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This post is dedicated to each of you who love “the City”, as a concept as a scent. There are a lot of differences among the old cities of this world, but still they have something in common. It;s their long history which is written by by their citizens dreams for a better life through out the centuries. That’s why I love old cities.
There’s an expression in Greek “city child”. I definitely am a “city child”. I am not sure what’s the definition everyone else gives to this expression.
Being a “city child” doesn’t mean I cannot live out of the city premisses. I sometimes hear other people say that they “go crazy” when they leave the city even for only a couple of days.
No that’s not me my friends! I need to leave the city from time to time and I usually feel “blue” when I come back.
But my city is my love, my personal benchmark!
All my childhood memories are here, my first scents. My mischiefs, the games we played with friends in the neighborhood, my 3 parents, my boyfriends. All those things that made ME!
Of course there are lots of memories from my “country hometown”, Epirus. But no matter how much I love this place it’s not my benchmark!
It’s not Athens.
It’s funny because I very often nag abou the city’s reality. I often say that I want to live in a place where birds are singing and cars are magically gone! I have a thing for noise, can’t stand it!
Deep down inside though,I know I need my city fix.
If life was “fare” i would have been an “earner” with a couple of off shore companies (no taxes paid). i would live in one house during week days and in another one on weekends. On short holidays I’d fly to Rome or San Sebastian! Yeah!!!
Well friends, ow that I woke up and saw my bank account, I think I ‘ll take you to a simple athenian walk! A walk in the city i love and stand for it with all my heart!
I do feel…cosmopolitan. I have never felt lost or scared in any city I have visited up to now. New York is the only exeption. For many different reasons I was feeling awkward, but that was just for the first night.
We, Athenians, have debunked our city. I must remind us all, that even at this moment, Athens is a “life time destination” for millions of people on this planet.
So, let’s take my favorite walk in the city of wisdom and democracy
Tram station “Plateia” (means square in Greek) at Nea Smyrni.
I take the tram and I need almost 20 min to arrive at Syndagma.
I get off and cross the street. I ‘m there!
The National Garden
I enter the garden from av. Amalias (there are five more entries to the garden-not all of them in use). I admire the sundial and walk to the inner garden. There is a zoo in there, which I have many times visited with my children in the past. In fact, I don’t enjoy this zoo much. It’s neglected and makes me feel sad . Cant’ say it’s as a european capital city zoo shoul look like. No need to spend time there. Just pass by and move on to the rest of the garden.
It feels nice to get lost in the national garden. To wander around as if if you’re looking to find the meaning of life among its mystical alleys, its old benches and its dirty little lakes!
Walking in Zappeio feels like you are back in 19th century. It’s like I walk around waiting for the coachman to pick me up and take me to my house in Mets (one of the oldest quarters of Athens).
And then…I woke up again!
But anyway you get the point. That’s the feeling in Zappeio. If you think about it, it’s a great success for an architect to build something that can radiate the exact feeling captured in the first place through out the centuries!
Spaciousness, comfort and easy in the center of the city. That’s what you get in Zappeio. When you feel thisrsty or tired, there is always “Aigli” (means prestige in Greek).
“She” (it’s a coffee-restaurant-bar) was born in 1904, in the period of Balkan Wars. Athens was in turmoil. In 1910 the “cinema Aigli” αlso begun to operate.
Now, that’s enough with Athens’ belle-epoque . It’s time to leave Zappeio. On the exit from Amalias av., almost across the street (a bit on the left) you see a building of the early 1900 with bullet halls on the front. The bullet halls are kept as a reminder of the beginning of the latest Greek civil war in December 1944-January 1945.
I move on to Syntagma Square (means constitution in Greek). There is the old Palace, on your right hand, that hosts now the Hellenic Parliament. Perhaps, it’s a sightseeing very trivial, but for me it’s always a pleasure to look at this beautiful building. I also love to see the Change of the Guards. This reminds me of all the troubles we were trying to cause the poor soldiers when we were teenagers.
Evzones – Syntagma Square
Hotel “La Grande Bretagne”. Magnificent!
∗ all photos of GB are borrowed from their official site
I could never get this thing with the name of the hotel. British content with French words???????? Owned in 1866 by a Greek hotelier from Epirus and a Greek cook!
Well, I searched the story and now I share it with you. Sharing makes knowledge fun!
There was a hotelier named Savas Kentros, who owned since 1866 a hotel a bit further down the road, at str. Stadiou. The hotel was called “Great Britain”.
Same period there was a Greek cook studying and working in Paris, supported by the palace people. his name was Efstathios Lampsas. He returned to Athens with his French wife in 1878, funded with an astronomic amount of money by two extremely rich men. The believed in his talent and sponsored him.
Kentros and Lampsas met and decided to become partners. They moved the hotel to the building it is now, renovated it and in a while they bought it. They renamed it after Lamsas French wife will “La Grande Bretagne”. For many decades the hotel was the best hotel of all Southeast Europe.
Back to the future! If you visit Athens, the roof garden of this hotel promises the greatest view to all the places I ‘ve been referring to. Take your cocktail there, or a coffee. It’s not cheep my friend. So, If you’re in a budget, I’d suggest you skip this. There are other hotel roof gardens with amazing view, subject of another post.
If you visit Athens in cold weather (highly unlikely) and it’s impossible to visit the roof garden, then go for the afternoon tea in the Winter Garden. It’s very very expensive: 32 euros for tea and all the delicious side-dishes and gets up to 41 euros if you want to add a glass of champaign.
∗ the min average wage in Greece 2018 is almost 590 euros per month
Here’s the e-shop of the hotel in case you want to buy a gift to a friend!
Leaving the hotel area, I move on to the end of Syntagma Square. There is the beginning of 4 of my favorite and “must visit” streets in Athens. I definately suggest you walk these streets if you want to have a taste of the city!
Mitropoleos, Ermou, Karageorgi Servias and Kolokotroni a bit further on the right.
Today I will choose Ermou because this way my walk will end to my favorite Coffee place at Ermou 111. It’s a traditional coffee shop owned by my childhood friend Greta Pavlidou. I am very emotional with this place!
Ermou is full of beautiful corners and a shopping paradise. Also the narrow alleys that cross Ermou promise the visitor with all kinds af gems. Walk them through, they’re fun!
Don’t forget to buy a “koulouri” with sesame at the beginning of Ermou.
Almost halfway down the street you stumble upon Kapnikarea Church. Very unique, half of it in the ground and surprisingly well preserved! It’s usually full of tourists. Visit the church,it’s worth it!
In a while the street starts becoming more “active” and cars show up. That means you are approaching Athenas street and…
If you look on your left handside you see Plaka and the Parthenon saying hallo! there is also the church that used to belong to a monastery. That’s why the place is named Monastiraki.
There is also the old train station (still in use of course) which is very beautiful in my eyes. The hole view from Monastiraki square is one of a kind! I’ve seen it dozens of times and still love it!
The best time of the day to see this view is when the sun begins to set.
I continue to the south and arrive at the coffee shop “111”. I sit outside the shop to have touch with all the streets around it. On the week days you can see the city’s “working habits”. The place is full of working people, tourists also. I love to see the crow walking up and down.
At night the “111” is full of young people and perfect if you want to hear traditional music and drink ouzo with a bite.
Some years ago, I’d move on to Theseio train station, at the south end of Ermou, get the train back to Kalithea and from to Nea Smyrni . Now, I take my way back home from Mitropoleos Street. I pass by the Metropolitan church of Athens. If I am hungry, I turn right at Pentelis’ street and eat the best souvlaki in Athens at “Kostas”. Some more steps and here I am at the tram’s starting point.
This is the end of my most favorite walk in Athens. The one that makes me feel relaxed, full and happy.
Do you have any favorite walk in your city? Maybe in Athens? Which are the places that relax you in your city? Share it with me, us!