Thursday, September 24, 2009

Greece Travelogue #4

Here we are in Athens!

Getting the complaints out of the way (saving the best for last?) - the traffic noise (at the Best Western Pythagorian on Agiou Konstantinou) is appalling, and let's face it, it's *not* the best neighborhood. Hopefully I will sleep better tonight (the unmuffled peeling-out motorcycles at 3am didn't help my beauty sleep...) Oh, and despite being named "Pythagorian," the street isn't really even diagonal. I mean, honestly.

The last day of the conference was the best from a work standpoint -- even though I only went in the morning, the poster session had two very interesting and relevant papers. So that was good.

We had an evening (6;30pm) flight, but not that much we particularly wanted to do, so we just had a leisurely lunch, then sat at a coffee shop for a while, then went to the airport early. Uneventful trip. Our taxi driver in Athens *was* a trip -- he has a son who's a cardiothoracic surgeon in Pittsburgh, so his English was good and he was delighted to have passengers from the US. Gave us some key beta about sights to see & where to eat.

The hotel is loud but otherwise OK. What the pillows lack in softness, the beds more than make up for... oops, that was another complaint, wasn't it? The quick-meal options were rather limited, so we ended up at McDonald's for a late dinner. I did have the European-fast-food "French cheese salad" (saganaki-style fried camembert on green salad, not bad really).

Today we slept in a bit and then had breakfast in the hotel. We took the metro (very easy, very well marked, very clean & quick) to the Acropolis station and visited the New Acropolis Museum (just opened in June). It's really beautiful and very well done. The excavated ruins are all visible below plexiglass floors (which my mom *hated* walking on), and there are lots of beautifully restored artifacts, including a life-size display of the entire Parthenon (well, the marble carvings) on the top floor -- with the Elgin marbles conspicuously replaced with plaster copies. (The Greeks really want the Elgin marbles back, and I totally agree -- come on, England, you took care of them, but now Greece is a big kid and you should give them their toys back...) We had lunch in the museum restaurant (salted fish plate for Caroline, potato salad w/ anchovies for me, spinach salad for Grandma, and a cheese & fruit plate to share). Beautiful view of the Acropolis from the patio.

Then the long, sweaty, hot hike up to the Acropolis itself. It's really an amazing place -- to think that 2500 years ago (more if you count the Myceneans who built there before the Greeks), they could build this entire fortified city with marble temples on top of a huge craggy rock -- the engineering feat just boggles the mind. And that so much of it is still there to see is incredible.

They've been restoring the Parthenon & other buildings, so unfortunately there is a lot of scaffolding. But it's still breathtaking.

Afterwards, we made our way back down, walked through the ancient agora (mostly ruins but with a few restored buildings), and then had a late-afternoon snack (fried calamari and taramosalata) at a cafe along Adrianou (Diaskouri, recommended by our guidebook). Then took the Metro back to the hotel (very crowded at rush hour, but only a few stops -- good things, because the Greeks are even pushier on the subway than New Yorkers, and less considerate of old ladies, people with casts, and children!) Sat in the lobby playing games (Lost Cities & Five Crowns) for a while, had Caroline work on some of her makeup homework, then went out for a late dinner at a place called Megae Alexandros (Alexander the Great). Very traditional Greek -- lamb stew, saganaki, spinach pie. The pie was just so-so but the rest was very good. I really like how in Greece they always bring you some extras -- today, tzaziki, olives, and peppers with our fresh, warm bread, and a plate of assorted baklava after the meal. Picked up an ice cream cup for Caroline on the way back, and now I'm trying to get caught up on email and blogging. :-)

1 comment:

Kiri said...

Sounds like Athens was a lot more enjoyable! I guess maybe you'll be posting about the final exhausting trip home later, but it's good to hear that you did have good times, too. The Plexiglass floor above excavated ruins sounds really cool.