Sunday, May 18, 2008

Relaxing in Athens

Our final stop in the tour of Greece was Athens. After taking the airport train to downtown to save money, we still g0t ripped off by a cab driver who took us to our hotel by a very roundabout way and charged us 20 euros for it. But the hotel was in a great location, right in the heart of the "Plaka", the oldest part of Athens right at the very foot of the Acropolis. ln fact the room had a partial view of it, and from the hotel roof you could see the whole thing practically right in your lap.
We only had a day and a half, so the first day we explored the streets and ruins of the Plaka, which include-- besides the funky bars and gelato stands among the shops-- Greek and Roman foundations, the beautifully preserved Roman "Tower of the Winds", and a great museum inside a "Roman" agora building they actually rebuilt recently according to what they believe was the original design. We then wandered up to the Acropolis itself, which I never get tired of seeing, and Jen was amazed she was actually there. I still miss the old childhood days when we could stroll through the Parthenon, but I suppose it's for the best to keep tourists out now.
We are also interested to see several dogs roaming among the ruins. We spot a Parthenon employee feeding them and ask her about them. She explains that before the '04 Olympics, the Greek government rounded up the Athens street dogs, and the "nice" ones were sterilized and vaccinated, given collars, and after the Olympics, re-released to the streets. Fortunately, now the Greeks seem to like the dogs more now that they know they've been treated. They feed them more and the dogs seem to be tolerated better than on my earlier travels here.
I only hope the government continues the spay/neuter program now that the Olympics are over. Only time will tell.
The Plaka is also full of those great sidewalk cafes and tavernas I love (with the usual cats playing on the walls next to you, like in the picture) and of course we dined at one.
The next day we scrambled to meet Costas, an old Greek family friend, in Syntagma Square, the main plaza of Athens, but got started in the wrong direction. Luckily Costas is patient and was still there by the time we showed up, and we had coffee and a nice chat in one of the square's cafes. Then it was off to the National museum, where the country's greatest archeological treasures are kept, to get a glimpse of Greece's past glory. I'm still awed by some of the masterpieces produced by the early Greeks, who set the standards for classical art and sculpture.
After another sidewalk dinner, we watched the sun set on the Acropolis from our rooftop, and toasted a wonderful, wandering two weeks in grand old Greece.

Unfortunately Jen found out at the last minute that they changed her flight's departure time to 7:00 am (due to an airline strike), so she hardly got any sleep and had to take a taxi to the airport at 4 a.m. instead of the train later like we had planned. I later found out that she also got stuck in Frankfurt and had to spend the night there (courtesy of Lufthansa). And my flight to Romania was bumped to the afternoon, so my arrival there was late also.

But more on that in the next blog, "Roamin' in Romania", where a whole new chapter of my travels and animal exploits starts. See you soon!


Anonymous said...

It all seems so surreal. I still can't believe I was there. It seems so long ago now and it has only been a few days. This was a trip of a lifetime. Nothing will ever top this. I can't imagine anyone else I would rather travel with. Thanks for tolerating my grumpy last day. I wish I could have gone to help in Romania with you. My thoughts are with you Voyager.

dageekster29 said...

Dave, What a great hotel, imagine that the acropolis right there in front of you imagine the history of it.. Dave I am so Jealous of you and Jen. I wish you would have been able to show her the town in more than that. I still believe that we as Americans need to look at the value of our history. We would restore buildings instead of tearing them down. You know as being Americans we are some reckless people we would rather tear down a building to put up one that makes us more money. People are so damm greedy. Lets learn from European cousins. Well Hope to hear more from your trip

MozzarElla said...

Sounds like a great re-visiting to Athens, David! Too bad you didn't have enough time to go to Kifissia.
I can imagine Jen's excitement to see the Greek roots of our civilization.
It sounds like you guys were eating your way through the city! Yum!