Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Athens - Bursting At the Seams

We weren't entirely sure what to expect upon arrival in Athens, after Santorini won us over with it's beauty and hominess, would we enjoy our time in Athens or regret leaving the island too soon? 

From the Acropolis - The never ending city

As a major metropolis, Athens is fast moving, loud, and large; while we explored Santorini by ATV only days before, we now pitied our Athens cab driver and the mind boggling traffic he had to endure on a daily basis. The city seems never ending, a continuation of concrete apartment buildings, honking horns, and crowded streets stretching forever. At ground level, a canopy of apartment buildings, their balconies crowded with potted plants, loom overhead, filtering the harsh sunlight but somehow failing to stop the heat from reaching the pedestrians below. Although overcrowded with people, automobiles, and large garbage bins (that permanently sit on the curb for all to use), we discovered that there are places of refuge, in a city apparently bursting at the seams.

Street view - cars and apartment buildings

The "Lake" at the National Garden

One of our favorite places to rest, refuel, and people watch, was Ambrosia Restaurant, a few blocks from our hotel. Situated on the outskirts of a small tree-lined square, we were able to cool down in the shade of a palm tree and feast on homemade Greek gyros, moussaka, and tzatziki for less than 15 Euro. The food, atmosphere, and service was so good we didn't bother finding another restaurant after our first meal the evening of our arrival - we returned twice, on our second and third days in the city, and it was delicious each visit. 

Time to dig in at Ambrosia Restaurant

A visit to the National Garden, during a self-led walking tour on our second day in Athens, also provided an injection of some much needed green space. The garden is 15.5 hectares in size and features a small lake, convention centre and fountain, bench-lined pathways, and some of the largest palm trees I've ever seen. Overall it's quite lush and a lovely refuge in the middle of the city. 

The National Garden

While we aren't sure we could last, let alone thrive, in a city as expansive as Athens, two days was the perfect amount of time to fully explore the Acropolis and ancient sites, as well as the Old Quarters of Plaka and Monastiraki. Athens may have little in common with the beauty and calm of Santorini, however the people have proven to be helpful and inviting regardless of which city they call home, and I expect nothing less in our last Greek stop, Nafplio.

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Hey there!

Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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