Athens

Athens – Why So Stroppy?

Arriving an hour later than our scheduled landing into Athens airport, we hiked the 25km’s of shiny, immaculate corridors it took to get to the baggage claim. Luggage retrieved, a quick side-step round the elderly lady lying on the floor with blood pouring from her face (weird) and we were through to the arrival halls. A taxi driver had been booked for us, so seeing my name on his little placard, I waved and headed over to him. He greeted us brusquely, grabbed one of our bags and power walked us to his car.

Mr Taxi Man was angry. He’d been working since 6am and because the plane was late, he was still working at 11pm. I apologised and said next time I was flying an Airbus to Greece from the UK I’d change my flight plan through Europe so all the Athens taxi drivers wouldn’t have to stay up so late. A long, silent ride into Thissio ended about 40 minutes later.

I’d been told the fare was 43 Euros but the meter read 32. I handed him 35. Mr Taxi Man got angrier. He wound down his window and started yelling at the booking rep of the apartment we were renting, who was standing on the curb by the front door ready to greet us. Grabbing our own bags out of the boot, the rep explained to us the taxi fair from the airport was a flat rate of 43 Euros in Athens but drivers had to let the meter run by law. I’d already handed over another 10 Euros before I got out, but the explanation was welcomed.

I’d splashed out about double what I’d normally spend for this apartment, just for a change and a belated birthday present for myself. It turned out to be not quite as special as it looked in the photos. Not the end of the world, but a bit disappointing.

acropolis view

I guess this is what you’re paying for.

It’s even better at night.

Definitely the end of the world though was the plumbing situation. You can’t flush toilet paper in Athens! You have to let it pile up in a bin beside to the toilet. Let me just say, if ever you want to get closer to your partner, to take your perhaps stilted relationship up another notch of the totem pole of intimacy, a visit to Athens is one answer. Why had I never read this before? Nothing in travel is ever a surprise anymore. It’s all on Trip Advisor and Yelp and Google Reviews. Plus I knew people who had been to Athens. Why had none of them ever mentioned it? What kind of world wide conspiracy was this?

A fitful sleep was had while I tried to process this tragedy.

We left the apartment the next morning, conspicuously carrying our very tightly tied plastic bag full of soiled toilet paper, and set about being tourists. Well, first we found a bin, then we set about being tourists. (more…)

Advertisements
Athens Street Food Festival

Athens’ Urban Scene – where to go when you’re done with the classics

Athens is undeniably one of the best cities in the world for immersing yourself in the ancient world, but what do you do after a few days when you hit ‘peak history’? Where do you go for more modern, urban entertainment? According to my list below, the answer is Gazi, the cool, industrial area north-west of Athens’ Old Town. Here’s seven places where you can get yourself a mix of food, drinks and music, plus art that isn’t quite as old as all the rest up there on that ubiquitous hill. And yep, four of them are in Gazi.

Technopolis

Located on the site of an old gasworks, Technopolis is a mixed arts venue where you can see just about every form of art and performance you can think of. It’s an interesting space to check out but unless you’re there for a specific event, you’ll probably not need more than an hour or so to have a good nosey about. Entry to the site is free, but there’s a small charge for some of the exhibits inside, like the small museum that tells you about the history of the gasworks.

Technopolis

The Technopolis gasworks chimneys make finding the place in the dark a cinch.

Technopolis

People gathering to enjoy the free jazz festival concert.

Athens Street Food Festival

The very first Athens Street Food Festival happened to take place when I was there (May 2016). From what I saw it was a huge success, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to see if there’s one happening when you’re there. Held in a huge abandoned building, it was just across the road from Technopolis (cnr Ermou and Peireos Streets). Handy. Inside there were over twenty street food stalls with food from Europe, America, Asia and Africa. There was also a DJ and stage set up for live music later, a couple of bars and a genuinely friendly vibe all round from both the staff and revelers. It was family and dog friendly too, not that you’d have your dog with you while you’re traveling, but anyway, now you know there’s dogs to fuss over if you’re missing yours.

Athens Street Food Festival

Athens Street Food Festival

Bios

Bios is another mixed media venue with arts and fashion events, film screenings, seminars, photography exhibitions, dance, theatre and, my favourite, a rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis. I would definitely check their website or Facebook page to see if there’s any events on that interest you while you’re in Athens, but if not, the roof is a chilled place to have a few drinks. It’s a little tricky to find though, so here’s a tip. Bios is on the corner of Peireos (very happening street it appears)  and Salaminos Streets. If you walk into the bar on the ground floor you’ll not find any stairs to a rooftop inside. The stairs are outside on Salaminos Street. Again there’s no signage and it looks like the entrance to an apartment block, but head on up a couple of flights and you’ll find the terrace. There was a very mixed crowd when I was there early evening (even an elderly couple sitting on some sun loungers enjoying a cocktail) but I suspect the younger, hipper kids turn up en-masse closer to midnight.

Bios rooftop bar

Bios rooftop bar

Avdi Square

Bordering the corners of Leonidou, Kerameikou, Giatrakou and Germanikou streets in Gazi, Avdi Square is where the locals go to hang out and where, if you do too, you’ll get a real feel for what Gazi is all about. The square has the Municipal Gallery, restaurants with chairs that spill out onto the square and, as Gazi’s also known as the LGBTQI centre of the city, you’ll find the very popular lesbian bar Myrovolos here too. There’s regular street parties, festivals and art displays, but even if nothing much is going on it’s simply a good place to wander to during the day (closest Metro station is Metaxourgio), have some drinks or a meal and enjoy some prime people watching.

For some reason I have no photos of the time I spent in the square. Probably something to do with the fact it was our last stop on a six venue ‘hop’ and I may or may not have lost control of my arms and/or vision by then.

(more…)