Vacations

GREECE IS THE WORD! EXPLORING THE BEST BITS OF ATHENS DURING COVID-19


🇬🇷Choosing to escape to Greece in the middle of a global pandemic is not everyones immediate thought I’m sure, but when you are already nearby and there are cheap flights…well, why the hell not! I had been raving on about Greece to my darling MB (Monsieur Bleu) for about 11 years now, singing its blue and white island praises and urging us to go “when we have the chance.” Well, thanks to COVID-19, the chance fell upon us and we raced off into the Aegean sunset with it firmly gripped in our hands. Yasou my Greek friend, it’s time to visit you again!

I don’t think one can EVER conquer all of Athens, Greece’s ancient capital, as the city is enormous and sprawling, mountainous and congested all at once. Like most people, MB and I stuck to the city’s main drag, as viewing the essential sites of this ancient land was the primary attraction. I had visited Athens before (many moons ago when I was flying) but had never explored it in a semi-relaxed way or with another person, so this time it was fun for both of us for and for different reasons! With MB being an Athens Virgin, I decided to book an apartment in a funky area near Karitsi Square which is surrounded by lively bars and cafés, popular with a hip, young crowd (like us 😉) and short walking distance from our apartment! It was the perfect spot for a first timer and was not too far from the popular Plaka area, but not completely in ‘tacky tourist town’ either.

We had two days to explore this amazing cosmopolitan metropolis and managed to also squeeze in an extra day on our way back, after our Greek Island Hopping expedition. I’m an ‘all things Greek’ lover and felt immediately at home in this modern cum ancient world. One minute you are standing on a site built in 450 BC and the next you’re having a cocktail at an upmarket bar with a view of the Parthenon! The locals EVERYWHERE were friendly and smiling, cheeky and helpful; and it’s not just for show or for sales…we found genuine warmth at every turn, in every little town or island we visited.

We had a fantastic three weeks in Greece to thoroughly explore, engage and enjoy every little area we encountered, but only three days in the capital. Regardless of the pandemic crisis and the end of season drawing to a close, most places were still lively, even if it was only the locals (which is better anyway) and the service and hospitality were always on point.

The weather in Athens at this time of year too is GLORIOUS, and I strongly urge and suggest that you consider October as your travel month! It was hot but not stuffy and stifling, cooler in the evenings but never cold, and of course, without the pulsating, suffocating presence of sticky and sweaty crowds… Perfect!

If you have ever visited Greece’s famous centre, you will be aware that it is the birthplace of all things ancient and historical. It is the home of Plato and Aristotle for God’s sake, and ruin upon ruin accost you around every corner or bend in the cobblestone roads! To be honest, by the end of the final day, MB and I were so bloody exhausted (both mentally and physically) from trying to tick the seemingly endless monument box, that we would just trudge past, stop, point and yell “Another ruin”! Click a photo and trudge on!

We had prepared for this journey by watching a very ‘educational’ movie… “My Life in Ruins”. It was a bit of humorous homework, giving us just enough of a glimpse of Athens to ignite the excitement! FYI: We also watched “Shirley Valentine” before going to Mykonos, as is our quirky pre-travel behaviour!

In the film, there was no renovation or construction going on at the Acropolis, so when we arrived to take in the magnificence of the Parthenon, the number one Athenian landmark, we were saddened by all the scaffolding and no-go areas, but understood the reasons behind them.
We were very fortunate though to hardly have any other tourists cramping our style, the one’s there being mostly French,German or Dutch, so it was like one big happy Eurovision family!

Of course the entire Acropolis Hill is just one huge injection of culture, with the remains of temples and amphitheatres crumbling at your feet and enormous stone and marble columns soaring so high above your head that you get a nose bleed just looking at them! Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Acropolis cannot be missed when visiting Athens…and no, it’s NOT too ‘touristy’; it is ancient wonder of the world, magnificent in its architectural beauty and presence and an important and integral part of the world we live in today. We were awed to silence when we stood next to the Parthenon and marvelled at the workmanship involved. And even after many wars and civilisations, she still stands proud, looking out over and protecting her city.

We bought a 48 hour pass on the first day, which gave us the freedom to visit many different monuments around the city at our leisure, and also leaving us precious time to simply roam the streets, go shopping or eat! We packed as many sites in as possible including Hadrian’s Library, which is not too far from Monastiraki Square, and the Ancient Agora of Athens, a sprawling ancient site featuring the remains of a township and various burial grounds. The Temple of Hephaestus (built in 449 BC) is situated near here and is where I sprinkled some of my mothers ashes. It was naughty of me and probably against the law, and MB (my perfect partner in crime) did a fabulous job keeping a lookout for the guards so I could commit this feeble felony! The temple is still standing (I think) and it didn’t spontaneously combust or suddenly collapse into a crumbling mass of dusty rubble, so I hope that means she approved and was amused! We also managed to squash in some time at the Stoa of Attalos which is now the Museum of the Ancient Agora, remarking on (in whispers of admiration) the impressive works of art, sculpture and artefacts that it holds.


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