Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 6 - First Day in Athens

We settled quickly into our hotel, getting acquainted with the layout. It's a nice room, with two bedrooms, so the kids can have their own space. I always find it interesting to scope out European bathrooms, which are always so much different than what we have in the States. They're so Euro. You have to remember that a town like Athens is old, thousands of years old, in fact, and a lot of the infrastructure is old. Plus, parts of the city wasn't really designed for modern conveniences, like cars, and the hotel rooms tend to be small. I personally love European hotels, because they always have charm and character, though not the conveniences and high tech gadgets you get in American hotels. Hotels in the States, however, are literally all the same, while when you travel in Europe, the hotels are all different, except, of course, for the bathrooms. You can always count on them.

We put on some comfortable clothes (shorts and t-shirts), and headed out into the Athens. I'd never been to the city before, but it was definitely huge. There is so much sprawl, it kind of reminds me of LA. Suburbs for as far as the eye can see. Crazy, actually. The cab driver told me there were about 5 million people, but it seems like there are more. Then again, what do I know?

It's definitely different than Istanbul, more modern and stylish. The biggest difference you notice from the get-go are the way that women dress. In Turkey, you'll find women wearing head scarves, but most the women simply dress in a standard Western style, with little to no skin showing. Much more modest, as you would expect. When we got to Athens, it was definitely more stylish and provocative, if not sexy. It's Summer, after all, and the tourists are here in full force and letting it all hang out.

There is also a much greater tourist presence, and an American tourist presence, at that. In my brief time in Athens, I wasn't completely clear on what the big draw here is for tourists. Sure, there are many important historical landmarks in the city, but you can see them in one day, but after that, it seems like lots of shopping and dining. Then again, that's how people travel these days, to shop. The tourist presence is really striking, they are here in droves. I guess if you are young, single and hip, none of which I am, I guess it's fun to come here and spend lots of money and try to meet people. There are no shortages of people.

The people I've spoken to from out of town that might fall into my demographic (old and boring) were all going to the islands, much like us. A stopover in Athens is required to catch a plane of ferry to one of them. We have two days in the city, so we wanted to check some things out. Since it was late afternoon when we arrived, our options were limited to eating, so we went for a walk.

The travel agent recommended certain sections of the city to find food, mainly because they were in less touristy areas. We walked through the main tourist sections, and even though we are in the shoulder season (June is when things get cooking), the place is packed. People everywhere, all fashionable, beautiful, and young, all out to smoke cigarettes and have a good time. It's fun to walk amongst them. We finally found our destination, and in lieu of what the agent said, it sure seemed touristy to me. The people stand outside of their restaurants and practically assault you to eat their food. It's a little unnerving, and makes me think a little less of an establishment when they are grovelling for my business. It also makes me anxious.

We finally settled on one place where the guy saved us from walking down what he considered a dangerous alley. Truth be told, as we headed down it, I could see that suspicious things were going on down the block, and was just about to turn us all around when the guy called to us. He said they were selling drugs down there, and in gratitude, we decided to eat there. The food was good, but one thing I've noticed at places in Italy and in Greece, they charge you for the bread. I'm guessing that's just the way things are done, but I'm just used to getting free bread. It's good in a way, because it discourages you from wolfing the stuff down.

The meal was nice, we are trying to eat as authentic as possible, or at least as authentic as they claim to be. Lots of olives, capers, tomatoes, and of course, olive oil. The meat dishes are not that different from what you get in Turkey, all good stuff. After dinner, we ordered what was billed as a chocolate souffle but was suspiciously redolent of a brownie covered in chocolate sauce. Oh well, what are you going to do?

We headed back to our hotel and went to the rooftop terrace to see the view of the Acropolis. We had some ice cream, I drank a Greek beer (Mythos) and after awhile, we went to our room, brushed our teeth, and hit the sack. We had one day to explore Athens, and we had our Grateful Dumpling pic to take care of.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pics.

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