Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hello from Athens!

It’s midweek and we are having a great time! We arrived on Saturday evening and came out of the metro station into rain. Luckily, our hotel was nearby and we easily got settled. We sought out a typical taverna for our first meal. The waiter brought us right up to the kitchen window to show us what was available at that moment. People who came in as we finished our meal had a different selection. A bit intimidating at first but much easier than trying to read a Greek menu!
On our first day we climbed the Acropolis Hill and saw the Parthenon. It really is amazing! Sad to think of how much has been destroyed or damaged through war and looting. Even so, it is magnificent. We could not believe how it was crawling with tourists, and this is the off-season! The line to get into the brand-new Acropolis Museum was so long that we abandoned that plan. Instead, we walked all over, exploring other hilltops, ancient ruins and quiet neighborhoods. We had a delicious lunch at the “oldest taverna in Athens.” The saganaki, dolomati, bread and zucchini balls were the best we’ve tasted- or at least it seemed that way!
Monday we set out in a different direction, first checking out the Central Market, where you can buy a dizzying array of fresh-picked fruits and veggies, a dozen or more types of olives, a whole goat or octopus, or a huge bag of pitas for $1.00. We climbed to the tallest point in Athens, where there is a café, a small Greek Orthodox church and spectacular city views with the Aegean Sea beyond. Our walk took us through many neighborhoods, some quite urban and gritty, others near the embassies quite lovely. This city definitely has a unique feel. We toured two museums and took in more ancient artifacts than we’ll probably ever see again. Pottery, sculptures, tools, jewelry- all from 2000-4000 years ago. Wow.
On Tuesday we got to the Acropolis Museum and it was definitely worth the wait. Most of the remaining sculptures, statues and architectural pieces from the Acropolis have been removed due to ongoing pollution damage and are now housed here. The museum itself sits above an archeological site and the floors are glass so you can see the excavation. Our last ancient site to see was the Agora. We got there in a drizzle so decided to check out the small museum first. By the time we finished, it was a total downpour- unusual for Athens! So, we didn’t get to fully appreciate the ancient marketplace but got soaked anyway just getting back to the hotel.
We’ve eaten gyros, kebaps, sesame bread rings, spinach pies in phyllo dough, Greek salad, baklava and so much feta cheese! The people have been very nice and it seems like there is an “anything goes“ attitude here. We feel very lucky that so many people speak English but I have learned to say “Thank you” in Greek and that always makes people smile. A little effort goes a long way. Next we are off to Nafplio, along the Aegean coast. We’ll send another update from there.

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