. I tried to visit the highly recommended Benaki Museum,
however it is closed on Tuesdays. I obviously didn't read my guide book carefully!
The Parliament is across the street from Syntagma Square, and is an easy 10
minute walk from the Benaki Museum. The guards wear ceremonial dress, including
big puffies on their shoes! The real guards to the Parliamentary precinct (which
is closed to the public) are armed police.
Since the Benaki Museum is closed, I take the metro from Syntagma to Omonia
Stations, and revisit the National Archaeological Museum
After returning home, I catch up on my journal, then lay down for an hour before going out to dinner
around 7:45pm. Ayah again for dinner: Roca salad and stuffed pork with roast
potatoes. I had planned to have Gemista tonight, but they didn't have it. The pork
was very tasty though. It's 8:30pm and the restaurant is empty. Greeks certainly
April 12, 2006 - Wednesday - I set my alarm for 7am and was out the door
shortly after 8am. I am at the Acropolis entrance and want to see the Acropolis
Museum. The only problem is the ticket I have can only be used once for the
Acropolis itself! Read the guidebook more carefully next time, Joe. I see
some of the other nearby sites: the Tower of the Winds, Roman Agora, the Roman Forum,
and the Library of Hadrian. I have some lunch near the Thissio metro station,
then walk through the Monastiraki area.
Fruit stand, Athens Flea Market, Monastiraki
Syndagma Square & metro station
I get on the metro Blue Line at Monastiraki and get off at Syndagma, the closest
station to Lykavitos Hill, my next target. The funicular train takes people to
the top of the hill for €4.50 (return). There are also stairs to the top of the
hill for those so inclined (pun intended).
There are wonderful unobstructed views of the whole of Athens from the top.
There is also a rather expensive restaurant at the top, as well as a small chapel dedicated to St.
Funicular railway, Lykaviotos Hill
Funicular railway, Lykaviotos Hill
View of Athens, the Acropolis & Saronic Gulf from Lykaviotos Hill
View of Athens, Parliament, National Garden, Temple of the Olympian Zeus
from Lykaviotos Hill
St. George's Chapel atop Lykaviotos Hill
Silver panel showing St. George on a horse, St. George's Chapel atop
I take the train back down the hill, then walk back to the Benaki Museum. I
notice police paddy wagons parked in the side streets, and there is a protest
happening across the street at the side of the Parliament. I quickly duck inside.
The woman who sells me the admission said they were all crying a half hour
ago, since the riot police had used tear gas.
The Benaki Museum (€6). This museum's artifacts are mainly the result of private
collections being bequested by wealthy Greeks. The quality of the artifacts is
noticeably better, having less restoration, and they also display a very diverse
Ancient finds are on the main floor, and modern (to about 1900) Greek artifacts,
textiles, and art are on the upper floors. I didn't find liturgical vestments,
gospels, historical letters and notes and other paper and parchment in any other
museums. This is fascinating material. There is also a huge collection of
jewelry, Greek costumes and folk artifacts (for those who are interested).
I found inexpensive Internet access (€1.50/hr) at the Palladium Club, Solomou 56 (between Kanningos and 28 Oktovriou),
one block south of the Polytekhnio. From where I'm staying in Exharia, it is
only 4 blocks down Solomou.
Xapas Taverna, Methonis 58 for dinner this evening. I have pork simmered in a nice sauce
with rice, and a Greek salad sans cucumbers. Cost was €15. The tomatoes the
restaurants use here in Athens are so lovely and sweet - no doubt fully
vine-ripened, unlike the horrible tomatoes we have available in Canada. Most
Greek restaurants I encountered did not have English menus, so I was given a
tour of the kitchen, and the dishes were described to me in broken English.
I then ordered by pointing and communicating in English as best we could (the
staff and I). This worked out well!
Garlic toast, Greek salad & Lamb or chicken friccase, Xapas Taverna
April 13, 2006 - Thursday - Cape Sounio & the Temple of Poseidon - Paul picks me up at 8am for our pre-arranged tour to
Cape Sounio to see the Temple of Poseidon, and then drops me off at the Irini
metro station after showing me the outside of the New Olympic Stadium.
The New Olympic Stadium
The New Olympic Stadium
Paul, the honest Greek taxi driver, in front of the New Olympic Stadium
I lay down for an hour before going out to dinner at 8pm. Ayah again for my
last dinner in Athens: Rocket salad and rabbit in lemon sauce with roast potatoes
and rice. The rabbit is delicious, but has small bones. Since I'm now considered
a "regular", I'm served a dessert gratis: a small square pudding with citrus peal, currents and dusted
with cinnamon - delicious.
Except for the odd beggar, nobody is alone in Athens. Folks are socializing in
cafés, on the street, or having energetic conversations on their cellphones
while they walk in the city or take the metro. Speaking of which, virtually
everyone has a cellphone here.
I passed one guy today sitting in the same seat in a café outside my apartment
three times - at about 1pm, again at 4pm, and finally at 8pm!
2006 - Friday - My alarm goes off at 3am and I am picked up by Jimmy
(Paul's alternate) at 4am. It is a bit confusing picking out Jimmy, since there
are so many cabs going by. Exarhia is still going strong at this late hour!
Jimmy and I have a nice chat on the way to the airport. It is wonderful to
have door to door service and not have to navigate the long and complicated
routing from Athens to the airport.
National Archaeological Museum
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