Tales from Athens - Matt's guest post
Hello, friends! We are going to switch it up a bit. Today's travel log is brought to you by a special celebrity and my travel companion, Matt! Enjoy!
My dearest love and I had a very eventful day today, filled with the "real" Athens experience, both ancient and modern. Unfortunately, the day began with a bit of a struggle as the jet lag continued. Aislinn was stuck awake from 11:00pm-3:30am and was approximately 0% interested in waking up at 8:30. I told her she should have woken me up to keep her company, but she claimed I was sleeping too sweetly to disturb. I'm dubious.
Once we woke up and got moving, we stopped for some cappuccinos and croissants (one regular and one chocolate!) on our way back to the Agora.
The Agora, in a field next to and below the Acropolis, was the center of Greek society, politically, socially and commercially (while the Acropolis high up on a hill was the religious center.) The Agora is generally much less well preserved then the Acropolis, with mostly the foundations of many small buildings remaining. There are two significant exceptions, the Temple of Hephaestus and one of the large stoa, which were large multipurpose walkways and markets. The Temple is the best preserved ancient example in all of Greece and is quite a sight. My favorite part was the frieze depicting the labors of Hercules.
The stoa was actually rebuilt in the 1950's and is a great example of what an ancient Greek building would have looked and felt like. Now it houses offices for the ministry of culture and a small museum. Plus it has a long collanade which makes for a great background in pictures.
After the Agora, we decided to head downtown to do some shopping for gifts in the modern city. It was quite exciting to be around people, all of the tourist sites are pretty much empty this time of year. A few stray observations:
- If a hole in the wall restaurant on a side street has a line of locals out the door, you can count on good cheap food. Two gyros, two bottles of water and a beer for $8? Yes please!
- American brands are not very popular here. We've only seen a single McDonald's, one Starbucks and one KFC. Also, if you think "Best Buy Outlet" is an electronics store, think again. It's more of a "random piles of clothes roughly arranged by gender" store.
- Each street in the commercial district tends to have a specific theme, as well as each individual store. You can discern the theme by what is on display in the sidewalk. There is "big block of cheese street" (note: not the official name) which includes a lot of small food markets. There is "rolling luggage street," which has shoe and luggage stores. There is "rolls of fabric street," which includes fur coat stores, every type of women's fashion stores, baby baptism clothing stores and surplus military uniform stores. And then, there's my favorite, "chainsaw street," which has a bunch of stores in the hardware category, including light bulbs, gardening equipment, paint, lampshades and obviously tools. I guess what I'm trying to say is that stores are very specific here. Not a Target in sight.
All that shopping worked up an appetite, so we stopped at a random local place filled with young hip Greek people called Rock & Ball. At first they just gave us menus completely in Greek and we were excited to be mistaken for locals! And then we realized we couldn't order and had to sheepishly request English menus.... Once we got those we realized we were at a modern meatball restaurant and promptly ordered both veal and pancetta versions. Which we proceeded to stuff ourselves with!
We took a leisurely stroll through an ancient park back to our rental where we're currently packing up from our wonderful stay in Athens. Bright and early tomorrow we're off to the relaxing island of Santorini!