Each time we visit Greece, it has always commanded a stop in our favorite cities, Athens. One cannot help but wonder whose footsteps we are following, a God, Goddess of some fabled creature grown right out of Greek Mythology. Greece has been inhabited for more than 7,000 years home of Democracy and western civilization. We could spend valuable print space revisiting the great battles taken place over the centuries, the Byzantine, Ottomans, Turks and Italians, but I prefer the gentler side of Athens. Music, food, wine and the dizzying array of amazing shops and Tavernas. One of the most visited is in the neighborhood of Plaka on Kydatheneon street is a small bar called Brettos. At one time it was the oldest distillery in Athens. It’s worth a stop just to see the brightly colored bottles and the old barrels. But don’t linger too long as the Plaka is a mecca for tourists looking for all sorts of trinkets from soap on a ropa (my take on Opa) to mass produced porcelain statues of St. George slaying the dragon. The shop keepers are good talkers, remember this is what they do to make a living, so if you see something and you really want it, just buy it. Haggle if you like, it works.
Once you’ve seen the tourist shops, reveled in the Plaka head just a few steps below the Parthenon to an area called Anafiotika. This is everything Athens is not. If I did not know any differently, I would think we were back on Santorini or Mykonos. Stone Masons were brought to Athens from a neighboring island called Analfi to build in the 1800’s. It is easier going down than it is going up, but well worth the small effort. Think of it this way, going up you are beckoned by the Goddess of Athena and if you are going down you are being directed to follow by Socrates.
Before you leave the Acropolis and you are standing with your back to the Parthenon, (don’t confuse the two sides) focus on the hill behind called, Mount Lycabettus. It sits in the center of Athens and if you can manage a walk up to the top, do it! Once there you will be met by one of the best views of Athens that can possibly be offered. Views stretching clear across the Parthenon and out to the sea. The Temple Of Zeus towering below, but from this height appears, but a few inches and of course the Olympic Stadium. Even here, there is a small church dedicated to Saint George lovingly cared for by an elderly couple busy washing and sweeping marble floors and pathways. We are not religious, but step inside most churches, light a candle in remembrance of those we’ve lost, and hope for the best.
For anyone reading this and may be wondering about all this walking fear not, there is the Funicular that will take you to the final few hundred feet along with a fantastic Café at the top where you can quench your thirst and have a well deserved bit to eat. Once you’ve had your fill take your time as you head back down. There is so much in plain sight people miss because they don’t take time to enjoy where they are. We are not the cruise type, at least not yet so we fly.
Like I always say, pack and eat light, and as they say in Greece, “Kala Taxidia” or good travels.
How to get there:
American Airlines – New York
American Airlines – New York – London
British Airways London – Athens
Total Travel Time: 20 hours
Cost of Tickets: Coach (approximately) and depending on travel season: $1,500
Currency: As of this writing Euro: 1.17 to the Dollar.
Water: Drink it, no problems
Languages: Greek, but everyone speaks English
Where to Stay: We stay at the Amalia Hotel in Syntagma Square
Walking Score: 10