Let’s try to step further out of the comfort zone, as I see more of Athens than on my last visit. The weather is conducive to walking, sitting at cafes, and enjoying this great!
Metaxourgeio is not a weird drink or food, but a neighborhood located between Omonia Square and the Larissa train station. I am told it has been best street art in the city. And a deep counter culture, and lots of neighborhood cafes. They say the street art here rivals Berlin and Rome as the European street art capital. Even guides are available to tour the street art. The street artists who started out as teenagers tagging walls are now commissioned to paint big pieces. Paint can run between 500 to 1000 Euros. Metaxo is also home to a thriving Albanian community with smoky shisha bars selling plates of fried sardines. The neighborhood escaped the building frenzy of the 1960s.
A stone’s throw from Monasteraki is a neighborhood called Psirri (not the one from Apple). Also big on street art, just a little fancier, often located on the side of big buildings. The most famous is dedicated to Loukanikos, Athens most famous riot dog. Along with other stray dogs, Loukanikos appeared often alongside student protestors, becoming a symbol of Greece’s struggle against austerity measures of the government. He even received coverage in TIME magazine! He died on October 9, 2014, with his health severely compromised by continuous inhalation of tear gas and other chemicals.
On your way up to Acropolis Hill, the tiny neighborhood of Anafiotika was built in the second half of the nineteenth century by Cycladic islanders, who came to build King Otto’s palace. The streets are covered with beautiful, cascading bougainvillea. They say it feels a bit like Santorini. But while they say Athens I not a pretty city, I found it to be both interesting and picturesque.
Another of my favorite places is the Athens Central Market. Of course, I love the open markets almost everywhere in the world. In Athens, the market definitely feels like a village within a smaller town. I spent the better part of two days here. Aside from the fruit and vegetable area, mostly outside, both the fish and meat sections are enclosed or under a huge roof. Please see my story about the gilled fish from my last visit, it was an amazing story.
There is an underground river in Athens at the Monasteraki Metro Station. When builders or demolition crews work in Athens, they will find artifacts of varying kinds. But who would expect to find a river, once the largest in Greece? It was diverted into a series of smaller channels to control its flow. The riverbed is still visible, along with a resident population of tortoises.
Other, possible useless facts have been unearthed:
Athens was the birthplace of the modern (1896) Olympic Games, also the year from Grandfather came to California from Japan. But the ancient Olympic games were never held here.
As mentioned above, Athens and Greece are home and birthplace to our modern democracy in 500 BC. Basically, eligible citizens could vote on laws. Athens i’s oldest capital.
Pheidippides was a Greek soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC. His long run of 26.2 miles became today’s marathon event. Of course, he collapsed and died after.
Greece has 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, lead, of course, by the Acropolis of Athens.
The first plays were held in Athens, dating back thousands of years. Today, Athens has nearly150 theaters.
Athens is only 3 million people yet, 18 million people visit Athens yearly.
Athens had the highest European temperature, 118.4 F(48 C) recorded, back on July 10, 1977. It felt that hot back in May when a big heat wave hit Greece.
Greece has 8,498 miles of coastline. Maybe that is why there are so many great beaches here?
There are 179 million olive trees in Greece. And every Greek will tell you they can differentiate where the olive oil came from by the taste!
As you can tell, this city and country offers something for everyone. Though I was just here in May, I plan to do many of these things, if for no other reason than the great weather.