What a whirlwind of less than 48 hours in Athens we had! It was fantastic to say the least. Our flight leaving Barcelona was incredibly delayed, we didn’t end up leaving until 2:30am and then getting into Athens at 6am. When it was all said and done, we ended up at our air bnb around 8:30am and luckily, we could check-in early. After 12 hours of travel we were exhausted so we tried to take a small nap which really turned into a 5-hour nap. But we woke up feeling great and ready to pack in as much Greek food as we could.
Our air bnb was conveniently located close to the metro, just a 5-minute walk. We only had to take the metro a few stops to get down to the town center. The only tricky part was reading the signs because Greek is really unlike any language I’ve seen before and there’s no real deciphering it in English when reading street or metro signs, but Google helped us out and we were on our way. Since it was mid-afternoon it was a perfect time to get lunch (most of our time in Athens was food related, but really when is it not?) -and to be honest Athens was like one big blur of a day of eating, napping and repeating.
Anyways, our first stop was a place called Zisis, known for ‘fish in a cone.’ Since we were close to the sea, seafood was everywhere and cheap. Fish in a cone did not disappoint. We got calamari and cod with tartar sauce and it was delicious. As a side dish we got a traditional Greek food called Saganaki (fried cheese), we had a special love for the dish because we ate it at a Greek restaurant in Oregon. I can’t say it was my favorite thing, but it was a good experience.
Just a few doors down I found my real true love, Lukumades. They are an old Greek dessert, said to be one of the worlds’ oldest pastries. From the looks of them they look like small donut holes, but they are so much more than that. They are fried up in what looks like a giant wok, and then ladled out to cool down. The outside is crisp and perfectly browned while the inside isn’t sweet, but light and fluffy. You can get these treats with a scoop of ice cream, filled with any number of things, or topped with whatever your heart desires. The first of our four times there (remember we were there for less than 48 hours so that just goes to show how good these treats were) we opted for the traditional Greek style, honey, nuts, and cinnamon. For some reason every country has their take on hot fried dough, and it is always so delicious.
Stuffed to the brim we decided to walk some of our over-indulgences off. We headed to the center square where a flea market was taking place. It was Sunday so many people were out and about even in the heat. Athens was much hotter than Barcelona, at about 100F and very, very dry. I felt like I was constantly glistening with sweat but so was Scott, so I wasn’t so self-conscious. Bits and pieces of the street were cobblestone, and a lot of the old architecture was mixed in with new shop fronts. The best part of all was through the narrow alleys and streets you could see the Parthenon perched on top of the hill.
We headed back to our place, took another nap, still recovering from our flight that morning and then we were ready to venture out for dinner. In Greece, much like Spain, it is so hot in the day that most restaurants don’t start dinner until 8pm and really don’t get busy til 9 or 10. Google guided us to our next food excursion, a Kebab place called O Thanisis. Supposedly one of the more famous places in Greece to get Kebab’s and we could tell, as it took up almost a whole street block with seating for the restaurant. We indulged in a Pork Souvlaki plate and a yogurt kebab plate, way more food than we should’ve order, but it was so tasty we finished it all. And you best believe we stopped at our favorite dessert place for Lukumades, but this time with hot Nutella drizzled on top. I don’t think I’ve smiled so much eating.
It seemed that everyone was out that evening in the town square. There was a political election going on and the previous prime minister had not won. We couldn’t tell if it was a good or bad thing, most people seemed indifferent and were just out to have a good night on the town.
It was time for our evening nap (bedtime for the normal people of Greece) our sleep schedule was so skewed, we just fell into a rhythm of eating and sleeping. When we woke up the next morning, we had tickets first thing to get into the Parthenon. We were worried because earlier in the week it had been closed to tourists because of the heat. So, in order to try and beat the crowds and heat we tried to be there right at 8 when it opened. We didn’t really beat the heat as it was already 89 when we got there and the crowds were quite large, I couldn’t really imagine how crazy it got during the rest of the day. Overall, the Parthenon is something I think everyone should see in their lifetime, it is so massive, just to think about the time and manpower it took to create is astonishing. The whole area is undergoing restoration currently because much of it is crumbling. There are several other structures in acropolis including a few theaters and arch ways. You can take a tour if you choose, but I think the best way to see it at your own pace is to grab a map and try to go early to beat the rush.
You can probably guess what happened next… naptime. Then… lunch time. Scott and I have been on Kebab/Souvlaki kick since we got to Greece. It is cheap, filling, and has the perfect balance of meat, carbs, veggies, and sauce. There is a place that is only open for lunch a few hours everyday and closes once they are sold out called Kostas. It is a tiny shop on a side street in the downtown, where locals often frequent. They serve pork souvlaki’s with tomato, onion, yogurt sauce, and fresh herbs, said to be the best. Cooking all the skewers of pork on a grill the size of a hotplate an make every wrap to order (though it just a non-stop line, so they have no choice). Locals get to cut to the front and get served immediately and everyone is always taking and offering shots, even at 2:30 in the afternoon. The wait was long but so worth it, the wrap was fresh, and the pork was perfectly cooked. It made sense why all the locals were there. Our next stop… Lukumades with hot Nutella (I was addicted).
That afternoon and evening went on to be about the same as the night before, we ate at the same place and napped the same amount. The next morning, we got up early to catch a ferry to the Greek island of Paros. It took about 3.5 hours to get there, but once we arrived, we knew it would be our little paradise for the next five days. More on that in my next post!