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On the taxi ride to my hotel, I saw the Panathinaiko Stadium and was so stunned, I knew I had to go back and drink in the panoramic view by foot. It reminded me of the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Surrounded by a park and well to do homes, it is now a tourist draw and a relic of earlier athletic contests, before the high tech super stadiums, but steeped in a sense of history that no modern facility can rival.

A few blocks away is the home of the President of Greece, and since there were demonstrations during my time in Athens, the police and security for the area were heightened to the point of street closures around this entire area. The formal changing of the guards continued, but there were armed patrols keeping any tourists and or picture takers from getting too close.

I took these pictures using the zoom on my camera.

After all the hiking around town, I had to eat and what better place than a restaurant called “God’s Restaurant“? Facing the new Acropolis Museum, this is a nice street side cafe which actually serves salads! Greeks call salad eaters “Grass Eaters” and I had not found any restaurant that specialized in this kind of food, so I had the God’s Salad, which had delicious chunks of salami and fried cheese in a homemade dressing. I loved this salad because it was filling enough to be a meal and it was light enough not to make me feel like I had eaten too much. All for under $15 USD and a view of a pedestrian street facing the modern Museum.

If God had a restaurant, I’m sure this dish would have been on the menu.

Seen from the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in Athens at 908 feet above sea level with St. George’s Church at the top (along with a cafe). I walked from the Acropolis to the base of the mountain, but you can climb the steps all the way to the top if you are in Olympian shape (I did not).

Kolonaki is an upscale neighborhood at the base of the hill, with a host of internationally known name brand shops and the only Starbucks I saw during my entire stay (yes, Greeks were drinking coffee inside).
Besides the beautifully appointed homes, there were offices for lawyers and doctors lining the streets.
To get to the funicular which takes you to the top of the hill you must first climb FOUR sets of these stairs. This is number one.
This is number four, when (or if) you get to the top and you get to ride the rest of the way up to the top.
The funicular goes up and down every half hour and costs 3 Euros roundtrip.

Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with views of the entire city, including the radio and television antennae lines that are all mounted up here (and in my picture). The blue edge on the horizon is the sea.

From this point you see the other hills in Athens.

At the top there is of course a church (St. Geroge’s) and the Greek Flag.

Considering the church was built in the 19th Century, this is quite a feat.

Perhaps it is time to go inside and offer a prayer of gratitude for making it to this point in both altitude and life:)

The New Acropolis Museum is directly across from the Acropolis and literally faces the metro station “Acropolis”, so it is very easy to find and visit when in Athens. The building is very modern with a surprising twist.

As you enter the building, you walk OVER some excavations that are works in progress and AROUND others that are more near completion. It is a truly a remarkable juxtaposition of ancient and modern in one place.

There were people working on the excavation as visitors watched.

The other side of the museum is a lovely green park.

A few blocks away is the large National Gardens, which also has excavations in progress.

Adjacent to the National Gardens is a smaller park which surrounds the Temple of Olympian Zeus (which is one of the views from my hotel).

And Hadrian’s Arch (another of the views from my Hotel).

But the National Gardens are known more for the marvelous respite of greenery in the middle of a concrete city.

The Plaka is the oldest neighborhood in Athens and the cobblestone streets and neoclassical homes attest to the charm of this part of town. It is also a big tourist draw with shops, tavernas and bars competing for foreign customers using sales tactics that far surpass most American salespeople; I don’t know many sales people in the US who can switch between four languages easily enough to flatter and entice people walking on a street to sit down to a meal, do you?

Some places just look inviting, even though they are in the busiest most touristy place, some can be quite good, and Taberna Ta was very decent for both service and food in the center of the Plaka. It helps that they have been around for decades and they make everything they serve on the premises from the spanikopita (spinach pies) to the souvlaki (kebabs). The display counter shows all the ingredients that go into the meals and everything in it looked fresh, so I took my chance and took a seat.

My host switched from the two Asian languages he spoke to English and French once he saw the perplexed look on my face. Since the daily special is usually the best dish, I went with the Pork special the waiter recommended. I was going to order a salad, but the waiter said it came with vegetables. Maybe the vegetables were invisible, so you see any on the plate? Maybe he thought the parsley counted as a vegetable because it was green.

My first bite of the pork was so salty I thought I would have to send it back, but after a few tentative tastes, it was obvious that the dish was just unevenly salted. The pork was tender and the serving was copious enough that I barely finished the meat and did not even make a dent in the the rice. After my meal, I was given a complimentary dessert made with sesame seeds and honey that was both rich and sweet; it was a good way to erase the shock of salt overdose I had gotten at the beginning of my meal.

A sweet ending to a salty beginning makes this place a “Maybe” for anyone contemplating trying this restaurant. The perfect service and location may make this more of a place to stop for drinks or coffee than for a meal.

I found Paradosiako online before I arrived in Athens through Tripadvisor; since it has universally great reviews and was near the Plaka, I noted it as a place to try and was glad I did.

This is a very casual local eatery on a side street that a tourist would have completely overlooked if not for its international internet reputation. So many Greeks were eating here, that I had to come back twice before I could get a seat at this tiny ten table cafe. I ordered the salad to start and even though it was fresh and perfectly fine, I immediately missed the superb tomatoes of Santorini.

I was drawn to the fried anchovies on the menu, so I ordered them, not expecting this HUGE plate. They were wonderfully crisp, and a bit of lemon juice squeezed on them just made them addictive. I didn’t manage to eat the entire plate after eating my salad, but I wanted to….

They offered a complimentary sweet made of honey and nuts, but I was too full to accept, so I paid my bill of 12 Euros ($15) and tried to walk off some of my meal as I meandered through the Plaka.

Bretto’s beautiful display of liquors drew me into the place from the busy Plaka area of Athens like a thirsty traveler to an oasis. I didn’t know when I walked in that Bretto’s is the second oldest bar in Europe and has a more than 100 year history as a distiller of unique alcohols. Every bottle you see is a different flavor ranging from Cherry to Rose, and even Saffron!

The original distillery made Ouzo and they have literally pages listing different types, along with fine brandies, wines, and other spirits. Their private label flavored spirits are ONLY sold here (in three sizes) and you may taste all of them, or purchase as many bottles as you wish on the premises. They even sell Cuban cigars here starting at only 3 Euros ($5)! As I looked through the extensive 3-ring binder of choices (clearly looking overwhelmed), the manager, said to me, “What are you in the mood for, this has too many choices; let me choose for you.” I gladly accepted his help and said I would like a nice dry white wine, with a little bit of fruitiness, so he recommended #23 for 6 Euros ($8) which was absolutely superb. Since there are literally CHAPTERS of wines and spirits to choose from, it really is best to ask the experts behind the bar to recommend something based on your taste.

The actual barrels used in the distillery are in the shop, so this place literally has the beginning (making the spirits), middle (selling the bottles), and end (drinking the finished product) of a distillery all in one place.

There is no food served here other than small bites of cheeses, ham or salami (excellent quality snacks), so come in for your appertif or a drink after dinner (they are open until 3am).

They are easy to find, just look for the rainbow of colors lighting up the storefront in the center of the Plaka.




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