Athens! How much fun can 2 people have? The Baron is on annual leave, so we are having a Greek adventure and it begins in the cab from the airport. Our driver is concerned we haven’t planned our stay well, only booking accommodation for 2 nights.
We chat about Athens and Santorini and he hopes we will visit Mykonos. When we seem open to that idea, he calls his friend on Mykonos to arrange our accommodation and check the best places to #eat, #drink #explore & #shop. He leaves contact details and wishes us an enjoyable stay. This is our first of many experiences of Greek hospitality.
Our hotel is in Plaka, famous for its 19th-century bohemians, and one of the oldest areas in Athens. The Emporikon Athens Hotel reopened in 2015 after more than 50 years of abandonment. The 5 storey Art Nouveau and Neo Classical building has been lovingly restored. The hotel can not be reached by car, so the hotel manager is waiting for us on the street corner to guide us.
Rolling our bag 20 metres or so through the cobbled square past drinkers and diners, the Acropolis perched behind us on the hill, we know we’ve chosen the right base. On arrival, we are given a choice of room style. Our room selected, settled and ready to explore, we take a minute to admire the view. Superb!
You may find this a little odd parpahernalians: while Athens is completely new to us it seems rather familiar. We recognise similarities in the sky and the light to Australia. The eucalypts dotted through the cyprus remind us of Aus. and the textile district on the other side of the square has a distinct “Surry Hills of old” vibe.
It is here we find a family run taverna to drink in the atmosphere, hospitality and ouzo of Athens alongside our mezzes.
Checking out the neighbourhood on foot, ancient ruins are part of the streetscape. Orthodox church bells toll every half hour, the devout cross themselves as they pass. Tree-lined plazas encourage al fresco dining. Abandoned buildings provide a canvas for street artists. Bright new retail stores invite you in promising price reductions.
For a comprehensive recce of this historical area the hop-on hop-off “Happy Train” stops at 10 or so locations. The gates to the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Arch and the New Acropolis Museum to name a few. The full circuit takes an hour.
Greek food; we love it and naturally we find plenty! Plaza Agias Irinis is lined with many restaurants and bars. If they are open then booze is available, but perhaps not breakfast.
The Emporikon Hotel has breakfast included and is served right on the square. Cold meats, cheeses, thick greek yoghurt, local honey and eggs; scrambled or sunny side up. Not an international buffet but a great start to the day. If a piece of toast will do then pop in anywhere on the square, have a coffee or a cleansing ale. They may rustle up some potato chips with the beer.
Once the midday church bells toll, head into Rock and Balls and ask for Bill. Have yourself some spicy cheesy beef balls or get your balls in a bun and make sure you try the local wines. Our pinot gris, recommended by Bill, began our quest for all wines Greek.
Anafiotika climbs the hill to the Acropolis. Heading up this way you may be side tracked and find yourself enjoying the company of numerous locals at Anafiotika‘s name sake taverna.
First you’ll meet George, the most successful patron hustler on the street. You might be served by Ana, Anafiotika’s star waitress. Later in the day, Kris will show up for a coffee and you may be able to convince him to share some traditional Cretan Raki. (Ana’s recipe will soon be on the blog). Versatile, raki from Crete is served with ice to refresh or warmed to banish the chill.
Along with all this socialising you will eat! Grilled or marinated octopus, freshly made taramasalata; the pita accompaniment is irresistible and enough to feed a small army, char-grilled whole fish and crunchy Greek salad, the tomatoes full of flavour. That may do it you’d think but Ana and George have other ideas. Enter a giant fruit platter with pudding!
As we farewell Kris, (with a belly full of raki), we introduce ourselves to Nik and George. We can’t resist. George is writing a recipe. He’s a chef and is providing Nik with an easy and cheap recipe for his blog…Easy and Cheap Tips!
Another bottle of Rosé is needed to discuss and share blogging experiences; his many, mine but a few. You’ll meet him soon on paraphernalia.co when he posts, as our guest, the very recipe George gave him that day!
Monastiraki Square is 200 metres from Agias Irinis Square and has the closest Metro station.
Behind the station is another worthwhile food haven. Tavernas line the street, all vying for business. Needless to say competition is fierce so prices are low. Souvlaki, gyros, saganaki, red wine braised veal, baked pork, halloumi… Name your favourite Greek dish and you’ll find it. Plenty of locals dine here and the wait staff are keen to discuss Greek politics and the state of the economy with anyone interested.
Walk off your indulgence through Monastiraki Flea Market. You’ll find second-hand vinyl, pop art, furniture, army surplus and footwear stores.
Follow the market onto Ermou and rummage through the antique and brick-a-brack stores. Further east on Ermou, fashion and footwear by Greek designers entice. Spanish chain Zara and Swedish H&M are here too, and at considerably lower prices.
Wander along Adrianou for jewellery, hand made gifts and Greek produce; olive oil, halva, honey, feta and ouzo. Shopping is excellent in Plaka; easy to reach, plenty of variety and interrupted only by tavernas and coffee shops. What’s not to love?
While we’ve been indulging, the Acropolis awaits our visit. Join us to explore in our next post.
The food, people, sights and history of Athens; a host of things we love….