Athens, ah! The ‘optional’ stopover.
If you are visiting the Cyclades, would you prefer to stay in Athens or go straight to the sun kissed beach on your favourite island? Athens will fit in only if you have a rather long transfer time. Or the connections you want are too costly.
I was thinking on similar lines and therefore Athens did not figure on my itinerary until wifey insisted we squeeze it in. She likes archaeology, history/pre-history and loves places that have a past. And thus we landed in Athens after a beautiful morning in Mykonos and a pleasant, smooth ride on the Blue Star Paros.
The Blue Star Paros is a rather big ship. Bigger than the Seajet we took to Mykonos. Trucks, cars and all sorts of vehicles go in her belly while the passengers are seated on the top two floors. It took us almost 5 and a half hours to reach Athens. But unlike Seajet, the Blue Star was at least on time. Yes, we would’ve taken a flight but island hopping in Greece is fun only when done with a boat.
We reached Athens around 8 pm. The sun was still up. We were promptly picked up and delivered to Grecotel Pallas Athena. On the way, we were very surprised to see alarming amount of graffiti. Graffiti to me signifies disorder, chaos, revolution and non-conformity. And the presence of so many defaced walls signified civil unrest in a country on the brink of bankruptcy. The cab driver promptly dismissed my observation. He was quick to identify this trend as a passing fad; a coming of age, peer motivated rite of passage. Scores are arrested regularly only to be released on the persuasive pledge of parents who hope that the angst of their teenage children could be put to good use.
We had chosen Pallas because it was central enough without bursting the bank. And also because of its unique guestrooms. Pallas Athena is luxury boutique hotel with individually styled ‘art’ rooms, some of which even feature graffiti! Our room was on the 5th floor overlooking Kotzia Square.
After check in, we left the hotel to explore the neighbourhood and hopefully grab something to eat. But before that we decided to check out the flower market in Kotzia square just opposite the hotel. We thought of quickly running around before it closed down. Wifey likes flowers and gardening and looking at such a variety at such good prices made her sad. There was no way we could buy some saplings here and take it back home. And there was a slim chance that those sapling would even survive the journey.
Wifey is a vegetarian and finding edible and filling food for her proved to be a challenge throughout our trip. After looking the fresh, colourful flowers, as directed by our concierge, we started walking towards Monstariki Square and chanced upon a Falafel shop. We went in browsed through the limited offering. Having convinced myself that we will not get any other good vegetarian fare anywhere close, I urged my wife to settle. I think that was the best decision. Not only were the wraps fresh, but they were full of flavour and cheap!
After walking for about 10-12 minutes, just when we were about to turn back we came up on Monstariki Square. It was Friday night and the crowd was building up. There were teenagers, office goers, touts selling spurious wares, street performers and souvenir stalls about to close down. Then there was a couple getting ready to perform, with fire. What followed was one of the very good fire shows I have seen recently!We moved through to the other side of the square and came up on the Acropolis high up on the hill, well lit and ready for our visit tomorrow morning! We spotted a big shop and went in to see if they have the Ouzo I was looking for. They did. So I grabbed a bottle, bought some souvenirs off the street stalls and headed back to the room for a long snooze before tomorrow’s long day.