Greece in all its historical glory beginning in Athens
20.09.2013 30 °C
Eat olives in Greece... olives, tzatziki, Gyros, yogurt and lots of meat on a stick. We visited Greece during the European summer of 2012. I was still licking my wounds after my dreams of wedded bliss were derailed and Vee, she was an intern at a rural hospital on the Natal in desperate need of an escape from the monotony of 24 hour calls and dealing with multiple stab wound patients.
We flew out of O.R Tambo airport, this time however there was less apprehension amongst our set of parents. The aircraft was parked in one of those bays away from the terminal building, that requires you to take a bus and climb a set of mobile stairs. I just remember standing on the landing and hearing exasperated fumbling next to me, some where between the bottom and top of the staircase Vee had dropped her boarding pass. Off to a phenomenal start I chuckled to myself and so it began.
After settling ourselves into our seats... the middle isle four seater Sigh! the most uncomfortable section of the plane. As soon as we were seated we were less disgruntled by the sight of the cabin crew. Not bad! not bad at all. Let's just say there are worse things to look at for 10 hours and the Turkish folk are beautiful. We had a five hour layover at Ataturk international airport. The excitement of reaching a destination always rules out the schlep of layovers and waiting along the way. Ataturk is constantly busy, flights leaving to all parts of the world every five minutes. Nothing makes my heart sing quite like the sight of a Starbucks after a long journey, some may think this mainstream of me but I don't care. It was a skinny latte and a bench patiently waiting for our flight to Athens.
We had arranged a transfer to pick us up from the airport, no luggage drama this time around. As we left the arrivals lounge, there stood a man with our names on a board. I would say he was in his mid to late sixties, white hair shaved close and large spectacles that took up more than a third of his face. Aki was his name. As far as airport transfers go this was pretty run of the mill initially. Moderate conversation about Africa and ofcourse Nelson Mandela. Then he proceeded to tell us about his Athens and more about his Greece. The food, the places the things that we should look out for. Sussing me out as the "responsible" -one this would soon change over the course of this trip- he handed me our ferry tickets and explained the plan of action for the next seven days.
Athens gives you a sense of history, you can feel the culture of hundreds of years ago. The city resonates with stadiums, sculptures and tales of the Olympic games. Atop a hill overlooking the city and central to all parts is the Acropolis. Just as you would imagine the mythological gods overlooking the city below, so it stands today. At night time embellished in light, you are always aware of it's presence in a dark black sky.
The oldest neighborhood in Athens is Plaka, the cobble stones give it a quaint old town feel. It rings with charm as it sits on the slopes of the Acropolis, sit at a cafe and indulge in the Greek staples, frappe i.e really strong Greek coffee, tzatziki and pitas. Lets not forget the infamous Gyros.
Athens is brimming with grunge... from little bars on street corners to roof top bars that over look the city. Step inside and take in the atmosphere. It is a culture of loud, bubbly people that know how to have a good time. Bars often offer popcorn and snacks with a drink, play music which often leads to dancing. We were advised by locals to take the underground till Keramikos square, as we stepped out onto the square we began to understand why. It was alive with people, every where you looked there was something going on. The roads were lined with bars, people and restaurants. Every one out to have a good time.
Our standard pattern of high culture travelers took a turn during this trip. We woke early one morning to visit the Acropolis, in the blistering sun we climbed and climbed... it was breath taking indeed. The acropolis and the heat. We chose to guide ourselves, lonely planet in hand we discovered the sneaky joy of tailgating tour groups. You'll be suprised by how much you can absorb by just listening to those around you. After baking in the heat for about an hour, we chose to retire. Back down the hill, we stumbled upon the shopping district of Athens, Vee took it as a sign from above and so the shopping spree began.
Stopping for a sundae at the Hard Rock Cafe, which has become somewhat of a tradition on our trips. We got to experience the Athens pride march through the city. English is not so widely spoken in Athens, but we got by with a guide book and plenty of hand gestures. After trying to purchase some cherries and apricots from a street vendor, we ended up walking away with 2 kilos of fruits between the two of us. # foreignproblems indeed.
The next morning we would board a ferry off to Mykonos...