What do you imagine it will be like when you plan a trip to Athens?
Nico and I pictured the Acropolis, the Parthenon itself, marble sculptures from ancient times and many others we remembered from photos we often saw in history books at school.
Athens, however, surprised us on so many levels. It turned out to be a very charming, lively city, where you can easily dissolve into the Greek culture and feel as if you are constantly switching between a modern European city and an ancient civilization.
Unprepared for Greek winter
When we arrived in Athens on 26th of January, we were surprised by the weather. Somehow, we had the idea that we can wear light jackets and feel the warmth of the Mediterranean climate. Indeed, it was sunny almost every day, but temperatures fell to even to -1C.
It came out that the winter of 2017 was one of the coldest in 10 years. Until this year, the locals haven’t seen snow for many years. During the day, it was pleasant enough to have a chilly but sunny aura. The only problem was the evenings when it became very cold. However, as it was a good time to visit Greek Taverns (the name for typical Greek restaurants), we did not complain too much.
The color of Athens
The first thing that took us by surprise was the color of Athens! At the first glance, everything seemed to be white, with only a few stains of green under a clear blue sky. But if you looked closer, you could notice that some of the rooftops had distinct colors – red or grey, but some of the buildings were also rather beige.
However, optically, everything seemed to be so clearly white, which is something we usually connect with Greek architecture. Only a few of the cities we saw could have such a distinctive color portfolio – as, for example, the red rooftops of Prague. Those first views made Nico even more excited about shooting photos in Athens.
The Plaka district for history and food lovers
In Athens, we stayed in Plaka, a district known not only for ancient ruins but also for many restaurants with great food. We were informed about it by our taxi driver, as the first thing to do here. But first things first – look what you have outside of your window (and try to not to stare agape for too long or people will laugh at you). Once you stop for a minute and look up, you might be struck by the fantastic view over the Acropolis, which majestically looms over the city. No matter from which side you look at it, it just there, a centuries-old stone city.
When we started to wander around Plaka, we discovered that the Acropolis isn’t the only historical relic around. Just by strolling around, we discovered the Arch of Hadrian, the Temple of Zeus, the Tower of Winds, Roman Agora, the Stoa of Attalos, the Church of Kapnikarea, the Monastiraki, and many more. The Plaka district for us seemed to be almost like a labyrinth. This area was developed on the northern slope of Acropolis around Agora already in the ancient period. Nowadays, it’s a mixture of buildings from various centuries, with the neoclassical style of architecture being most prevalent.
From the first day onwards, we realized that we were not only at the center of all the sights, but also in the middle of Athens’ life. Here, a metro could pass between the ancient ruins of Agora, the same metro station could be a historical sight and people could treat it as something mundane, rushing through historical sights, probably on the way back from work.
The Plaka area was an excellent choice in order to explore Greek cuisine. The cozy home-style restaurants were everywhere in those very narrow streets. And, of course, you could hear traditional Greek music everywhere, no matter where you were in the city.
So basically, we started our adventure in Greece from eating to our hearts’ content. And after few Meze (typical small Greek dishes), we fell in love with this cuisine. At the end of our trip, we even took a cooking class for typical dishes from this region, so that those tastes would stay with us even in Berlin (we highly recommend the cooking course with Filou in Diavlos Taverne ). Daria found the vegetarian meze, which is like Greek salad, or the zucchini balls to be the most pleasant, while Nico enjoyed the meat dishes and souvlaki (the local street food, which is a must-try, especially in pita bread) the most.
For both of us, it was kind of a sensual trip. We ended up discovering not only the sun all over again, but the sights and the taste of Greece, which is very different from what we are used to from Greek restaurants in Germany.