Greece, Athens

 In Honeymoon Planning
Yia Sou fi le mous  (Hello my friends in Hellenic Greek) and welcome to Athens!  In addition to being the capital and largest city in Greece, Athens is known as the cradle of western civilization and the birthplace of democracy.
The home of Socrates, Plato & Aristotle, Athens was also the site of the first Olympic games.  Located on the central Attica plain, Athens is surrounded by four major mountains.
The most famous feature of Athens is the Acropolis.  Acropolis is defined as a city on the edge that is usually elevated and easily defended.  The Acropolis is the highest elevation in Athens and overlooks the Aegean Sea. It was a vital part of the city’s defense against the Spartans during the Peloponnesian war.  This was where the Athenians decided to build their most impressive monument, The Parthenon.
The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena.  Built in the 5th century BC, the current edition of the Parthenon was a replacement for the original that was burned to the ground by the Persians in 480 BC.  Today it still stands as one of the most recognized monuments in the world and reminds us of the height of Athenian democracy and culture.  Today a trip to the Acropolis will run you about 20 Euros for a day pass.  There is an impressive museum of Greek artifacts and history below the Parthenon.  The views from the top are absolutely brilliant.  You can see for miles across the Aegean from the summit.
The walk to the top takes about a half hour and the entire Acropolis can be seen in under a day.  After a vigorous day of hiking, Cassandra and I had built up quite a thirst.  Our descent through the foothills led us to Plaka.  Plaka is the fashionable eating & shopping district at the base of the Acropolis.  We selected a restaurant (I cannot pronounce or say the name) and table with views of the Parthenon.  Diving headfirst into Greek culture,  we started off with a jug of Ouzo.  Ouzo is an anise flavored spirit that originated in a 14th century monastary on Mount Athos.  Ouzo is traditionally mixed with water until it turns a cloudy white.  It is then served with ice in a small glass.  We found this this to be an amazingly delicious apertif!
Cass and I love Greek food and ordered some classics off the menu.  Our favorites from the trip were Spanikopita (spinach, feta cheese (sometimes in combination with ricotta cheese), onions or spring onions, egg and seasoning wrapped in phyllo pastry),  Moussaka (eggplant casserole – there are other variations besides eggplant, such as zucchini  or rice, but the eggplant version melitzanes moussaka is the most popular), Saganaki ( fried cheese- the word “saganaki” means a small cooking pan, and can be applied to many other foods) and Baklava (phyllo pastry layers filled with nuts and drenched in syrup).   I also quite enjoyed the Gyro (pronounced He-Roh) stands throughout the city.
After dinner, we spent hours wandering through the exotic shops of the Placa district.  Greece was actually one of the most pro Western countries we’ve ever visited. They genuinely love Americans (which is rare these days).  It seemed like every shop owner we spoke with had a cousin in the United States. They all seemed to be eager to visit America one day.
We were fortunate to experience true Greek hospitality during our stay.  Cassandra had a friend, Angelika, who she had worked with on the Carnival MS Inspiration cruise ship.  After their contract, they lived together for six weeks in the Greek Isles. Angie’s husband Panteli was able to pick us up at the Athens airport.  We stayed at their flat in Faliro.  They had a great location – a two-minute walk from the soccer stadium and the train station. The train station and underground (subway) was completely renovated in preparation for the 2004 Olympics.
It took less than 20 minutes to get from Faliro to downtown Athens.  Staying in the suburbs gave us some wonderful insight on everyday family life in Athens.
To get to Athens we caught an eight-hour flight from Washington to London.  From there it was only a two-hour flight into Athens.  Athens is six hours ahead of Ocean City. The Mediterranean climate is very temperate.  Summers are hot.  We visited twice (January and February).  It was about 45 degrees those months. We saw a few flakes of snow in February which is pretty rare in that part of the world.
The currency is the Euro.  The youth of Athens are fluent in English.  The middle agers speak enough to get by.  The Old Timers may know an English curse word or two – don’t expect a conversation.
For the most part, we got on fine and really enjoyed the pro western culture and hospitality.
Kali ni hta (Goodnight- Hellenic),
The Rox

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