Well, it’s been a while. I haven’t really been keeping up with the blog (sorry to my one loyal reader!) but it’s about time I finally write another post. Sara and I were both back in the US visiting friends and family for Christmas, and got back to London in early January. We’ve been busy since then, but for this post I figured I would just write about a recent trip we took to Athens.
We were just in Greece for a weekend- we landed around 10PM on Thursday (after a bit of a delay due to a mechanical fault causing us to change planes before leaving London) and took the Athens Metro to the city center, where our hotel was. As we stepped out of the metro station, two things immediately caught our eye- or rather, one thing caught mine, and another caught Sara’s. I was looking at the Acropolis, illuminated by floodlights on a missive hill above us, and Sara was looking at a cat. Athens has so. many. cats. And Sara took a photo of every one she could find. As you might expect, the city was also home to some incredible ruins (duh) and excellent food.
You’ll see a bunch of photos below, jumbled together from my DSLR, a roll of Kodak E100 shot on my Leica iiif, a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 shot on my Nikon f100, Sara’s Polaroid, and our phones.
First up, let’s talk about ruins. We found that for €30, we could each get a pass that got us in to seven different archeological sites dotted around the Acropolis, and naturally made it our mission to visit all seven. Some of them, like the Roman Agora (which was right next to the metro station that we saw the first cat at) were smaller and could be seen in under an hour, while others (like, well, the Acropolis) were much more involved.
The sites were incredible. Aside from loads of columns, as you may expect, we were amazed to see some beautifully-preserved tiled mosaic floors and some stunning statues. Some of the sites, The Temple of Olympian Zeus in particular, were very roped off- we could see the ruins but not walk through them. Others though, like Hadrian’s Library, were astoundingly accessible. We found that we could walk down ancient hallways (well, the ruin of ancient hallways. Really, we were walking on stone slabs with low, broken walls on each side), up carved stairs, and through archways that were still standing after two thousand years. We were also surprised to see that several of the attractions were still active archeological sites, with workers restoring areas, or archeologists digging around ancient columns.
One of the most striking sites was the Lyceum- the ruins of Aristotle’s Peripatetic school of philosophy. Not much was left of the building, but it was humbling to stand at what could be considered the birthplace of modern western civilization.
Holy shit, the food was incredible. I don’t think I’ve eaten this much honey in a single weekend before.
As soon as we got to our hotel on the first night around 11 PM, we asked the concierge where we could grab a bite to eat, and she led us out the door into the alleyway, and pointed to some distant colored lights and said (in English, thankfully) “walk to the lights, and go to the restaurant behind the tree,” which we did. And then did again the next night. And the night after that. We had spanakopita, souvlaki, and all sorts of other dishes that we had no idea existed but loved. Each night, the place had live music, and we ate outside even in the rain one night (under an umbrella). The tables were crammed into a square strung with colored lights, although it may or may have not actually been a road (I would occasionally have to nudge our table aside so a car could pass).
As amazing as that place was, my personal favorite dish was from another cafe, this one situated in the shadow of the Acropolis. It was a baked phyllo dough pastry full of feta and covered in honey and sesame seeds. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted (and I have no idea what it was called).
Cats. were. everywhere.
We found them sitting on the sidewalks, walking into shops, prowling through ruins, and most commonly weaving between outdoor tables at restaurants looking for scraps. Sara did her best to pet each and every one. We figured that on average, we saw about two cats per hour over the course of the whole weekend (including time spent indoors/sleeping).
I’m a simple man- looking at old buildings and eating honey-covered cheese pastries is more than enough to entertain me for a weekend, but I suppose I should say a few words about the city. We were damn lucky that pretty much everybody we met spoke English and every sign was written in two languages, because the local language was, well just Greek to us.
The city itself was beautiful, but surprisingly old-looking. Okay, that’s a pretty stupid sentence- we were walking among ruins that had been around for over two thousand years. But even the modern things, buildings from the past century or so, had a bit of a run-down feeling to them. That’s not to say it wasn’t an interesting place to visit- from the Greek freestyle street rap group that met under our hotel window each night until 12:30, to the bits of ancient ruins that you come across randomly while walking through a park, there was always something to look at. The people we met were generally very nice (though most were trying to sell us something) and it seemed that no matter where we were in the city, there was some incredible piece of history nearby.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip and we’re hoping to return some day to explore more, see a few more archeological sites, and catch a concert at the amphitheater in the Acropolis (seriously, it’s still in use!)