Thoughts and impressions of Athens

Flight in, British Airways Heathrow to Athens was uneventful, reasonable meal, magazines worth reading, not the insulting drivel on Thomson Airways.

Landing, off plane within a few minutes, through the airport within half an hour.

Choice of bus or metro into Athens. Chose bus as no idea where Metro station was.

Very depressing trip into Athens, about 45 mins. Nothing worth seeing. 5 euros by bus, 8 euros by Metro.

From where bus dropped me off, no idea where to go, cuaught a taxi. Minimum fare 5 euros. I could have walked, as it was not far.

The Athens Gate Hotel, simple, stylish, elegant, very pleasant staff.

Too tired to find somewhere to eat. Dinner in the roof top restaurant. Good, expensive, with stunning view of the Acropolis. Cheapest dish 16 euros, 40 euros if choose three course meal.

Early hours of the morning a walk arund the block, get lost. Cannot belive how cold it is. Was cold when I arrived, must only be a little above freezing.

Breakfast in roof top restaurant, views across Atens, including Acropolis, Temple of Zeus. Ranked as No 4 Roof Top Views of the World. No idea by who, but who am I to argue with that?

Morning wandering around Temple of Olympian Zeus which is just across the road.

Nowhere nearby worth eating, tourist places. Make do with a spinach pie.

A brass band playing in the street. They were so bad I wondered were they a parody.

Afternoon climb up to the Acropolis, at least that was the plan. I followed a narrow road that led up hill. Cats everywhere. Then littlle tiny houses clinging to the hillside, narrow paths, steps leading upwards. I went up one, not sure if it led into a house, but no, it carried on, I came back to the narrow road, which now narrowed into one of these narrow paths, up steps. It looped back on itself below the Acroplis. I found myself back where I had been.

Looking down, I found a network of streets. An area known as Plaka.

I found a girl selling second hand books. I picked up two Paulo Coleho books. These were quite expensive for second hand books, one was five euros, the other seven euros. I querried the price, she told me books were very expensive in Greece. She also had a little gallery, wich she invited me to take a look around.

I then sat outside a coffee bar talking to a girl and her dog. It was very busy. She told me this was an are of many places lke this. Taking my leave of her, I found this to be true. Wandering through, many such places, streets very busy. I was reminded of Istanbul.

The morning was cold, though hot in the sun when the sun came out. Afternoon was pleasantly warm. Chatting with the girl and her dog, it was pleasantly warm, but as we lost the sun, it turned cold, and walking back was very cold. I wa spleased I had my jacket, though in the afternoon not too happy carrying it.

Two excellent jazz musicians playing on the street. Nearby Hadrian’s Library. Lots of ruins in this area.

I found a very old church. Inside it was though carved into the rocks.

Back at hotel, two Chinese girls who I had met the day before. We agreed to meet in half an hour, although they had already eaten.

They had wanted an early night as had to catch a ship to Santorini. They agreed to walk with me into Plaka. Many people on the street, festivities, everywhere busy, people kept hitting us with clubs, but we did not undersand why. They alo wished to know where we were from. We said Mars.

Restaurants with people sitting outside. We said no, too cold.

We went to the top floor of a restaurant. As we climbed the stairs, a big log fire. Very lively, not like the tourist area near Acropolis Metro Station.

Service was appalling, food none too good.

Although food and service poor, an excellent evening as in very good company of two lovely Chinese girls and very good atmosphere in the restaurant.

On leaving, it was very cold, not much above freezing.

As the day before, the plan was to visit the Acropolis, but the best laid plans of mice and men …

Today public holiday. As I walked along Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, it seemed as though every Athenian and his dog was there too. A place to promenade.

Very impressive houses lining the street, one of which appeared to be the Spanish Consulate.

An amazing puppet playing a guitar.

Traders flogging thheir wares. Five euros for eight hot roast chesnuts.

Part way along an ampitheatre, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, used for music.

At the end a wooded park, a hill, What I asummed to be Mediterranean pines. Very green, carpetted with wild flowers, though locals seemd to be doing their best to strip the hill of the wild flowers.

A little off the path, Prison of Socrates, a name aquired in Victorian times. Caves carved into the rock, three dwellings, or one dwelling with three rooms.

Backtracking, what I thought was a little restaurant, it was a church with a veranda outside, Ayios Demetrious Loubardiaris.

At the end of the path, a choice of two, maybe three different parks.

I headed off to an observatory. On the way Pnika, a former place of debate. Then on to the observatory.

Kites everywhere.

Backtracking to the church. What struck me about this church and the one I found in Plaka the day before, how inside it as though carved out of the rock. Maybe that was the first churches.

Opposite the church, remains of a wall constructed to protect Athens from Macedonia, Diateichisma. The wall continues up the Hill of the Muses. At the top of the hill, a monument to the muses. The paths laid by an architect and city planner who also restored the little church. Inlaid in the paths Bizantine motifs.

From both hills stunning views of the Acropolis. From the top of the Hill of the Muses, stunning panoramic views of Athens.

All day very cold, periodic rain. It was really a day for museums.

By evening, tired cold, too cold to go back out again. Ate in the roof top restaurant with views of the Acropolis.

A pleasant, warm sunny day. No need for jumper, coat and scarf, but I took a jumper just in case.

A trip on the Metro, only two stops, Acropolis to Evangelismos with a change at Syntagma. At Acropolis, Greek statues. I assumed this was because it was Acropolis, but similar at Evangelismos, without the statues. Very impressive Metro, clean, spacious.

From Evangelismos, walked to St George Hotel. Quite a climb.

At St George Hotel, Paulo Coelho press conference.

As I was halfway up Lycabettus Hill, I decided to climb to the top. A sandy path led from St George Hotel, which soon led to a tarmac path with steps, not so pleasant. Quite a climb, The lower slopes Mediteranean pine and Aloe vera, higher up, Aloe Vera. On the top a church. The last flight of steps, marble, the plaza before the church marble. Stunning views of Athens.

In the evening St Joseph’s Day Party with Paulo Coelho and friends in rooftop restaurant of St George Hotel, with stunning views over Athens, including the Acropolis.

Pleasantly warm this morning. Somehow made breakfast, roof top restaurant had doors open.

Intention was Acropolis Museum, then the Acropolis.

I was in the Acropolis Museum far longer than intended. Well worth a visit. When I cross the road, to enter the enter the Acropolis closed, it was only open 0800 until 1500, and it was now gone three o’clock.

I decided to walk down Areopagitou Street. I tried the far end, and to my surpise was able to gain entry to the Acropolis, but less than an hour.

I then carried on down the road. I found a few more caves like the Prison of Socrates.

I then walked down a dried up river valley, high up the valley, walking across the rocks along a barely visble track. I then came down the slopes, crossed to path the other side. Many examples of old houses cut into the rocks, a water channel cut into the rocks. The bottom of the valley, an ancient road.

Heading back, I came across an excellent musician. He was still there that night when I walked the near deserted street after eating at Strofi, with a view of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. It was a pleasant evening.

Another pleasant day, although only occasional hazy sun.

Breakfast on roof top restaurant.

I was going to have a wander around Plaka, then take lunch there, but although I did not really have the time, I decided to take in the Theatre of Dionysus and explore the southern slopes of the Acropolis.

Now little time for lunch in Plaka. I wish I had not bothered, as it was pretty awful.

Athens is not a good place for food. Strofi, near the Acropolis Museum, was the only place I found worth eating.

Wandering through Plaka, I came across the studio of Takis Moraitis.

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