Before I say another word, can anyone suggest a browser for Apple devices that supports Blogger? Safari doesn't, so I can't blog when on the move, and I'm away a LOT this year. So I am really sorry it's taken me so long to write about Athens, and that I haven't been commenting much on blogs. Well, hopefully that will change!
I really loved revisiting Athens after several years away. The picture above shows a stunning sculpture of a boy jockey on a horse from the transformed Athens Archaeological Museum. I can't get over that that it was created when we in Britain were scratching things on walls of our mud huts, or whatever we did in the years BC (see below).
I knew there were many new things in Athens since my last visit, over 10 years ago. The cleverly-planned, world-class Acropolis museum, extensions to the fascinating Benaki, new venues, parks, restaurants and hotels. But I'd also seen some negative stuff because of the economic situation, and been warned by Greeks to be a little more careful about personal security than before, even though the city is still very safe by most standards.
So I took the advice and was careful, but despite more empty shops, to me Athens seemed much the same as usual, better in many parts, the only worse thing I noticed was more graffiti than before. I felt safe, welcome and happy there. In fact, people seemed to go out of their way to be generous, hospitable and friendly; but then, I tend to expect that in Greece.
For instance, in the city's central market, I saw these strawberries, very cheap. I bought half a kilo, and the stall owner tipped in an extra handful, and knocked off the extra cents due to him when he weighed them. And they were the most wonderful strawberries, very fresh and just as good as they looked. I was impressed. He knew we were just tourists, probably wouldn't be back, but still treated us well.
So as a little thank you to that proud and generous Greek stallholder, I'll tell you a bit more about the food in Athens. Of course it's a great city to walk around the back streets of, and en route to the central market we saw all kinds of interesting things, including a shop selling honey and bee products, with honeycomb stained glass
and we met this nice lady who feeds the tortoises who live in the grounds of the Petraki monastery.
We climbed the many steps up Mount Lycabettus,
and saw the silver icon of St. George in the little church at the top
and the views on the way down.
And finally arrived at the market. It's still a typical old European city wholesale market, lots of fun to walk through, looking at lots of good quality stuff, while the owners call their wares.
A lot of meat, mostly lamb....
Fish of all kinds, very fresh
- all kinds from sesame roast almonds to silvered wedding nuts, dried nectarines, peaches, kiwi-fruits
I bought crystallised kumquats and hibiscus flowers
Red easter eggs (since it was Easter)
Great piles of whole spices...
All types of unusual olives
and, in the familiar,scruffy area around the market, there are now shops selling wonderful cakes, which there certainly never used to be.
I remember when it was impossible to get decent international food in Athens, even though Greeks seem to use very good quality ingredients. That's not the case now. The hotel where I stayed, (Airotel Stratos Vassilikis) had remarkably good food for what was otherwise just a pleasant, middle priced hotel. This was all I managed to photograph at breakfast, but they had lots of unfamiliar things, sweet and savoury, and different each day. The evening meal we had was also way above average, and not expensive. I reckon they have a chef who loves his job. Although the hotel was some way from the centre, I'd stay there again for the care they took over the food.
Oh, and I was pleased to learn that a whole lot of travel articles I wrote years ago are coming online. Nice to know they have not been forgotten. I will investigate and will link to them as soon as I can, in case anyone's interested. (Well, I am! ) I'd added a couple to the sidebar already, but it will be much quicker to link.