Those who have been following me for a while know everything about my relationship with Greece.
First I have loved it by a metonymy, then I have loved it because of its corners soaked of μέλι and full of sesame seeds. I have also hated it; when the honey was over I could feel its corners hitting every bit of my body. Then I have loved it again, because I realized that its star sign is Gemini or maybe Pisces; Athens is take it or leave it.
Yet, Athens is not a sweet city. According to its star sign it should be the opposite, that is to say bitter. But in this case bitter is not the opposite of sweet.
γλυκύπικρον, bittersweet. It was Eros, not Athens.
Athens is sugar for those who are carefree and wild, but it is poison for those who don’t respect it.
Athens doesn’t want to be understood, just like Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim; Athens doesn’t care about what people say. It just wants to be left alone.
Two years later I finally came back to say hi to my favorite city.
As soon as I got off the plane I knew exactly where to go, just as if I was back home. Everything felt peaceful and smooth; I could hear the sound of my steps walking on the Greek soil as I was making my way to the train station. I could feel my relationship with this country getting stronger and stronger. At the end of the day I never really argued with Greece.
I smiled at every person and at everything I met along my way.
As soon as I landed in Athens I smiled at everyone and everyone smiled at me. I managed to keep this feeling of peace alive until I got on the top of Mount Lycabettus; that peak and I have some unfinished business.
I felt excited all the way from the airport to my home in Koukaki. The city is always so warm, egocentric and nostalgic. Just like a queen who chooses to wear a crown that doesn’t shine.
You know that you are in Athens because you see people riding their bike without a helmet as well as people smoking into cafes and bars.
This is Athens.
I made my first stop at Yubaba; a cafe characterized by a lovely vintage soul where customers are still allowed to smoke inside – I hate it! – and where food is so tasty and so cheap at the same time – I got my bill inside the mouth of a dinosaur toy.
Go there if you have watched Spirited Away, if you are modern Peter Pan and if you feel like ringing the service bell to call the waitress.
Ergon, located around Syntagma square, is less cheap and more fancy, but it is definitely worth a visit. I went there for dinner and I stuffed my belly with zucchini and feta balls with tzatziki, cheese pie, grilled calamari, and tons of bread with olive oil. Twenty euro very well invested.
If you feel like buying some good products to take back home with you, this is the right place.
I arrived in town at 5pm, so I decided to go sightseeing on the very next day and to spend the night around bars and cafes. I went straight to The Trap, located in Syntagma square, to try one of the amazing cocktails prepared by Yiannis Samaras, a creative and eclectic bartender I have met on a party hosted by Campari.
The Trap is a cool place. Every detail matters, and everything looks organically cool. You can choose your cocktail from a cocktail book, but you can still ask the bartender to make something special for you. The cocktail book includes some other tips like nice cafes and bars around Athens.
Nice music and great drinks; you can’t miss this place.
On the very next day I had some breakfast at Bel Ray Bar, which reminded me of Otto Cafe here in Milan. I walked all the way from Koulaki to Acropolis in order to get to Anafiotika, one of the most interesting areas of the city. You will feel like being on an island.
Of course I have spent about an hour taking pics in front of an old building full of street cats. I needed some good shots for my The Nostalgic Traveller.
Then I walked all the way to Monastiraki flea market, where I found myself surrounded by old cars full of knick-knacks of all kinds.
I had a flashback that took me back to Aourir, the banana village that I have recently visited in Morocco.
You can find whatever you want at the Monastiraki Sunday market, from old typing machines to tin boxes and old chairs.
After the market I walked all the way to Kolonaki. Athens is such a dynamic city and again, I felt like being in a completely different world. Monastiraki is an old lady with massy hair wearing slippers and her old, faded black dress, while Kolonaki is an elegant κυρία who loves talking quietly, wearing design clothes and sipping coffe in some fancy restaurant.
And now we are getting to the core of the story. The Mount Lycabettus has always fascinated me, especially at night time. So I decided to hike all the way up – of corse I had a short break to enjoy some Greek yogurt at the bar. But then, Oh My! The view of the city is just incredible.
Every time I climb up to the top of the mountain I feel like facing a Divine Judgment; I climb, I take a break, I push myself, and then I start climbing again. Isn’t it was life is all about?
As soon as I reach the peak, here comes the lady showing off in front of my eyes. Three episodes ago she was swimming into an ocean of pearls, then she was assaulted by Nero; it was night time and it felt like the city would burst any moment. And again, this very last time my heart skipped a beat. I felt overwhelmed by its beauty even if I knew that Athens wasn’t going to burst. But something always happens, and I still have to figure out what really happens when I am up there.
The peace of the sunset, those faded colors embracing all the houses scattered all over. I felt a premonition of discomfort. Beauty can make you feel uncomfortable, can’t it?
Even if Athens is not a “typical beauty”; it is not harmonious, it is not tidy. It doesn’t spend hours in front of the mirror trying to look pretty.
I opened my eyes a couple of times, I smiled and I breathed a sight of relief; that feeling of panic reassured me. Strong women can be scary, but they know what they want.
My second day ended with a dinner at Fabrica tou Efrosinou: nice design, vintage vibes, delicious food but a little bit pricey.
This time I didn’t say “goodbye” to Athens. I said “I’ll see you soon”. I got my islands, my island is waiting for me. I will be back.