The breakfast room is full so it is decided that we will return to our room, shower and try again in 20 minutes or so, running the risk that supplies may very well be depleted on our return. Fortunately the gamble pays off and, given that we have not eaten since the previous day’s mid-afternoon lunch, it is a most welcome feast.
The sun is tussling for supremacy with the nocturnal cloud cover, but seems to be winning. By the time we reach the northern edge of the Acropolis victory will be total.
Navigating the steep slopes is rather confusing. One minute you are passing Hadrian’s Library, the next you have found yourself down some crumbling back alley with only stray cats for company. Subtle signage instructs you as to whether you are on the right track, as do larger landmarks such as the vast and verdurous Ancient Agora one inevitably passes, should you decide to attack the Acropolis from its northern face. We stop for refreshment at this very juncture. Dioskouri has nothing much to offer, other than the view, and exploits its location en route to antiquity by charging good money for rather average coffee.
From there the views just get better, and so too does the temperature. Research suggested highs of 20 degrees were in order, at best, but by the time we have reached the summit it is comfortably higher – as much as 24 perhaps? On the downside, the higher one climbs the more people one has to contest with. This is not surprising and might only be avoided if one were to visit in, say, January, during which time the temperatures would not be so kind. You see the dilemma?
The effect, then, is slightly diminished. It is also affected by the scaffold-assisted restoration going on about the place. The Acropolis also suffers from a terrible familiarity. It is hard to appreciate it for what it is when its image is so firmly engrained within the European imagination, be it through films, art, travelogues or the general conveying of the historical significance of antiquity. And, surrounded as it is by the Athens itself, it is rather difficult to appreciate how progressive it might have once appeared occupying its natural habitat. Imagine Stonehenge, perhaps, located in the middle of Regent’s Park and I think that is what I might be trying to get at.
The views, however, compensate for any sense of disappointment, and besides, I’ve never been one for paying too much lip-service to the past for sake of doing so. Indeed, I rather like the effect of the scaffolding. It's like a scene from Jesus Christ Superstar, the movie.
Next up is the aforementioned Ancient Agora, a garden of sorts littered with plinths, pillars, busts and other classical remains. There is a museum too, a few stoas – or stoae – a couple of temples and several security guards ready to pull you up if you get dangerously close to anything of value.
......................................Street scene near Acropolis
We are to go Gazi/Keramikos for lunch, an upcoming distract just west of Monastiraki. Built on an old gas works the area is now seen as something as a hangout for the young and the hip but, amidst the gentrification, I can sense something of an edge.
A Liar Man puts such thoughts to bed. A lovely café-come-bar stuck down the end of an unassuming alley, the expensively priced lunches do not inspire us and so we settle for coffee. Back on Voatadon – the closest thing Gazi might have to a ‘main drag’, all be it a pedestrianised one – bars sit dormant alongside each other, but there are enough of them to suggest that this is an area that might be worth returning to come an evening.
There is still much of the day left so we decide to hop on the Metro Line 3 back to into Monastiraki, surface briefly for a kebab, and then join the ISAP Line 1 northbound towards Maroussi to check out the Olympic Park. It is a longer journey than anticipated, although most of it, mercifully, is over ground.
In stark contrast to the packed carriages that take us there, this broken monument to the Olympiad resembles a ghost town. Painted white, parallel metal girders held aloft show the way here, while huge perforated arches show the way there, but the grounds themselves are unkempt, only the stadium itself exudeding any sense of purpose. It is an impressive structure and visitors are welcome to wander around the terraces.
The journey back to Monastiraki is as uncomfortable as the one there and it is dark by the time we arrive back at our hotel. Tea is to be taken at Paradosiako, a humble eatery serving local fare where lamb seems to be the order of the day. It is delicious and reasonably priced too, so much so that we ponder an aperitif. Given the paucity of seating available and the local nature of the clientele we think better of it and dash across the road to a bar we caught sight of along our way. We do not stay there for long. Peter Andre is counting down the top 5000 ballads of all time on the plasma screen, and besides, we are pretty much the only people drinking there.
Considering the time of year temperatures continue to be kind, and after wandering back towards the vague direction of our hotel we happen upon the Vintage Shopping Bar, a surprisingly hip joint located just off the rather low-key Perikleous Street. Three drinks later we decide it is time to move on but figure we may as well have a quick nightcap back at Booze Cooperative along the way; this despite the fact that we actually have to walk past our hotel to get there.
Labels: Acropolis, Athens, breakfast, cafe, coffee, Olympics