Our big fat Greek adventure this year began in the bustling capital of Athens. Athens also continued to remain our base as we travelled back and forth to the hills and the sea but kept coming back to the capital every few days, and also finally to board our flight back to Delhi.
I found Athens to be such a magical, multifaceted city that I don’t think a long, rambling post would capture its many faces. That is why I am choosing to talk about some of our top experiences in Athens instead:
Historical Athens: The Acropolis and Beyond
As any old or new traveller to Athens knows, Athens in seeped in history and historical architecture. Although the Acropolis is only one of its many wonders, it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We would recommend that you shell out a few extra euros and opt for a walking tour with a guide, when you buy your entry ticket. We found this to be extremely helpful as our guide gave us a lot of history and information that helped set the context for each part of the sprawling historical site, without which we would have been absolutely lost.Thanks to this guided commentary, we were able to imagine, as we walked, the sacrificial offerings to Athina and the later Gods and the colourful performances at the Theatre of Dionyseus.
Other historical/cultural sites worth a visit in the city are:
- The Acropolis Museum that houses the actual parts of the Pathenon, artefacts discovered from excavations at the Acropolis Hill, and the Karyatides. Check out the cool transparent musuem floors. Best not to wear a skirt! The museum also has a lovely restaurant where we had the most delicious meal and listened to some mesmerising live harp music.
- The Agora
- The Temple of Zeus
- The Tower of the Winds
The Change of Guards at Syntagma Square
Also known as Constitution Square, Syntagma is the official parliament and goes through a change of guard every hour. We were lucky enough though, to be part of the huge crowd that gathers there every Sunday morning at 11 am, to watch the official changing of the guards.It was a most spectacular experience, with the soldiers marching in to the beat of the military band, in their official costumes. Try and reach an hour early to find yourself a good spot!
A Movie Under The Stars: The Open Air Summer Cinemas
This was definitely one of the highlights of my Athens experiences! On our second night we watched Marilyn Monroe’s legendary The Seven Year Itch at Cine Theseion, a charming open air cinema built way back in 1935. We loved the intimate garden sitting, right next to nighttime views of the glorious Acropolis. The welcome candy at the door, and the homemade sour cherry drink and cheese pie from the little canteen only added to the homely feel and magic of the summer evening.
We loved this experience so much that on our last night in Athens we also ended up catching Woody Allen’s latest Cafe Society at Cine Paris in Plaka. Here we made sure to grab seats in the upper balcony to enjoy the Acropolis views.
Meeting Melissinos- The Poet-Sandal Maker
As many of you who know us will know, Aloo-Gobhi are drawn to stories like bees are to flowers, and we will go searching for stories anywhere. The story of Melissinos the famous Poet-Sandalmaker of Athens is one such story, that we discovered while doing our travel research for Greece and sure enough, one Athens morning we determinedly went looking for this man and his story. Melissinos’ little shop, still small and cosy despite his worldwide fame, is located in the Monastiraki-Psiri area. The walls are covered in his art and poetry and sandals, as well as photographs of famous celebrities who have worn and inspired his sandals. Somehow all of this comes together to create an effect that is artistic rather than all cluttered and jumbled up; and the smell of leather everywhere adds to the experience. Melissinos himself, unassuming in shorts and a t shirt, and his warm and welcoming people, greet you with broad smiles and good humour, and patiently take you through different styles, sizes and your own whims, till you find a pair that seems JUST made for you!
The Art-Filled Streets of Thissio & Plaka
If there is one thing that did not cease to amaze me throughout the twelve days of our trip to Greece, it was the omnipresence of all things art and artistic! Whether you are taking a walk along Thissio to enjoy the breathtaking night views of the Acropolis, or simply meandering through the streets of Plaka, you will find art and music everywhere!
And just meeting the people who create this art and music filled my heart with joy- how we hummed Raj Kapoor tunes together without understanding each other’s language; how they did not stop gushing at us appreciating their art, even if we had no intention of buying it; how street musicians would play along indulgently when we found ourselves dancing to their music, not for money or favours, but for the shared joy of art alone.
And that for me, captures Athens and Greece in its true essence- an indomitable spirit that is able to transcend hardship and honour its love for the things that truly matter.
Gia Mas, Athens!