Posts Tagged With: Athens

Feral Cats of Greece

We were quickly struck by the number of feral cats we saw upon arrival in Greece. Initially we assumed the problem was confided to Athens, but as we moved across the Sporades, even the unpopulated islands, we still saw feral cats.

Generally the cats are docile and endearing, often hanging around a taverna looking for a handout from empathic Americans. We were very popular with this. But you clearly saw that many had diseases, none of them are spayed or neutered, and as a result you have sickly little mothers barely a year old themselves nursing the next feral generation.

The issue has garnered international attention, especially now that Greece is part of the UE and more information can be found at Advocacy for Animals and The Greek Animal Welfare Fund and Greek Animal Rescue.

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Changing of the Evzone Guards

Sunday June 23rd was our last day in Athens. We started our day by visiting Syntagma Square, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Greek Parliament. We wanted to see the famous changing of the Evzone Guards that stand outside the Tomb and the Parliament.

The uniforms of the elite Evzone Guards may look a little silly to us, but they are steeped in history, tradition, and symbolism. For example, the “pom-pons” date all the way back to the ancient Mycenaeans. And the skirts of the guards have 400 pleats – one for each year of the Ottoman Empire’s occupation.

We arrived in time to see the crossing of the guards at 10:30am and then took our place on the side of the square to witness the more elaborate pomp and circumstance of the 11am changing of the guards (complete with a marching band). Then we got a photo opportunity with the guards who, like their British counterparts, aren’t allowed to move or show emotion while standing guard and must remain completely serious.

The ceremonies start precisely 5 minutes before the bottom of the hour (cross of the guards) or top of the hour (changing of the guards) and based around a high stepping slow motion march that keeps very precise time. Each ceremony miraculously completed exactly at the bottom and top of the hour. It was good that the ceremony was only 5 minutes long because it was a smoldering day (97 degrees in Athens). After the changing of the guard we headed to the Acropolis Museum to spend our afternoon with air conditioned relics indoors.

Evzone Guard

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Acropolis and The Plaka

Before and after our trip to the Sporades we spent our time in Athens on and around the Acropolis and The Plaka. Athens is remarkably easy and walkable if you can handle the heat (it was 97 degrees there the day we left).

From the rooftop deck of the Hotel Attalos in the Monastiraki area of Athens we had a stellar view of the Acropolis and easy walking access to The Plaka (a collection of small, mostly touristy) shops, boutiques, and restaurants. To beat the crowds we rose early and walked up to the top of the Acropolis to beat the throng of humanity from the tour groups and cruise ships that arrive shortly thereafter.

We saw the Parthenon, the Temple of Athenia Nike, Erechtheion, and the amphitheaters Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theater of Dionysus before a stumbling into the beautiful neighborhood of Anafiotika before returning to the Plaka for some ice cold Mythos and more great Greek food in the tavernas tucked into the hills around the Acropolis.

Acropolis & Parthenon from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Acropolis & Parthenon from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Acropolis & Parthenon at night from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Acropolis & Parthenon at night from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Be may be getting this as your Xmas card this year

Be warned…you may be getting this as your Xmas card this year

The caryatids of the Erechtheion supporting function as columns supporting the roof structure

The caryatids of the Erechtheion function as columns supporting the roof structure

View of Athens from Acropolis

View of Athens from Acropolis



Clara & Erechtheion

Clara & Erechtheion

Theater of Dionysus from Acropolis

Theater of Dionysus from Acropolis

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Sign to Acropolis for wayward tourists walking the neighborhood of Anafiotika

Sign to Acropolis for wayward tourists walking the neighborhood of Anafiotika

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Ferry, Bus, Subway to Athens

Saturday was a long day of travel to Athens by ferry, bus, and subway to our hotel in Athens. It took about 12 hours and it still cost me nearly as much as the 40 minute plane ride to Athens. But we did get to see a bit of the Greek countryside. Greece is beautiful and my conclusion from the 12 hour trip is that I’m no longer concerned about the world supply of olives and olive oil. I think we’ll be just fine.
We left Skiathos on the ferry to Volos about 11:15. The ferry takes about 3 hours to reach the mainland port of Volos.
About 1/2 hour into the ferry ride there was an announcement for any doctors on board. I egged on my father and Tom to respond, which they did. “Its either a heart attack or a woman going into labor”, said Tom. “Let’s hope its not the latter”. Well…it was. A woman’s water had broken and she was going into labor. She was on her way to Volos from Skiathos because the umbilical cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck and she needed to travel there for a c-section, but her water broke too soon. However, as this was her first baby the labor wasn’t active and her contractions where still 10 minutes apart by the time she boarded the ambulance on the other side.
We arrived in Volos and walked to the bus station (although we sent our bags along in a taxi). We missed the 3pm express bus so had to take the 4:30 local (4.5 hours long) for 27 Euro each. We were dropped at a subway station about 6 stops away from our hotel. It all worked out and we were happy to be back in Athens and at the Attalos Hotel for a few days in Athens before heading to Paris.






The bus ride was long but on a very modern and nice bus. But it was enough for Clara to get a little punchy with her paprika Pringles.
Once in Athens we went out on a Saturday night on a full moon and had dinner. Athens and the Plaka was hopping! Very intense number of people out. Great people watching and meal.






Much to our Sunday morning regret we finished our meal with our first (and last) glass of grappa in Greece. It tasted good going down but combined with our sea legs it made our Sunday morning get off to a slow start.

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Athenian Graffiti

When we first walked around Athens I was shocked at the amount of graffiti on some of the historic buildings. Its sad that people would defile such architectural marvels.


Our second day in Athens had us up early to meander the streets of the Plaka around the Acropolis. I then saw graffiti that changed my mind. There’s some beautiful graffiti art around the city, but some of it controversial as its on private property or classical buildings. I’m torn but will let you decide for yourselves.

























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First day in Athens


We arrived in Athens at 9:30 am and found it a surprising clean and newish airport. It was easy to navigate, quick to deliver our bags, provided a convenient ATM, and made it easy to find the Metro for the city.

We took the blue line 16 stops (45 minutes) to Monastiraki station for about 20 Euros. The walk to Hotel Attalos was a short 100m or so up Athinas street. Although our room was modest the view of the Acropolis from the roof top garden lounge was spectacular.

We took some time to get ourselves oriented, shower and change before we headed out into the city. We walked down Athinas street and ran into Tom who would be joining our flotilla in the Sporades. He pointed us towards the Plaka and we made our way through winding streets and a myriad of storefronts and street merchants.



It was warm, but not too hot. So we found ourselves at a little streetside cafe where we had our first taste of Greek Beer – Mythos!



We continued our stroll around the Plaka for an hour or two, stopping in shops, taking photos, meandering the labyrinths of streets that make up old Athens. It got hotter. We stopped for lunch and had our first taste of Greek food. A simple Greek salad, extra feta and olives on the side never tasted so good (and of course more Mythos!)



We wandered our way down to the Temple of Olympian Zeus in the shadow of the Acropolis. Complete after nearly 700 years in 161 AD it is the largest temple on all of Greece. Although today it is little more than a half dozen of the 103 columns that once made up this formidable temple.







In the afternoon we returned to our hotel to rest and seek refreshment at the rooftop deck of the Attalos Hotel where the view of the Acropolis was transfixing. We were soon joined by the rest of our party who had just arrived, my father and his wife, her brother Barry and his wife Judy, longtime family friends Jim and Carol, and again Tom. Clara, exhausted from the jet lag slept through the reunion)


We took in the view (and some Greek red wine and Mythos beer) and headed to Monastiraki’s “Souvlaki Row” for some dinner.



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