Posts tagged: Athens

Meal in Plaka

By , 24/07/2014 23:34

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240720142376For my evening meal, I found the area of Plaka (Πλάκα) I was looking for on Monday night but missed; I went to the Gouvetsakia (Γιουβετσάκια) taverna, on one of the narrow pedestrianised streets, where I enjoyed a brilliant (you’ve guessed it) veal giouvetsi/γιοβέτσι.

The Giouvetsakia taverna is one I had walked past not long ago and thought it looked quite nice. IIt was actually one of the best meals I’ve had in Athens. the taverna is in fact one of the oldest in Plaka, going back to the 1950s. It has excellent reviews online. The ingredients are all locally sourced – the bread even comes from one of Athens’ best bakeries!

The waiter there couldn’t quite believe it when I spoke to him in Greek – he had to double check…
Σ: «Εγγλέζος είσαι;» (AreyouanEnglishman?)
Φ: «Ναι».
Σ: «Όλοι Εγγλέζος;» (AllEnglishman?)
Φ: «Ναι!»
Σ: «Και μιλάς Ελληνικά!»
Φ: «Ναι, προσπαθώ. Έχω μία δασκάλα στην Αγγλία που έμεινε στην Ελλάδα.»

Needless to say, he was more than happy to take a photo of me standing in front of his restaurant. Of all the meals I’ve had in Athens, tonight’s giouvetsi I enjoyed the most. It may have been a bit on the pricey side, but that’s what you should expect when you eat in the tourist districts in Athens, as opposed to nearer my hotel.

Tomorrow, I leave Athens for the final time: It is almost like it is the beginning of the end now, as for my final two and a half weeks in Greece I’m up in the North of Greece. I’m heading to Kalambaka tomorrow, then continuing on to Thessaloniki on Saturday, before Mum, Dad and Corrie arrive on Wednesday and we head to Thassos.

I’m off to bed.

Good night.

From Syros to Athens: Final Night in Athens

By , 24/07/2014 21:42

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Arriving back in Athens following the four hour ferry journey from Syros felt a bit like arriving at Gatwick after a flight. It was that “I’m home from holiday” feeling.

My time from Syros was, if you like, a “holiday within a holiday”; it did make me feel rather Greek to jump on a ferry and go to an island for a two day visit, then jump back on the ferry and return to the mainland.

After checking out of my room this morning, I headed to Galissas Beach for a final swim; spent so long in the water my hands aged by about 50 years… but then, my hands only need 5 minutes in water before they start to go wrinkly.

Later, I popped to the office where Yannis of Galissas Studios works; that was where we stayed last year, and Mum has already suggested that we may go back independently in the future – so I called in to get his contact details so we can look at it properly.

The time then came for me to pay my bill, say goodbye to Antonis, and get the bus in to Ermoupoli.

From Ermoupoli, I took the 16:00 ferry (on the Blue Star Naxos / Μπλου Σταρ Νάξος boat) back to Piraeus – I stood at the back of the boat for about 50 minutes as we sailed along the coast of Syros, before turning and then seeing the island Syros fade away in to the distance.

The journey back was rather pleasant – as I found a spare seat on the sundeck, and sat there as we sailed past island after island… and whenever we were close enough to land to get a 3G mobile signal, I’d quickly boot up my laptop and do my e-mails. The on-board wifi was a bit too expensive for me.

Arriving back in Piraeus, we had some excellent views of the city as we approached – I could clearly see the Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill. As a sign that my Greek is definitely coming along nicely during this trip, I was able to understand every word of the stream of tannoy announcements as we docked in Piraeus, and didn’t need to listen when they were translated in to English afterwards.

On arrival in Piraeus I headed for the Metro station, got a 24 hour travel pass, and went back to my hotel in Metaxourgeio; changing trains at Omonoia, the journey took about 40 minutes.

Tonight really is my final night in Athens: and it occurred to me that after 24 days in Greece, I was back in the hotel where it all started – in the room next door to the one I had during the first week.

Lost In the City

By , 21/07/2014 23:31

Πλατεία ΜητροπόλεωςFor dinner tonight, I decided I wanted to head for the Plaka (Πλάκα) district – that’s the pedestrianised area where all the tourists go.

Had to be done at least once.

However, on exiting Acropolis Station I took a wrong turn and missed the bit I wanted… I ended up on Mitropoleos Square (Πλατεία Μητροπόλεως) instead.

There is however one advantage of getting lost in the city like this. The square was quite peaceful, and I found a lovely little café there where I ate tonight instead.

The menu was only about 4 or 5 items long – and the waiter recommended to me his Moussaka – saying it was το καλύτερο (the best). Needless to say, I quickly decided that I would go for the Moussaka – and it really was very good!

Moussaka €8 – Fanta Orange €3… Total cost of dinner tonight €11.

I’m off to bed now.

Good night.

FH.

Mountains & Stadiums

By , 06/07/2014 23:59

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Today I’ve been to Monastiraki, the University, I climbed Mt. Lykavittos, and I went to the Panathenaic Stadium.

060720142049Monastiraki is one of the tourist districts of Athens; pedestrianised and home to the city’s Flea Market. Having been told it was best on Sunday mornings before 11, I went first thing this morning. It was a lovely walk past all the cafes, and through the flea market itself; mainly Greeks out and about at this time on a Sunday morning: tourists all still in bed!

From there, I got the metro to Panepistimio station (Panepistimio is the Greek word for University) and photographed the National Library and Athens University buildings. From there, I walked up Lykavittos Hill, which took about an hour, and enjoyed the 360 views over the city.

View frrom Lykavittos

060720142135After walking back down the hill and back to the station, my next stop was Syntagma, from where I was just a few minutes by foot from the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium. With my Uni of Glos ID card I got the student discount, getting in for €1,50 – and took a free audio guide too. Sport isn’t my thing – but the stadium was rather spectacular. As an added bonus – after following the passage indoors I found on display all the Olympic Torches: including the ones used for London 2012 and London 1948!

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Back outside, I walked up to the top of the stands for a photo looking through the stadium towards the entrance. Near the exit, on display is a list of all the Presidents of the International Olympic Committee, and a list of all the Modern Olympic Games which have taken place – all listed in Greek of course; so now I know the Greek words for St. Louis and Antwerp (Most of the other cities are relatively self-explanitory in Greek – just remember that Monaco is the Greek word for Munich!

After lunch, I returned to the hotel for a late siesta – I tuned to the Third Programme and slept for nearly 4 hours.

For my final night in Athens, I ate at the restaurant on Karaiskaki Square, just down the road from my hotel; and where Metaxourgeio Metro Station is located. Pork souvlaki with rice, chips and a slice of lemon: which is what I cooked in Cheltenham last week. I think my version had more flavour though, but it was still nice, and although the road was very busy and noisy, I secretly enjoyed watching the traffic on the roundabout. It was all locals eating in the restaurant – no tourists – in fact I don’t think the waiter picked up that I was not Greek.

So that’s my week in Athens done. Tomorrow, I’m off to Levadia. Don’t know whether I’ll blog every day there: but I’ll try and post several times during the week if I can.

Bye for now.

Panathenaic Stadium

By , 06/07/2014 14:00

Just a couple of minutes walk from Syntagma Square is the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium (Παναθηναϊκο Στάδιο). €3 entry (students €1,50) and audio guides are free.

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Panathenaic Stadium

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Above: The Royal Box.

Track

Two-Sided Herms

Above: Two-sided Herms

Tunnel

Passage

Passage

Olympic Torches on Display

OT1

Κάλγκαρι, Τορίνο, Σότσι, Βανκούβερ – Calgary, Torino, Sochi and Vancouver.

OT2

Ίνσμπρουκ, Λεϊκ Πλάσιντ, Σεράγεβο – Innsbruck, Lake Placid, Seragevo.

ΟΤ3

Πεκίνο (Beijing) 2008, Λονδίνο (London) 2012.

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Λονδίνο (London) 2012

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Αθήνα, Μελβούρνη, Ρώμη, Τόκυο – Athens, Melbourne, Rome, Tokyo.

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Βερολίνο, Λονδίνο, Ελσίνκι – Berlin, London, Helsinki

060720142123Λονδίνο London 1948

Back Outside

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The Acropolis

Above: Looking over to the Acropolis.

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Above: List of the Modern Olympic Games. (The numbers on the left are the Greek equivilant of Roman numerals – Greek numerals)!

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Above: List of Presidents of the International Olympic Committee – and the countries they are from. (Thomas Bach is the current one, he’s from Germany according to this. No British ones in the list)…

Mt. Lykavittos

By , 06/07/2014 11:15

Great views over the city of Athens from the top of Mt. Lykavittos (Λόφος Λυκαβηττού).

View frrom Lykavittos

Lykavittos View

University

By , 06/07/2014 10:30

The National & Kapodistrian University of Athens is just one two stops from my hotel on the tube. It is from here that I walked up Mt. Lykavittos.

Below: National Library of Greece – Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη τις Ελλάδος.

National Library

University

Above: National and Kapodistrian University of Athens – Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών

Below: Academy of Athens – Ακαδημία Αθήνας

Academy

Morning Walk in Monastiraki

By , 06/07/2014 09:53

Took the underground to Monastiraki (Μοναστιράκι) first thing this morning for an early morning walk. Nice to be up and about before most of the tourists flood in, the pedestrianised areas are quite nice first thing in the morning. Walked towards Thisseio Station and back again.

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Market

Acropolis and Glyfada

By , 05/07/2014 23:50

Parthenon

One of the great things about being in the city with an unlimited travel pass is that I can get almost anywhere I want to relatively quickly. I’m going almost everywhere on the underground, which is very reliable and convenient.

First thing this morning, I went to the Acropolis – 10 minutes away on the underground. Free entry for EU students with a valid university ID card. (Hooray! Mine’s valid until the end of the month). I enjoyed the views over the city, and down towards the coast at Piraeus.

Returning to my hotel, I spent a bit of time using the Internet downstairs; the owner had his grandchildren here and asked me to show them how to access games on the computer: The perfect test for my Greek, as they weren’t yet of school age and didn’t speak English (the owner, by the way, speaks to me in English).

After my daily siesta (which I took earlier than usual today) I headed to Syntagma on the underground, from where I could jump on the tram. The tram is covered by my travel pass – so no need to pay for new tickets. There are two lines: one line goes to Σ.Ε.Φ. (the Peace & Friendship Stadium), and I took the one heading to Voula.

Not far before you get to Voula lies the Athenian suburb of Glyfada – home to quite a few Greek celebrities (including two of my favourite Greek singers). There’s the main beach which has it’s own tram station; but I stayed on a little bit longer and jumped off at Palio Dimarcheo (‘Old Town Hall’) station after seeing a nice quiet beach with a taverna on it.

GlyfadaThis beach is West facing and the sea calmer than on Tuesday; there was no wind here. I had a longer time at the beach today and swam more than once as well. It’s strange to think that both Glyfada and Voula have beaches packed with foreign tourists; and in between, less than 5 minutes walk from Glyfada’s main beach, lies a very quiet spot full of mainly Greeks!

For dinner, I got the tube to Acropolis Station and wandered round the pedestrianised streets there; heading towards Theseio Station, which is on the other Metro line to mine. The route took me right through the heart of Athens’ tourist districts (the sort of places we’d probably stay if we were here on a package holiday). As nice as it was to walk through in the evening, I wasn’t to stay and eat here. I wanted something more Greek.

That Greek experience I found just round the corner from Acropolis Station – but outside the pedestrianised bit. I’d walked past it when I first arrived earlier in the evening and made a mental note to return if I couldn’t find anything else. So I returned.

DinnerThis was a restaurant with a few tables on the pavement outside, and a small number inside. There was no menu: the food was on display, and I simply was able to say to the lady (the owner I assume) which dish I wanted. For €8,50 I had moschari me rizi (beef with rice) and a Fanta orange. It was a lovely little place – not hidden away, but much quieter and much more relaxed simply because the tourists stick to the pedestrianised street just over the road.

It’s my last day in Athens tomorrow. Heading to the flea market at Monastiraki in the morning, then to see the changing of the guard at Parliament (they get the army band out on a Sunday), then I plan to walk Mt. Lykavittos.

Bye for now.

Dinner Near the Acropolis

By , 05/07/2014 22:24

Just round the corner from Acropolis Metro Station – but quieter than the tourist tavernas on the pedestrianised street the station is on.

Dinner

Glyfada

By , 05/07/2014 18:04

Believe it or not, this lovely quiet little beach lies just a minute or so from one of the stations of the Athens tram! It is just an hour from Syntagma Square. The main beach at Glyfada is packed, but this one, near the ‘Palio Dimarcheo’ station is really quite nice…and it has a taverna there too, where I sat for a bit and had a drink.

Glyfada

Glyfada

Glyfada

Above: The beach at the Southern end of Glyfada.

Below: The tram back to Syntagma Square.

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Below: The tram station in Glyfada.

Tram Station

The Acropolis of Athens

By , 05/07/2014 13:07

View

Above: I’m above the the theatre I was in last night…

Below: Looking down in to the theatre.

Theatre

Parthenon

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Above: The Parthenon.

Below: The view over the city of Athens.

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City Exploration: Piraeus, Ag. Paraskevi and a Concert

By , 04/07/2014 23:51

Concert

Today has taken me to several places around the city. I really am making the most of my unlimited Athens travel pass. Although this does include the busses, I’ve yet to actually use them: the underground is more convenient.

Metaxourgeio is my nearest – including the time it takes to get to the ground floor of my hotel, then to the station and on to the platform, I am just 10 minutes from Syntagma Station. Syntagma is where I started my day: I went to the post office to get some stamps (they’re not sold by the kiosks as there are actual proper post offices here).

Next on my list of chores was ticket collection. My ferry ticket to Syros was pre-booked before I flew out here: all I had to do was get the train down to Piraeus (journey time about 40 minutes) and type me booking number in to the e-ticket machine. Easy! My return ferry tickets will be picked up from the ticket office on Syros itself. No e-ticket machines for the Blue Star Ferries though – I have to show my booking confirmation and passport to a person.

NERITThen, it was on to Ag. Paraskevi – one of Athens’ suburbs – for a visit to the Greek equivilant of Broadcasting House, known as the Radiomegaro. Home to ERT until it was closed last year, NERIT is the current public service broadcaster in Greece. It currently runs 3 radio stations (one of which opened only on Tuesday) and 2 TV channels; with a planned 3 more radio stations and a couple more TV channels on the way too.

I note that the ΠΟΣΠΕΡΤ journalists union has banners still protesting the closure of ERT in a prominent place outside the NERIT building.

After a late lunch at PitaQ, just a short distance away from the studios, I took the underground back in to Athens itself for a late siesta at the hotel.

In the evening, I ventured to yet another new area of Athens: I got the tube to Acropoli station, wandered round the Acropolis Museum (free entry for students) and then went to see a concert at the Oden of Herodes Atticus; an open air theatre on the Southern slopes of the Acropolis.

It was a fantastic concert, to celebrate the union with Greece of the Eptanisia (the Ionian islands). Sitting right at the top of the theatre, I got chatting to some South Africans in the audience and discussed Greece for a bit. At the end of the concert, we got a live version of the Greek national anthem, and I’m quite proud of the fact that I know the words well enough that I could join in with the Greeks when they started singing!

Tomorrow, I’m going to see the Acropolis itself, and I’m going to walk up Lykavvitos Hill.

Bye for now.

Acropolis Museum

By , 04/07/2014 19:37

While waiting for the start of my concert I wandered round the Acropolis Museum (free entry for EU students).

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Piraeus

By , 04/07/2014 11:17

Short trip to Piraeus to collect my ferry ticket for Syros.

Piraeus

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Metaxourgeio Station

By , 04/07/2014 09:59

Metaxourgeio is the nearesrt underground station to my hotel; within 4 minutes I can be on the platform, and 6 minutes after that I’m in Syntagma.

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Metaxourgeio Station

Beach Day

By , 03/07/2014 22:58

Porto Rafti

The Attiki region of Greece is not known for having brilliant beaches – but that’s not to say there aren’t any.

After calling in at Syntagma Square to buy some postcards, I hopped back on the tube (I love my 7 day all-Athens travel pass!) and headed towards Victoria Station.

The KTEL bus station is less than 5 minutes walk from the tube station: and it is from here the busses to the likes of Sounio and Rafina leave.

Sitting waiting for the bus, I realised that I obviously look Greek when travelling alone. A Greek child who looked far too young to be smoking asked me if I had any τσιγάρα (cigarettes). «Όχι, δεν καπνίζω» was my reply. (“No, I don’t smoke”). A tourist from Cyprus asked me if I knew where to get a bus timetable from. It seems most of them don’t have a clue I’m a ‘foreigner’ and talk at full-speed Greek until they see the confused look on my face when they use a word I don’t understand.

I took the bus to Porto Rafti (Πόρτο Ράφτη), a seaside town in Eastern Attika. The journey costs €3,70 each way: What isn’t clear from the timetable is that you change busses shortly after Koropi. The ticket officer makes an announcement when it’s time to do so, but only in Greek (99% of the passengers were Greek). Usually the coach you’ve got to get on to is there waiting for you – or not more than 5 minutes away.

Porto Rafti itself isn’t a bad place; I took the coach right to the end of the route, so outside the village, in the hope of finding a quieter bit of beach (which I did). I stayed there for a couple of hours enjoying the sea breeze (the meltemi is up, but can’t be felt in Athens); I read my book; I did swim; read my book some more; and got lunch from the supermarket.

After returning to the hotel for a bit, dinner time arrived. Tonight a slight change: instead of fast food I opted for one of the tavernas just off Karaiskaki Square, which is the main square near my hotel, and it’s where the nearest tube station – Metaxourgeio – is.

The taverna was only a small one: 3 tables on the pavement outside, and 3 inside. I had spaghetti bolognese, baked bread (it was similar to, but not exactly, a focaccia), and a glass of cherry juice for a total of €8. I imagine the same would have been double in the tourist districts.

Looking forward to next week, and I sent an e-mail to my hosts in Levadia to let them know I was in Greece; on Monday I will take the train to Levadia and Dimitris will pick me up from the station when I arrive.

I’m off to bed now. Tomorrow, I’ve got postcards to send, and a concert to look forward to in the evening.

Bye for now.

Central Athens: Syntagma Sq, National Gardens, Archaeological Museum

By , 02/07/2014 23:59

Parliament

My first full day in the city was spent exploring Central Athens. After breakfast in my hotel, I headed to the underground to get my 7 day all-Athens travel pass. For €14 I have unlimited travel on the metro, busses and trams in the city.

I headed straight for the heart of Athens: Syntagma Square, from where I could see the Greek Parliament. The building itself is closed to the public, but I was able to stand outside it and take some photos of the Presidential Guards (the Evzones/Εύζωνες) by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Next to Parliament lies the National Garden – originally the Royal Garden: Just like the UK Parliament, the Greek Parliament is in fact a Royal Residence. Parliament didn’t move in until as recently as the 1930s. There’s plenty of shade; plenty of space to sit. It’s like a maze in there: I had to stop and look at the map several times to find my way around it! There’s a central lake, there are turtles, there’s a playground for children, there’s a café where I sat and had a drink.

Before returning to my hotel, I walked down the pedestrianized road leading away from Syntagma, and it wasn’t long before I got my first glimpse of the Acropolis. I’ll be doing that on Friday, after my visit to the NERIT TV and Radio studios in Agia Paraskevi.

On arrival back in Metaxourgeio, a cheese pie was on the menu for lunch, before tuned to the and took a nice 3 hour long siesta.

Later in the afternoon, I returned to the underground – this time heading towards Victoria station and the National Archaeological Museum. I took my University of Gloucestershire ID card, allowing me free entry. Even abroad, I am getting my money’s worth from the university.

This district of Athens is quite different compared where I was earlier in the day. After changing trains at Omonia station, I noted that the train was packed (more so than the ones I was on earlier in the day). The social class of the people on the train was different: Gone was the mixture of tourists and business people. It’s easy to see why the Piraeus to Kifisia line is the one with the biggest pick-pocketing problems. I’m glad I’ve booked a taxi for my journey to Piraeus in a few weeks I think! (On that note: The money belt I wear under my shirt is rather comfortable. Thanks for asking).

My social class observations continued when I stumbled upon the Pedion tou Areos – Athens’ biggest public park. Once considered among the most dangerous areas of the city, it has recently had a refurbishment costing more than €10 million.

It is much better than it was, but it still attracts a – shall we say – slightly different social class than the National Gardens. That’s a shame, because the park itself isn’t bad. Even during the day, there are drug addicts, drug dealers and homeless people hiding amongst the trees off some of the other paths.

It will come as no surprise to those who know Athens that the areas surrounding Victoria and Omonia stations are on my list of areas to avoid completely after dark.

I returned to my hotel again, and got ready to go and find some dinner. There was a souvlaki takeaway ΠίταΠαν (Pita Pan) hidden behind McDonald’s in Syntagma Square – catching a glimpse of their menu this morning, the idea of pork souvlaki pita for €2,25 appealed to me.

So for the evening I went back to where my day started; I walked the same route, and then enjoyed takeaway souvlaki pita while sitting in Syntagma Square.

Syntagma Square was relatively quiet at 10am compared to how busy it was at 10pm!

I’m about to head to bed for the night now. Tomorrow, I’m going out of the city for a bit, taking the bus to Porto Rafti for some time at the beach.

Bye for now, Καληνύχτα.

FH.

Syntagma by Night

By , 02/07/2014 22:14

How does takeaway pita souvlaki in Syntagma Square compare to home made souvlaki on skewers in my student house?

At risk of sounding disloyal to the lovely radio lot: Syntagma Square is by far a better location – although the experience would be even better if I was able to share it with others.

Souvlaki

Parliament at Night

Syntagma Square at Night

Sunset

By , 02/07/2014 20:40

The sun dipping below the mountain opposite is my queue to go and get ready for dinner.

Sunset

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