Athens – June 2015

Traveling to Athens made me realize that I wish I had paid more attention to Greek mythology in school.  While I did remember a little bit of what we had learned, I realized that I had forgotten most of the details.  That being said, it was surreal to be in Athens, to see the ruins of the temples, and be in a place that is such a big part of history.

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We used EasyBus to travel to the airport (a nice, cheaper alternative to the RER), Aegean Air to fly to Athens, and we stayed at an Airbnb.  Btw, the metro ride from the Athens airport to the city center is super easy and efficient!  This apartment through Airbnb was our best experience yet as far as amenities go.  The guy met us at the metro to guide us to the apartment and afterwards he gave us a quick 5 minute tour of the area.  We were in a central location of the city, so the tour was pretty nice.  There was also yogurt and water in the fridge, along with a pot of hot coffee waiting for us.

The room was great and the only negative thing about our stay there was that on Friday and Saturday night, the bar a few floors below us played loud music until about 3am.  In hindsight, we should have just went down and joined the party (they were playing good music), but we were just too tired from the day of activities.

After we were settled into our apartment, we decided to go for a quick walk and find a place to eat.  We decided to try out a place that our Airbnb host had recommended.  We tried mousakas, lamb souvlaki, and homemade cheese pie bites.  The food was pretty good – we preferred the lamb souvlaki over the mousakas.  Mousakas is featured as a traditional dish in pretty much all of the restaurants, but as we will learn on the food tour the next day it is actually a Palestinian dish.  They also brought us bread and cake to eat.  The live music was pretty good too.  Pretty much every restaurant had live music though 🙂

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After dinner, we stopped to try a couple more desserts.  Andrew had to try this coconut dessert.

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And we also got some yogurt!  Nice view, huh?

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On Thursday, we decided to go on a food tour.  Our guide’s name was Artemis and she was fantastic!  We also met a couple from Irvine (small world) and a girl from Chile.  We started our food tour out with a Greek snack known as “the koulouri.”  As you can see in the picture, it was a round shaped bread covered with sesame seeds.

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This dog kept following us around.  I think he was hungry and knew was familiar with the tour.

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After our snack, Artemis took us to this small church.

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Outside the church was this tree.  Artemis said that it was a bitter orange tree that helps to filter pollution and that they can also be used to throw at politicians (they hurt worse than eggs).

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Then we visited Krinos.  Here we tried the loukoumades (aka the Greek doughnut).  Loukoumades are pastries made of deep fried dough soaked in sugar syrup or honey with cinnamon.  Ours had walnuts on it too!  This is a family business that has been around since 1923.  Very good!

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Once we had all washed our hands after eating the sticky dessert, we headed to the meat & fish market.  It was very well organized and clean.

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Our next stop was the Lesvos Shop.  This shop sells a variety of products mainly from the Greek island, Lesvos.  We sampled olive oils, honey, feta cheese, olive paste, yogurt, and other things.  This shop was so great!  Andrew and I went back later to pick up some stuff for the apartment in Athens for breakfast and also to take back to Paris.

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Then we headed to the Fruit & Vegetable Market.  Artemis picked up some cherries for us to try.

 

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One of the stops in the market was at this booth, where they make halva.  They make only a small quantity fresh daily and once they are out, that is it for the day!  We tried to go back and pick some up later, but it was already gone.  In this photo, you see everyone looking in one direction.  They are looking at the people who had popped up behind us.  They were pickpockets and the owner of the booth was telling them to go away.  Thankfully, no one was pickpocketed.

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Miran was next on our food tour.  Miran is a pastourma and sujuk charcuterie business and market founded by a refugee (Miran Kourounlian) of the Armenian genocide.  We tried the pastourma I believe.  Historically, this meat was pressed between the saddle & the horse rider before the wooden press came along.

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We also tried Tsipouro, a pomace (the residue of the wine press) brandy from Greece containing 40-45% alcohol by volume.

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Our next stop was Fotsis, which was an herb store.  We smelled 3 different types of teas.  A green one called Trojan War with cinnamon, orange, pink peppercorn, and cardamom.  A black tea called Summer with pineapple, strawberry, and other things.  And then they had a Greek Saffron tea from northern Greece.  I think I am recalling all of the details correctly, regardless, the teas smelled great!  We decided to buy the green and black one.  So far we have only tried the green one, but it is wonderful!

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Graffiti!  I kind of liked this one, until I noticed that someone had drawn a penis right beside her mouth…

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This cat is asleep.  Not a bad place to catch a nap I suppose.

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It was about time for another sweet sample, so Artemis brought us to Bougatsadiko.  Here we tried the “Bougatsa” which is a special pie filled with custard, cheese, or minced beef.  This is a delicacy popular in northern Greece.  We sampled the one with the custard.  It was delicious.  Click here to watch the guy preparing the “Bougatsa.”  He was phenomenal.

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Artemis surprised the group with an extra stop at ОΔΟΣ ΑΙΣΧΥΛΟΥ (I cannot find this restaurant online, but I think this is the Greek spelling…it isn’t far from the prior stop).  We sampled souvlaki.  Andrew had the pork and I had the chicken.  They were both so delicious!

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The restroom sign 🙂

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After the food tour, we decided to make our way to Acropolis.  Along the way we stopped in front of what was part of the Roman Agora.

Making our way to the top of Acropolis Hill!

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Holy ants!

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These were the caves on the hill that were dedicated to Zeus, Apollo, and Pan.

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Here is a nice view of the Temple of Hephaestus.

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Look at this view – trees straight down the street.

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We thought this was cool, probably a place where people could give offerings.  I didn’t read about it, so this is my assumption.

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Apparently this is how the people in wheelchairs get to the top – what a ride that would be!

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Another nice view – we plan on hiking up that on Saturday!

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Beauty is everywhere…

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Down there is the Theatre of Dionyssos – we will come back to that later.

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We are at the top of the hill!

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Here is the Parthenon!

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More pictures at the top.

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A long time ago, Athena and Poseidon both claimed to be the deity of Athens.  They held a contest to decide who should have this honor.  They both had to display their powers.  Poseidon showed his by striking the Acropolis (apparently here) with his trident.  Sea water flowed out.

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Athena then demonstrated her powers also by striking the ground.  When she struck the ground, she produced an olive tree.  As we know, Athena won the contest.  Below is a picture of the symbolic olive tree planted where she struck the ground in the story.

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Now we are headed back to the Theatre of Dionyssos.

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Ha ha ha…the bikings!

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Hadrian’s Arch.

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The Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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We decided to take a walk through the National Garden.  Tip, do not visit the bird sanctuary.  We did so by accident and those animals are not cared for in the standards I would expect.

Here we are being dorky as we go through the National Garden.

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We made it through the garden to the Parliament just in time to see the last part of the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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Then we got to take pictures by one of the guards.  They had a lot of rules though (no selfies, no more than one person at a time, no touching, etc.).  Whenever someone broke one of the rules, the guard would slam his gun onto the ground to alert the commanding officer (the guards themselves are not to speak).

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We were harassed by two Jamaican men to take these “free” bracelets which they then asked for a donation in return.  4 euros bought our ticket to freedom the remainder of the trip.  Those guys were all over the place!  I kind of like the bracelets.  Peace and love.

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We had dinner at another restaurant based off of a recommendation by our host.  We enjoyed the live music, while eating our delicious Greek salad, tzatziki, and sausage.

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The waiter also brought by a little ice cream and shot for dessert.

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On Friday, we started our day by visiting the archaeological site of the Kerameikos.  This site is an ancient cemetery.  The first picture is inside the museum.  I am standing next to a sculpture that was an ornament on one of the graves.

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These are the cemetery grounds.

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What is that you see, Andrew?

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A turtle!  This one was stuck, so I picked it up to help it on its way.

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Then we spotted another turtle eating figs.  There were turtles all over the place!

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More pictures of the grounds.

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These pants are a bit short!

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We then made our way to the Ancient Agora.  I am standing next to the Temple of Hephaestus.

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Again, beauty is everywhere!

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I think you can do an activity where you get to help dig/uncover artifacts.  I think that is what was happening here.

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This was the location of the Water Clock.

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Wandering the grounds of the Ancient Agora was fun.

 

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This is the Ancient Agora Museum.

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Lunch!  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant.

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We had a coffee break at Mokka.

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It is just a cat in a Corona box.  There were cats everywhere!

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We took the metro down to the Port of Piraeus just to see it.  It was kind of a wasted trip from our point of view because there wasn’t that much to see.  But now we know.

 

We had a small snack at Meliartos.

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Andrew loved this bit of graffiti.  What is it with him and naked women on animals?  Ha ha.  I may have to have a painting done one day 😉

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We had dinner that night at City Zen.  It definitely had a great view!

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We asked the waitress to take our picture.  The guy behind photobombed us – I love it!  It turned out that he was from France.

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The food was pretty good.

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Before the guy left, he offered to retake our picture.  That was very nice of him.

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We waited until the sun went down so we could see the Parthenon lit up.

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Saturday was Andrew’s birthday!  We decided to spend part of the day hiking up Mt. Lycabettus.  Man, were we sweaty when we reached the top!

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Our reward for reaching the top was a nice view.

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There was a small church at the top too.

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We had to have a little beverage break before we headed back down.

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I think I like my new “fisherman’s” hat.

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Our next stop that day was back to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.  We hadn’t been on the grounds yet.

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After that we headed back to ОΔΟΣ ΑΙΣΧΥΛΟΥ (one of the food stops) for lunch.  We loved this place and it was so cheap!  Well most things in Athens are cheap at the moment.

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This street was pretty cool.

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We also made our way back to Bougatsadiko for another dessert.

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On our walk back to the apartment, Andrew noticed the sign for the Museum of Greek Gastronomy.  We stopped in to take a look at the exhibition titled “A Reflection of the Plate.”  The titles of the artwork are as follows:  Desalination, The Cook is a Mother, Moulder (Fidel explains the secrets of Italian cuisine to editor Feltrinelli), Sonic Milk, To Prepare a Face to Meet the Faces That You Meet, and Portrait of My Family.

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They also had a restaurant there so we decided we would come back for dinner.

Before we made our way back to the apartment, Andrew had to stop and look for some new spoons.

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Dinner that night at the Museum of Greek Gastronomy was lovely.  It was fun seeing the pieces of art come to life as food.  Our starter was the black tart, modeled after the Portrait of My Family.

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Andrew’s dish was the fresh pasta partigiana (rebel lasagna) Bolognese, modeled after the Moulder.

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My dish was dumplings, modeled after the piece of artwork titled, To Prepare a Face to Meet the Faces That You Meet.  This dish had dumplings with lamb cooked in the ancient Greek way with date sauce, served with trahanas flavored with truffle.

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Our dessert was a pannacotta with formula milk and seasonal fruit sauce, shaped as a female breast.  This dish was modeled after the piece titled, Sonic Milk.  It was a very interesting dish!

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That was the end to our Greek trip.  It was a great experience and we would love to go back sometime.

I kind of freaked out a bit that night and the next day because I had read online that we may not be able to take our olive oil and honey that we had bought on the plane.  Luckily all worked out, and our goodies made it home with us!

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