On May 6th, 2015 I arrived at the Athens airport on my first stop as a world traveler/senior nomad. I had been awake for over 24-hours and was filled with excitement and dread as to what was going to happen as I had had my passport stolen on the train from the airport into the city. You can read my very first blog post here about that experience: https://myhomeontheroam.com/2015/05/06/greece/
I had seen, toured, wandered around and through all the biggies (The Acropolis, The Parthenon, The Ancient Agora of Athens, Hadrian’s Arch, etc. etc.) when I was last here – and it’s lovely to know they are still standing.
It was also really lovely to see that a huge effort has been made to remove the graffiti that had started to cover even these ancient buildings and temples. May of 2015 was the height of the economic downturn and Greece was in the middle of a monetary crisis. I was told by a member of the local International Woman’s Club that I met that the young men couldn’t find work and were taking their anger out by spray-painting the entire city! Though as you can see, not everything has gotten completely removed.
Without Joyce along, our fantastic, huge Airbnb which is in the most amazing location of the Plaka was a bit lonely. But I did get out and wander the weaving, winding streets. I had Rick Steves along with me on my earbuds for several walking tours of the city. I even found Christmas still be celebrated in Syntagma Square.
What I love most about Athens is the juxtaposition of the very ancient and preserved sitting right in the middle of the modern and new.
Just across from my apartment is a very modern, fancy, upscale hotel and sitting in their ‘driveway’ is this exceedingly beautiful old chapel. I chatted with the doorman to learn that it’s the Church of Agia Dynami built in the 16th century during Ottoman rule.
Two blocks away is Ermou Street. This is Athens’ high-fashion walking street that starts at Syntagma Square and ends at Monastiraki Square, Athens home to hippies, African rappers, doggy salesmen, the Flea Market, and 100’s of sidewalk cafes, each with a ‘barker’ stopping you to entice you to stop and eat one of their many delicious dishes. (That’s not necessarily true but I’ll get to food in a minute.)
Ermou Street has everything from H&M to Sephora, 100’s of optical shops to Nike and Zara. I took advantage of literally thousands of choices of eye ware available and will have the prescription put in my very funky new glasses when I get home. But I digress.
Plunked in the middle of Ermou Street, in between Zara Home and Starbucks is Panagia Kapnikarea. It is one of the oldest temples in Athens, dating back to the Byzantine era, or early 1050. It is just beautiful and though photos are not allowed to be taken inside, if you get a chance, be sure and wander in and take look around. (Don’t forget you can click on and enlarge any photo for better viewing.)
I walked past the Greek Orthodox Cathedral almost daily, snapped photos of large statues and tiny chapels, enjoyed chatting with the man who sold a really delicious hot drink made from orchid plant bulbs and severed boiling hot out of a very fancy brass pot, and enjoyed the different ‘ex-terior designs’ of some of the outdoor coffee shops.
But mostly I ate! I did find a nearby grocery store and fixed my own coffee and breakfast each morning but lunch and dinner was always an adventure. Gyros, Moussaka, Dolmades, Souvlaki – restaurants severing Greek food where everywhere and either Mexico has taught my tastebuds to appreciate spices more or this was really bland-tasting food. I hate to say that, especially since my best friend from grade school through college was Greek and her father owned a fabulous restaurant in my hometown of Danville, IL. But Greek-Americans have upped the flavor of their traditional dishes. Just go to The Parthenon or Grocery Diana on Chicago’s southside for really tasty Greek food. Of course, it didn’t stop me from eating it! I was joined one day by a bird and another by one of Athens’ many roaming cats. And yes, the Greek beer is quite good! What I didn’t take photos of were the many Japanese and Chinese meals I ate – ramen, sushi, stir-fries, noodles, all the Asian dishes I love and can’t find in Mexico.
But I saved the best for last. A hunk of Feta cheese, wrapped in phyllo dough, baked till the dough is crisp and the cheese is gooey, and then covered with honey and sesame seeds. OMG – so easy to make and soooooo delicious!
Tomorrow I fly to Istanbul. My first time in Turkey and I am really excited to explore this dynamic city – even though it was snowing there today! I’ve hired a private guide for two days so I plan to learn lots of history and take gobs of photos.
Until next time….