Posts Tagged ‘oh my god what’s that smell’

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Athens, In Five Minutes Or Less

May 27, 2008

Sorry this is going to be a quick post, but we are packing to leave as I type this.  Normally, we would have had a lot more time to pack, but we got ambushed by the need to see some family in town here last night.  I’ll add links and pictures in later.

The day was another scorcher.  We realized the other day that the reason my father-in-law loves Arizona so much is that it must remind him of Greece: dry, hot, desert plants, houses with tile rooves, etc.  Despite the heat we had a good walking tour through the city.

We started at the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  It is amazing how tall those columns are.  We have a nice picture of me standing next to one to give a good idea of how big they actually are.  (Keep in mind I am six feet tall.)  We also saw Hadrian’s arch while we were there.

Then we started wandering through the city to look at churches.  There are a lot of hills in Athens.  We must have climbed them all.  In fact, I think we went uphill much more than downhill.  I would believe anyone that went to school in Athens if they told me it was uphill both ways.

Back to churches.  We saw a good five or six of them, but my favorite was Agios Nicolaos.  It was not just because it was a pretty church, but because of the caretaker that was there.  When she found out Ritsa spoke Greek, we became her best friends.  She gave us little cards with pictures of icons on them to watch over us, gave us each a loukoumia, and showed us where to get some cold, cold water.  I think the water was my favorite part.  I sweat a lot normally, but put a backpack on me and put me in 80 degree weather, and I am my own special little fountain.

We also did some shopping and found gifts for a few people.  We also picked up some embroidery patterns for ourselves.  They are really pretty and a lot less expensive than we thought they would be.  We managed to stumble across them almost by accident.  Actually, that is how we found all the stuff we wanted to buy.  When we were actively looking, we could not find anything, but when we stopped trying, we found exactly what we wanted.

Shopping was not an entirely enjoyable experience, however.  Ritsa slipped and fell in the fish market.  She bruised a knee a bit, but also got her hands and pants covered with water from a fish market.  It was not a pleasant perfume.

We made it back to the hotel around 5pm, and that was when we got the phone call telling us that the aunt and uncle we thought were in the village were actually in Athens.  A flurry of phone calls ensued, and our uncle Nico took a cab to come pick us up and bring us back to his place.  It was really nice to meet them, but everyone involved felt rushed.  I think aunt Dimitra really wanted to put out a big spread for me, but with the short notice, she only managed a really nice meal instead.

We were too tired to pack when we got home, so now we are up at 6am cramming stuff into bags so we can get to the airport to rent a car to drive to the village.  I have no idea when we will have internet access again, so until then, goodbye.

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Ta Kala, Ta Kaka Kai Ta Askhima

May 26, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

That was the story of today.  Things started off well with a rather warm walk to the Benaki Museum.  It was full of great art and a lot of really neat traditional dress from all over the country.  Oh, and it had two recreations of reception rooms in a Macedonian mansion that were drool-worthy.  We already will have to work hard to make enough money to cover those rooms and the alabaster and gold ceilings.  The collections themselves cover everything from neolithic Greece to the 1920s.  We also had a couple of really good frappés with ice cream in them at the cafe there.

Next we were off to the Cycladic Art Museum.  They had a really cool exhibit about Russian art with a couple of really neat cubist/futurist pieces in it.  The next floor was all stuff collected from prehistoric burials in the Cyclades.  The last floor we got to go to (one was shut down for re-building) was about ancient Athens.  It had some really neat stuff along with one rather… risque ampuole on display.

All that historizing made us hungry, so we walked up a really big hill to get to Taverna Filippou.  To put it simply, it was amazing.  We started out with our Greek salad horiatiki and then moved on to our main courses.  Ritsa had beef kokkinisto while I had arni youvetsi.  The food was fantastic.  It was down-home cooking in the middle of Athens.  My dish even came with these little pasta squares that my mother-in-law makes and puts in lentil soup.

That was the good, now on to the bad.  We need a map of the Peleponnesos for when we are driving around there.  There is a great travel map store in Athens.  So, we hop the metro and get there, only to find it had closed.  Now, this was at 4:15 in the afternoon.  However, Athens (and probably a lot of Greece) has this thing about Mondays having lots of stores and government buildings closed.  We went to another bookstore nearby, but they had maps of every other part of Greece, except the one we needed.  Since that did not pan out, we headed over to see the National Archeological Museum.

This is where the ugly comes in.  First off, there is no really close metro station to the museum.  The closest one is about seven or eight blocks away.  This would not have been so bad, if the area between the metro stop, Omonia (pronounced a lot like ammonia, by the way,) and the museum was not the victim of urban blight.  I swear I saw at least one drug deal going down, and there were a lot of people just loitering around, and a lot of people begging.  Add in the distinct odor of urine from various parts of the sidewalk, and it made us really not want to be there.  Nonetheless, we survived the trek and made it to the museum just before 5:00pm.  Great, the museum is open until 7:30pm on Mondays.  Well, every Monday except this one, apparently.  They closed at 5:00pm today.  So, we wasted our money riding the metro there, had to deal with panhandlers and foul odors only to have the doors practically shut in our face.  Thanks.  A lot.  Really.

All that aside, we have still enjoyed our trip here so far.  Part of that enjoyment has been the hotel we are staying at, the Athinais Hotel.  We have a really nice view from our balcony.  Even though we overlook a major road, the balcony doors are soundproof.  Also, they serve a really nice breakfast buffet.  We still need to try out the cafe downstairs, though.