Day 2,091 of Traveling the World | Athens, Greece | October 22, 2023

Oh, what to say about Athens, other than we have absolutely loved being here and experiencing the lovely people, the warm weather, the ancient ruins, and the modern, over-the-top restaurant decorations. Our stay at. In(n) Athens was really great – breakfast was exceptional, and the staff is so helpful and accommodating. Together, we had only been here for one day on a cruise in 2009. We journeyed to the top of the Acropolis to see the temples, and that is about all we remembered of that trip. Some things never change – the Parthenon, on the Acropolis, was formerly filled with construction workers, cranes, and scaffolding. All of those remain. It has been undergoing restoration and reinforcement continuously since 1975. Built in 438 BC, it was bombed in the 1687 Siege of the Acropolis. From 1800-1803, the 7th Earl of Elgin removed (looted) some of the surviving sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles.

Our ticket for entrance to the Acropolis was at 8:00 am, as it would be cooler and not as crowded to visit at the time it opens. Are we ever glad we did! The weather was perfect, and the early morning views over the city that you can see in the first dozen photos were worth getting up early for. It is a bit of a hike to the top, but not overly strenuous.

Now that we are about six years older than when we started roaming the world full-time, we are increasing enjoying going slowly. We don’t try to see everything in a city, just a few sights, so that there is more to visit and discover next time we visit. That is certainly true here in Athens. There are so many ancient sites and ruins to visit, but we didn’t want to spend our week just slogging through them all. We went out every day and walked, but only for a few hours. It is a nice pace for us. Athens is absolutely glorious, so a return is warranted. It is one of the great cities of the world, and one that we would recommend highly.

Our daily walks usually culminated at one of the local restaurants, often within a few blocks of our hotel located near the Plaka Neighborhood. There are many restaurants in that area. Most of them are reasonably priced, and many are very good. We were shocked that at Mamacita (see photos below), we had some of the best Mexican food we have had outside of North America. Sharing the Spanish language didn’t help the authenticity of the Mexican food we recently had in Barcelona. But, Mamacita…wow! At any rate, the food alone is enough of a reason to stay for a while in Athens.

View of the city, and the breaking dawn, from the Acropolis.
The Parthenon, on the right, and the Erechtheion, on the left.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built in 161 AD. Destroyed 100 years later, it was used as a music venue, holding 5,000 people.
At one point, that distant beam of morning sunlight washed over parts of the city.
The Propylaia (“Gate”), used as an entrance in ancient times, has the same function today.
The Erechtheion. Notice the stony ground it is built on.
A close-up of the Erechtheion columns, cleverly using six goddesses. These are replicas, however. Five of the originals are in the Acropolis Museum and the sixth one is in the British Museum.
A view of the city through an opening in the wall and another door.
The poor Parthenon has been undergoing fortification work for decades. Nobody gets photos of the entire structure without cranes, restoration work, and scaffolding.
As you can see from this other side, the top pediment has only a little stone left on either side.
These photos were all taken between 8:00-8:30 am, so not the thousands of people around…yet.
High up, on one corner of the Parthenon, is this centaur vanquishing an enemy. You can’t really see it without enlarging the photo. It makes us wonder how people could see it without eyeglasses or Lasik available. Perhaps it was just meant for the gods to see?
In the area away from the structures is a large debris field, filled with pieces of columns and other marble.
This police car had one man inside and this officer looking around. It barely looks big enough for one child, let alone two adult men. As we were sitting on the bench near the car, another tourist, laughing, stopped and took a photo of both cops sitting inside.
We try Mexican food all around the world and are never quite satisfied. At Mamacita, the food tasted like a good SoCal Mexican restaurant. (We went three times in six days!)
A pretty side wall in Mamacita. Her tattoo is La Vida Loca – the Crazy Life.
Three of four pieces of a huge quesadilla with guacamole and pico de gallo – for less than $8 US.
BLACK Vanilla ice cream, with bourbon from Madagascar. But…it’s low-fat!
This show-off sandal is for, like, the Cyclops. But sandal makers here will make you a custom pair for $40-50.
Hadrian’s Arch, 132 AD, separating the old city from the new one built by Hadrian. The side facing the Acropolis says, “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.” The other side has the inscription, “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.”
A pretty courtyard restaurant.
Which face should she wear?
This unusually named store was closed, permanently, with no indication what it sold.
An interesting antique/odds and ends store. The owner walked toward us when he saw us taking a photo, clapped his hands several times, and said something in Greek. He looked irritated, but most owners are happy to see their stores get free advertising on social media. And…we hadn’t stepped inside the store at all.
This cafe had an original 1940s vibe, but we liked that overhead, on a major street in the Psyri district, somebody had hung five rows of laundry.
Most streets and corners in Psyri felt welcoming and funky.
Little Kook, a patisserie, decorates not only both sides of their alley, but also across the street, farther up.
This was another decorated building up ahead and across from the alley and across the street. Outstanding! It brought in a lot of customers. But even if it didn’t, they now have a reputation to live up to.
Along the sides were windows jammed with Halloween/Christmas wares, as well as a pastry shop, magic shop, and this coffee house.
So true, but we also have good stories about good choices.
For $15, a restaurant called Athena’s Cook serves kabobs (with salad, potatoes, pita, and dip) in dramatic fashion.
A good philosophy.
The vibrant colors on this cafe reminded us of Havana. Athens has a pretty good population of feral cats. They hang around restaurants hoping for a handout!
Fairytale Athens. The exterior is just the beginning…
Inside, there must be thousands of dollars of silk flowers…
Upstairs is the pink room.
From the mouths of philosophers…
On the side of a building, we really liked this mural.
This beautifully flowered building (like so many in Athens) is a Hall of Horrors during Creepy Season.
Monastiraki Square, full of people, but it seemed that every square and street were bursting with people. On the small streets, everyone walked in the street until a vehicle came along. Like the Red Sea for Moses, everyone would move to the side or the sidewalks, then fill the street once again after the vehicle passed.
Tazza Cafe, decorated inside and out. The woman’s red hair just about matched the fringe on the lamp behind her, while the statue just smiled.
More of the exterior, built on a corner, so there was extra room for decorating.
The interior was gloriously over the top. We normally don’t like the look of a chandelier, as it seems very old-fashioned, but here they bunched seven classic chandeliers together, at different heights, and it seemed stylish and fun.
There was lots to look at! While this would be “too much” and too busy for a house, it was a lot of fun to dine there. The food was great.
Holy University Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. From the top: the dome (the Pantocrator), double arches, a partial dome (Jesus & Virgin Mary), and the wall behind the altar. Quite striking and impressive.
More silk flowers on another cafe…just beautiful.
Walking through the Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighborhood. While they say most roads in Plaka are closed to traffic, there were still vehicles coming through – motorcycles and scooters in particular.
An old restaurant in the Plaka, with an original poster that says, “Here, we have souvlaki (a pita sandwich) for small children.”
Athens Cathedral, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, 1842. The colors and detail are amazing.
A cute ice cream shop…it was jammed with customers.
If you “hope” really hard (and make a reservation!), you can also go island hopping!

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