Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Living it up like the ancient Greeks

Athens felt a little like Spain to me: built up to be cute for tourists but happening, with a real pulse, and slightly less developed/cheaper than Western European countries. Greece in general seemed to have a lot of stray animals and a fair amount of abandoned construction projects --perhaps the after effects of a once much healthier tourism-fueled economy. It also progresses very quickly from the cute, friendly, consumer-driven tourist center of Athens to the grittier, grumpier, no-English-spoken "suburbs"--our trips to and from Athens' industrial port city of Pireas were a little less than picturesque. The Athenian transportation system leaves a little to be desired as well. The city's entire bus and metro system was shut down on the day we arrived, and when we returned the metro was running but with several stops closed, making it necessary to use a replacement bus service for part of the line. When we tried to get to the airport the next day the end stretch of the line was out of service, so we again had to rely on a taxi. Irritating, but at least it puts my annoyance with Parisian train strikes into perspective (train systems here are required by law to maintain minimum service, so it's never entirely impossible to get where you need to go).

Here's the view of the hilltop Acropolis from our hostel balcony. We got a private room and bathroom, kitchenette and sweet balcony for 25 euros a night each. Definitely the best value hostel I've ever stayed in:
Laura, enjoying said balcony after taking a car to a rickety island bus to a ferry to a train to a line replacement bus to another train to get there (ah, disfunctional Greek public transportation):
Big communist protest group we ran into while walking around. We never managed to figure out exactly what they were protesting, but considering the current financial crisis I'd say the government's handling of the country's finances is a good bet:
Cool graffiti found halfway up the Acropolis hill:The cool thing about Athens is that it's a bustling, modern city, but then everywhere you turn you see remnants of something from the 5th century. Wild. There was even an underground monument area in the middle of Monastiraki plaza, where you could look through glass as you walked across to see the stone foundations of ancient houses around a long since dried river.

Monastiraki plaza at night (you can just see the Acropolis lit up in the background):
We splurged on a nice dinner for our last night, being sure to get our fill of stuffed vine leaves, feta, zucchini balls, lamb, moussaka and a honey-cake dessert called galactobourico. After heading back to the hostel we enjoyed a night view of the Acropolis over 3-euro pints of Mythos (Greece's go-to cheap beer) at our hostel's rooftop bar:

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