Having already mentioned some of the disappointments that we faced in Athens, I feel like we’re now free to share some of our favorite bits of it. As I said before, we went in with somewhat lofty expectations about living there; once we re-adjusted those expectations, we were better able to enjoy some of the beauty and wonder of that ancient-city that has somehow lasted (if just barely) into the 21st century.
The street we lived on is called Xenias. Like so many neighborhoods in Athens, it was almost completely lined with orange trees.
(Again, click on any image to see it full size)
There was such a mix of old and new. The styles of architecture varied quite a bit from building to building. It wasn’t uncommon to see more modern structures that were simply built up around 2500 year-old ruins or (relatively newer) churches from the Byzantine era (roughly 300-1400s).
Most of the photos you see here were taken in the Monastiraki neighborhood near the Acropolis (which you can see on the hill in the background of some of these). It’s a great place to explore on foot. There are modern, trendy stores in the outdoor mall nearby, a variety of restaurants, a flee market, street performers, etc etc.
You’re also within walking distance of the Temple of Hephaestus, the Museum of the Ancient Agora, and other sites that you’ll probably want to see while you’re visiting the Acropolis (more to come on those in another post).
Nearly every rooftop and alley was patrolled by prowling felines. And, whenever possible, Allison made every effort to befriend them.
Like I said, it was a bit surreal to see the way ancient ruins mingled with modern development. The neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis are a good place to see that contrast. And being only a few metro stops from where we lived, we actually made our way there a number of times. Although you had to be on guard against those types that prey on tourists, it was a nice place to walk around, shop for souvenirs, and do some people-watching.
This little goof was sitting there pretending to be a street musician while his sister was busy super-gluing coins to the exterior of this apartment.
“Hey you!” he yelled at me. “I like money! Give me money!”
“Play me a song,” I suggested, demonstrating my air-guitar skills.
Displaying exactly zero effort, he strummed the strings twice and stuck out his hand.
Now, as a general rule, I support street musicians, kids with lemonade stands, etc, nearly any time I get the chance – as long as I feel I’m encouraging the pursuit of talent and entrepreneurship. But in this case, with the snearing, bratty behavior and no attempt to play even a hint of a tune – all while his sister applied super glue to another coin from their collection and proceeded with sticking it to the side of this apartment – I couldn’t help but laugh at these two in their designer jeans, yelling “give me money” at passersby – money that they wouldn’t even try to earn – all before gluing it to the wall. It was such a great little microcosm of Greece’s economic crisis, and I had no inclination to provide any positive reinforcement.
No coins for you.
The neighborhoods all around the Acropolis were spotted with monuments and ruins. Some you could walk right up to, others were behind gates. Anywhere there wasn’t already a building, vibrant flowers and earthy olive trees stood out against darkly colored pines and cypress.
This is all that remains of the Temple of Zeus, after one of several attacks sustained by Athens over the centuries. It sits adjacent to Hadrian’s Arch.
It was incredible to see the precision in the way these ancient stones were cut and fit – and without any mortar. I have a thing for texture, which you can see more of in this blog post for our web media studio, VagabondOriginal.com.
We got around primarily on foot and via the metro. And while “the Tube” in London is still the easiest subway system either of us have ever navigated, this one in Athens was really pretty good. Certainly cleaner and easier to use than the subway in New York City (yikes).
On the walk down the busy road between our metro stop and our apartment in the Ambelokipi neighborhood, Allison was always pleased by the magnolias and bougainvillea along the way.
The bright bougainvillea was nearly everywhere you look. It’s maybe the one thing I miss about Athens.
. . . actually, one of two things that I miss.
Beauty and charm aside, my favorite thing about our neighborhood was the gyro place a couple blocks away.