Thursday, November 3, 2011

our athens regret (in a good way)

"athens is noisy." athens is dirty." "athens is chaotic." "athens is a hole." that's what you always hear, right? well, it's all true.

road through the old agora leading to the acropolis, athens, greece

but what else is true is the fact that it packs a whole lot of awesome.

caveat: no attempt here has been made to enlighten, educate or even shine a new perspective on a city that's been written about a million times. here below is a quick impression of a bunch of "wow." wow that such a noisy, dirty, sprawling, chaotic city could be that seductive. ok, maybe not seductive, but more like grab you by the lapels and kiss you in a kind of rough, affectionate way.

our regret is that we didn't schedule more than the four days we spent there. running out of pages in our passports (that's a great feeling!) we decided to head to athens, from crete, to visit the u.s. embassy and have pages added. worked like a charm. what surprised us was just how sad we were to leave athens, and greece in general. two and a half weeks on crete lulled us into comfort and athens was a slap in the face. but in a really good way.

yeah, the parthenon is behind me but everyone knows
what that looks like. look at this sprawl!
athen, greece
this city goes on forever and there's no better place to get a sense of that than from the acropolis. everyone talks about the acropolis, and they should, it really is that fantastic of a place to visit and absorb, but no one really conveyed the sheer expanse of concrete madness that would splay out below us. wow. just wow.

after getting our bearings and checking into our hotel (hotel attalos) a couple blocks from monastariki square and dying to see the city, we... took a nap. that's right. a nap. THEN we headed out. now here's the thing about athens... "honey, let's go to that mini-market for supplies." "ok, wait, what's this? a three thousand year old ruin across from the stop-and-shop?"

i mean, that's the thing. we had dinner with friends our last night there and literally, ten feet to our right was a 12th century church. we're eating souvlaki, drinking wine, chatting about current events and at any moment we could get up and place our hand on a wall of history. AND, from that spot, we could look into hadrian's library. from 12th century to the 2nd century in 180 degrees. and in the middle? the stop-and-shop!

poor guy. athens, greece
favorite spots for us were, of course, the acropolis and the new acropolis museum. it's unrivaled. it's every postcard you've ever been pummeled with all your life. but the older national archaeological museum a mile or so walk up some of the most busy, some would say seedy, streets to an oasis of calm, and one of the most impressive displays of mycenaean finds you'll ever see, blew us away.

the athens open market was a rush! it straddles athinas avenue with a loud, boisterous atmosphere selling every kind of fish, meat, vegetable and fruit you can imagine. the unrelenting meat hanging from hooks for an entire block is something to behold. the fish slime through which you walk in the middle part of the market is not for the squeamish. ok, maybe not as bad as the pigs heads hanging from hooks in the meat market, but you are IN IT when you enter this section. and do these people love octopus, or what? it's clear they do. and it's not for show for the tourists (think pike's place market, seattle), this is a working, functioning market and the people who come to shop here know what they're doing. they have no problem bumping you out of the way either. we ended up with a sack full of olives, carrots, bread, cheese, sausage, figs... for about $10.

just another 13th century church laying about.
athens, greece.

this list could go on but if there is one thing you should take away from this rambling post it should be "go to athens." just be prepared to experience everything you love and everything you hate about travel to happen every single minute.

next stop: istanbul. we'll report back.