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Awesome Athens and its Neighborhood of the Gods, Plaka!

Such is the beauty of this city, that a random turn on some street corner can expose you to a sight like this.


Athens

Continuing on my life-goal to explore a big chunk of the world in this lifetime, I found this Athens trip significant for three reasons:

a. This crossed out another city from my “Civilization II / Age of Empires Ancient Capital” list; having already done Jerusalem and Rome and just leaving Cairo and Istanbul.

b. This was the first foreign trip that Monicca (my sweeter, much more attractive, definitely less grumpy, half) and I have ever gone on together.

c. By attending the wedding of Monicca’s good friend in Mykonos (the whole reason for the trip to Greece), I could now check both "Attend a Greek wedding" and "Experience an Orthodox mass" from ye olde bucket list.

So accompanied by our beloved chaperone, Khamil (Monicca’s aunt), and having re-watched 300, Troy and Percy Jackson as a refresher course on Greek culture, we embarked on our 18-hour trip (including the very chill layover in Dubai) to Athens.



Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport

* Arriving at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport. My first attempt to try and understand the Greek alphabet. How can those scribbles mean "Exit"?! I didn’t even bother with the other two!


Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport

* Awesome straight-to-the-point advertising and a sight for sore-eyes after an 18 hour voyage. I immediately resolved to test its claim and enjoy a bottle before the end of the day.


Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport

* On our way out from the Airport, I attempted once again to try and comprehend the Greek alphabet. At 45 minutes from our setting foot in Greece, I gave up trying altogether.


Plaka Hotel

* Our hotel in Athens was the very centrally-located Plaka Hotel. I was glad to have listened to our travel coordinator as we were literally at the center of the tourist, shopping and food scene in Athens. Known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods" due to its proximity to the Acropolis and many archaeological sites, Plaka is the old historical neighborhood in Athens as its present buildings are built on top of the residential areas of Ancient Athens.

This meant two things:

a. We are within walking distance of EVERYTHING. (Including that of a convenience store right next door.) Thumbs up!!

b. There’s a very good chance that our whole area is on top of some ancient Greek burial ground and is surely haunted. Thumbs up and High-Five!!


Plaka Hotel

* The view outside the Hotel. Athens, apart from the ruins, feels like it’s REALLY ancient; with the old-old-OLD looking buildings, musky scent, narrow roads and somewhat gritty air. But rather than being a negative, this is what gives the city its charm. Staying here, you know with ALL your senses that this place has been inhabited for thousands of years.


Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

* One thing that immediately struck me about Athens is the numerous churches that they have scattered all over the place! This was a block away from our Hotel and…


Ermou Street

* …. confusingly located in the middle of the upscale shopping area, Ermou Street!


Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

* As the ladies got real excited upon seeing all their favorite shopping brands, I took the opportunity to explore this peculiarly-located Orthodox church. Being a fan of the look and feel of various places of worship (see past entries on Jerusalem, Italy, Spain and France), I was stoked to be able to see how our Christian Orthodox brothers and sisters worshiped.


Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

* And art wise, this Orthodox church is beautiful. Dark-lit, resembling a cave and quiet as a provincial night, the Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea was built during the Byzantine era and is one of the oldest churches in Athens, estimated to have been built back in 1050 AD (DAMN!)


Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

* Here’s a shot of the dome which reminded me of the churches in Jerusalem. It’s cool how this whole area probably was grassland back in the day, and is now a high-traffic shopping area!


Ermou Street

* Lined up with all the major European brands (Zara, Stradivarius, H&M, Mango, Sephora, Suite Blanco etc) and a kilometer and a half long, Ermou Street is a shopper’s paradise and major hang-out for all the hot chicks (yay!) and douche-y looking guys (boo!).


Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens

* After seeing the Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, I knew that I HAD to check out Athens’ Orthodox Cathedral! So after studying my trusty city map and walking a pleasant five minutes from the edge of Ermou Street, I came across the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, which to my disappointment has been undergoing repairs for the past 4 years. While I was able to enter and say a prayer inside, there’s nothing much to see except a whole lot of scaffolding and cloth.



Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens

* Bummed that I wasn’t able to experience the full weight of the Cathedral, I consoled myself by taking this picture of Archbishop Damaskinos right across. How can one not admire the Archbishop’s epic beard and Jedi-like gear?


Ermou Street

* While shopping in Athens is a very pleasurable experience (much lower prices vs. Manila, dogs allowed in stores, nice cool weather etc), they do have a very weird schedule for it! All shops close at different times depending on the day; with 2pm for Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:30pm for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 3pm for Saturdays! (Confusing? Welcome to Greece!) So if you fancy an item, get it right away and don’t look back!


Ermou Street

* While I was tempted to add another piece of body art (maybe Orthodox iconography or some word in the Greek alphabet), I hurriedly went back the other way, as I walked up four flights of stairs getting progressively darker.. without seeing a store open for business. That is how horror films start, after all.


Ermou Street

* For lunch (which in Greece starts at 3pm), I had a generous serving of cold-cuts, fries, pasta, falafel and tomatoes! While the food was superb, we were mostly thankful for the free wifi in the cafe.


Monastiraki Square

* Walking down Ermou Street leads you to one of busiest areas in Athens, Monastiraki Square, famed for its flea market. Lively with the performances of street entertainers, the square is full of cafes, souvenir shops and young Athenians.


Monastiraki Square

* Pictured here in Monastiraki Square, are the Metro Station (left), the entrance to the famous Athens Flea Market (center, and where I spent most of my time) and Flormar (right, where Monicca spent most of my money).


Ancient Agora of Athens

* The whole city is dotted with ruins. You could be walking along the shops in Monastiraki, when you suddenly find yourself facing the Ancient Agora of Athens. Located at the foot of the Acropolis, the Agora was the commercial, political, religious and military center of Ancient Athens. Now it is the home of numerous stray dogs.


Temple of Hephaestus

* Fifteen minutes later, I ran into this view of the Temple of Hephaestus, the Greek god of metallurgy and craftsmanship. Despite it being relatively well-preserved compared to the other ruins, the Temple isn’t as famous as its brethren.


Mythos Beer

* Finally got to enjoy this very generous serving of Lamb Kebabs for dinner (which in Greece starts at 10pm) with a side order of fries, pita bread, tomatoes and tzatziki; along with the San Miguel Beer-tasting "Most Famous Hellenic Beer”, Mythos. I’m such a big fan of Mediterranean food, and Greece definitely rocks the cuisine! You can literally smell how fresh everything is, most especially the tomatoes.


Acropolis at Night

* Fantastic view of the Acropolis from the roofdeck of Plaka Hotel. Jet-lag be damned, this view is worth staying up for! The lighting, facade and cool breeze conspire to make everything feel so otherworldly.

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