Every trip is a story. When I say Athens I think of the ancient world, the grandeur of the Acropolis, the goddess that represented wisdom, Greek mythology, modern Olympic Games, beginning of democracy and going on the footsteps of the philosophers of Greece.
Writing is the geometry of the soul.Plato
In December when I was writing my 2022 retrospective and browsing through my virtual photo journal, I felt I want to return to Greece. Especially since my trip to Athens was the first thing canceled in the first months of 2020. So I booked the tickets and planned all in a couple of weeks. Everything went smoothly. Sometimes spontaneous and less planned trips turn out better than the ones you think about for months.
Bucket list #1 Anafiotika
Arrived in lively Monastiraki neighborhood, near the Ancient Agora, just to leave my luggage at the hotel, before going to historical Pláka.
My first stop was an item long on my bucket list – Anafiotika. This tiny and scenic neighborhood was created when workers from the Cycladic island Anafi came to Athens. Even though there is a big difference between living in Athens and life on the Greek islands, the builders wanted to recreate the typical architecture of Anafi.
Today, the small ‘village’ still has the same white walls and narrow streets, is very peaceful and is inhabited also by many cats.
Anafiotika is a bit hidden in Pláka, you have to climb many stairs and in order to find it easier I read a tip to add this address on Google maps: Holy Church of Saint George of the Rock, Athina.
Bucket list revisited – Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis means “upper city”, is an ancient citadel and can be seen from most places in the city. The Acropolis Hill is also nicknamed the “Sacred Rock” of Athens. I still remember when I was voting for it to become one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World and when I was watching it on TV during the 2004 Summer Olympics.
With my ticket booked online I walked to the Acropolis site though an unforgettable path. I was impressed to see over 2000-year-old buildings. Many points of attraction at the Acropolis include the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike and the Temple of Zeus. The first building I saw was the majestic open-air theater – Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
However, my favorite ancient structure was Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. As is written on the official website of the Acropolis, the special details are “the six beautiful Caryatids – female statues placed as supporting structure for the roof”.
From here, the bird-eye views over Athens with nearby mountains are stunning, and you are able to also watch the sun setting in the sea in the port of Pireaus. I felt very calm and present. Thinking the entire time how lucky I was to see this ancient place again after many years.
Next place I wanted to see was the National Garden, previously a Royal Garden, a public park today. The park has a diverse rich flora, and also many green exotic parrots can be heard and spotted.
Close-by is also the Zappeion Hall, the Olympic village for the 1896 Summer Olympics. The modern Olympic Stadium made entirely of marble is not far. From Zappeion starts a path in the park that the athletes also used until Panathenaic (Olympic) Stadium.
By chance I saw also the changing of the guards in Syntagma square, since the park is behind the Parliament building, the Old Palace. Later I heard the small ceremony is every hour, so my chances were actually high. The visit here was also combined with a walk in upscale Kolonaki district.
Far from downtown Athens, last place I visited was the public National Library of Greece, moved recently to the new and modern Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural center. The complex is also hosting the National Opera and a beautiful huge park that includes lavender and even olive trees.
Unfortunately I also noticed many abandoned buildings in the center. I read an article saying that most tourists are unaware of how difficult it has become to run a business or live in downtown Athens. The tour guide also confirmed the difficulties have existed since the 1980s and have been growing after the financial crisis.
Food for thought
Last but not least, every trip in Greece is completed with flavors of good food. Mornings started with a simple and delicious breakfast with feta cheese, tomatoes, bread and olives. I added fat Greek yoghurt served with local honey, and of course, Ellinikos (traditional Greek coffee), boiled in an ibrik.
Souvlaki – Greeks’ favourite street food, with tzatziki (the only accepted sauce in Greece) – was ordered for lunch from well-known and recommended Kostas near Square Mitropoleos. Dinner was lighter, mezze style. Snacks have included both spanikopita (spinach pie) and tiropita (cheese pie). Two important words to learn.
Many years ago I went briefly to Athens in a different style of travel and discovered two islands that make as good day trips from the Port of Piraeus of Athens – very Mediterranean islands of Aegina and beautiful Evia (to Prokapi village). And in this post I inserted some thoughts that I wrote as an 18 years old in my travel report when I first came back from visiting the Acropolis.
Greece is a good place for a philosophical reflection. The Greek concept ‘harmolypi’ means ‘joyous sorrow’ and is expressing a bittersweet feeling. In my last days in Athens I was thinking we don’t have to be one thing. I can be many things at once – sad and also hopeful, miss a place or someone, grief and still live. Short trip, but how meaningful.
Read also the journal from Meteora and story from Corfu.
2 thoughts on “Athens. Travel report”
Seems like you had a wonderful time in Athens! I rediscovered the city last summer and loved it, even though I didn’t stay very long. I didn’t know about Anafiotika, it seems like suche a cute neighbourhood! Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts!
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Thanks Juliette! Anafiotika must be a hidden gem, but I saw a picture years ago and it stayed with me. I also read your posts about Greece and would like to discover more islands next.
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