This year I decided pretty early, what to book for Sebastian’s birthday. He’s never been to Athens and mentioned a few times that he’d like to go, so it wasn’t a hard task figuring out our next destination. The difference between past years and now was, that I wanted to keep it a secret as long as possible, so I organised everything (or nothing ) alone beforehand and told him at midnight of his beginning birthday which was the same day, we were flying. I have a friend in Athens, who helped me to find the perfect Airbnb location and with it came a really friendly host, who gave me all the tips I asked for.
Sebastian was really surprised and happy and some hours later we were on our way.
This day, it was snowing really hard in Berlin and it was freezing cold and as the weather forecast for Athens was really nice, we were even more eager to get out of this winter into some sun. Our flight had a delay, because it needed defrosting, enough said. As we arrived to our seats, I offered Sebastian to sit by the window, as it was his birthday and I was trying to make the whole day magical (hehe). Well, someone else was sitting there already but after a short discussion he gave up on his (our?) seat. We felt bad immediately and bought some beers for all of us – best weird starting story ever. The guy was really nice, gave us even more tips for Athens (where to go out, where to eat, etc.), we had really nice conversations and in the end he brought us directly to our flat with an Uber, birthday gifts kept coming! It was raining, but that was already so much better, that the snow storm we left behind us.
There was the mother of our host waiting for us at the apartment and believe me, she was the coolest greek older woman (I feel so bad calling her this, cause she’s definitely a twentysomething at heart!) you could imagine! She welcomed us warmheartedly and wanted to show us around Exarchia (please to read more about the area we stayed at) to check out the graffiti, which she is a big fan of. I don’t know why we said we just wanted to eat something tonight, maybe because we were really hungry, maybe because in the first moment we didn’t believe her that she’s really eager to show us around (big mistake!) or because we were just slightly in shock how freaking nice everyone was to us by now! Anyways, that wouldn’t be the last time we saw Vivian, luckily!
She took us to a restaurant nearby, showing us the best breakfast spot on the way and let us alone for dinner. We were smiling so hard, our cheeks hurt. By then it stopped to rain, the air was mild and we tasted our first delicious meal, accompanied by some wine and raki.
We ended the night in some great bars my friend suggested to us: Mavors Gatos and Schinovatis – just around the corner.
The next morning we we woken up by sunshine, spring temperatures (at least for Berliners) and an amazing view from our window. We went to have a walk through the city, direction Acropolis.
Blue skies, amazing views and lots of cats awaited us. The closer we got to the Acropolis, the more we had the feeling there are more cats living in this city, than people. There were many incredibly small and sweet streets going up the hill with great street art, coffees and restaurants.
Once we nearly reached our destination, a huge stone arose in front of us. It was the Areopagus or Mars Hill, from which we had an amazing view over the city!
We were a bit scared the Acropolis would be overcrowded, expensive and closing soon, but once again we were in luck! Sebastian got in for free with his press pass and I paid only 10 €. We had 3 more hours and it was nearly empty! I will not tell you much about the Acropolis itself, but let the pictures speak:
We had a very nice afternoon, finding ourselves nearly alone in the area, with some street music accompanying our strolls.
Afterwards we went for a walk through Plaka, which was very touristic and not our style at all. But we found a very nice shop with local art and vinyls and bought our traditional souvenirs.
In the evening, after dinner at Ouzeri Lesvos (guess what we were drinking), we met my friend in a bar just around the corner. We were lucky again: first of all we could spent time with someone living in the city, telling us some insider tipps, secondly on this night there was a concert of a local band, playing greek traditional music with a gypsy vibe. Wonderful! We’ve even seen the traditional greek dance, you know which one I mean, right?
This night we discovered (thanks to Ale! <3) rakomelo – warm honey raki with cinnamon and cloves, delish! It would become our best friend for the next nights.
On the next day we did our kind of sightseeing: looking for vinyls and street art. There is more than enough of both in Exarchia, so we just enjoyed our lazy walks, popping into record stores and coffees for some frappé here and there. Afterwards we went to check out the food markets: there are 3 different ones: the meat market (aka a vegetarians hell), the veggie market and the fish market. We bought some great gambas and veggies for dinner and enjoyed to cook at home for once.
By chance, there were some other friends from Berlin visiting Athens in the same time, so we met up with them for drinks later. We hit Six d.o.g.s bar in Monastiraki area , which has a really nice outside area but was not our favorite concerning the choice of drinks (no rakomelo? c’mon!), we tried the Clumsies which has really nice cocktails but was too crowded and posh and finally we ended up back in Exarchia, trying out some more bars in this area, ending up back in Schinovatis.
That night we’ve also seen some riots in the streets, smelled some pepper spray and graffiti paint, saw a flying molotov cocktail…all in all a real local experience, I’d say!
The next day we didn’t expect to see much anymore, it felt like we’ve been there for some weeks already, seen it all, ate and drank it all, done it all…but no, no, there were still many surprises waiting for us. We went for a walk to Lycabettus Hill (the one looking like a female breast, if you have some imagination) – the highest peak in Athens with its 277 metres. We took the teleferic to go up, took some amazing pictures of Athens and had a quiet moment in the beautiful Greek Orthodox church of St. George.
The way back down we took the stairs and stood in awe of the many beautiful views on the seaside, the Acropolis and many other landmarks of Athens.
On the end of the hill we arrived in Koloniaki, had a look at the famous Syntagma square and went direction Psirri for some well deserved dinner. With some stops to see the beautiful Monastiraki square and shop some second hand vinyls in all the vintage furniture and book shops, we’ve finally made it to a place Sebastian looked up previosly to eat. You cannot call it a restaurant, really. From the outside it looked like a kiosk, but once inside there were a few tables and a lot of Greek people smoking and looking suspiciously our way. Their eyes were saying “how did they find this place and do they know what they are getting into?” I wasn’t so sure. But we sat down.
The “waiter” came, I guess it was the son of the family running this place, probably the one with the best english and told us “We have steak”. Allright, I though…but I don’t want steak. After a long pause and telepathic conversations with Sebastian I said “ok, we’ll take one steak for him, I don’t want steak, thank you.“ The guy looked at me with a slight disgust, then a smile “a greek salad for you at least?” Sure, I can handle that, I thought. Well, big mistake! The salad that arrived a few minutes later was 5 times bigger than any salad I’ve ever seen, followed by a plate of 7 steaks lying on a hill of french fries. Not to mention the whole loaf of bread they brought us. Even the beer was huge! We laughed, they laughed and we started to eat, sharing and trying to not look as shocked as we were about the amount of food they thought could fit into our bellies. We managed, it was delicious and we were too proud not to eat up, just to be shocked a final time, by the bill: It was 9 € in total. How.is.that.even.possible?
We needed to walk off those steaks and salad, so we headed towards Thissio and Gazi for a walk, some espressos and some digestives.
We spend our last night back in Exarchia, back in our favorite bar, back with our friends and rakomelo. That was one too many rakomelo shots. It gave us the chance (or forced us) to relax on our last day, sitting at some stairs up hill with our faces in the sun, chatting to our friend Ale and enjoying this crazy jungle Athens is in a very quiet way.
It was an amazing trip, we will never forget! Only 4,5 days but so many impressions and so much inspiration. Athens, be aware, you and your lovely people will see us back soon!