May 4, 2022
We arrived just short of midnight to check in to the Hotel Phaedra right in the center of Plaka. We were starving. Was there any place to eat? Yes! And right near the hotel! The streets of touristy Plaka were blissfully empty.
May 5, 2022
In the morning, we woke up to this view of the Acropolis from our room.
After breakfast we trudged around the Acropolis which was swarming with tourists. Much better was the visit to the Roman Agora, marked by the Tower of Winds.
Compared to the Acropolis, the site was surprisingly under-visited. Nearby was the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus.
Here’s where Sophocles held forth, merchants displayed their wares and armies of workers chiseled out marble columns in the 7th century BC. There were a number of references to “tribes” which we figured out meant the powerful families in charge of Athens at the time.
The Stoa of Attalos was a cool respite from the sun and contained a small museum.
Although the site was excavated by the American Society of Classical Studies, I did not get a half-price reduction on the admission fee that my French friend routinely enjoyed as a European citizen.
After a quick lunch we headed to the Acropolis Museum displaying finds from the site. There was a lot there but what particularly stands out are the Korai, 6th-5th century BC life-size statues of maidens that may have been (no one knows) a votive offering to the goddess Athena (a bad-ass by any measure).
The effect of dozens of korai with their kindly, stone eyes staring out from antiquity was mesmerizing. A wealth of other statues made it easy to trace the evolution from the Archaic through Classical and Roman styles.
We finished the day with a meal at To Kafenio, a popular Plaka restaurant. Foodies will be disappointed with the rest of this blog I’m afraid. The food was generally fine although unmemorable except in a few places which I’ll mention later on.
This morning was difficult. We decided to explore the Anafiotika neighborhood, one of Athens’ oldest. Although it makes many lists of “hidden gems”, the neighborhood was anything but. It was just too darn cute to remain hidden in today’s era of mass travel.
The narrow, climbing streets were jam-packed with tourists, especially the platform on top which afforded excellent views.
We were futzing around, taking pictures with everyone else, when a young woman pulled out a map and asked my friend in good French, where the Acropolis was. She tried to help her out, we descended the stairs and at the bottom my friend realized that her backpack had been opened. A hat and her favorite scarf were the only things missing as her wallet, fortunately, was at the very bottom of the bag.
Pro tip: do not bring good stuff on your trips. Bring your second-favorite scarf.
From there we made our way to the “chic” Kolonaki neighborhood where well-dressed Athenians sipped coffee in tree-shaded cafes. After lunch we took a look at the Holy Church of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, Patron Saint of Athens
After window-shopping a bit we headed off to the Archaeological Museum of Athens which proved surprisingly difficult to find. Once there we were rewarded with a stunning visit to classical Greece.
I was particularly fascinated by the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek mechanical device recovered in 1901 from the wreck of a trading ship that sank in the 1st century bc near the island of Antikythera. It’s sometimes considered the world’ first computer as the incredibly complicated device measures solar, lunar, planetary cycles and much, much more.
We probably could have used a device like this to find our way back to the hotel. We made a series of mistakes on the Athens metro and wound up taking a taxi. The driver gracefully transported us across town for a measly €5.