Athens is a city of history like no other. Its ruins have stood in place for thousands of years, and its traditions are many. Yet, modern buildings and contemporary culture are growing to blend the new with the old. All of it makes for an exciting travel experience and a beautiful city to explore.
When I first arrived in Athens, I dropped my stuff off at the hostel. Then I headed to Smak, a great place for pizza or peinirli. Peinirli comes from the Turkish word “peynir” for cheese, and likely came to Greece a hundred years ago as their cultures mingled. Basically, it’s a boat made out of pizza dough and filled with cheese among other yummy ingredients. I got the tartufo peinirli, which had portobello mushrooms, white truffle cream, and baby spinach. It was as scrumptious as it looked.
Next I took a stroll through Plaka and Anafiotika, an ancient neighborhood with narrow alleys and old stairways. While some areas maintain that old feel, I was surprised to see that much of the neighborhood is covered in graffiti. Granted, graffiti is incredibly common in Athens, and the graffiti there was nice. But, personally, I thought it ruined the experience. Walking through the neighborhood could have and should have been like walking through a place out of time.
Regardless, I found my way to the Acropolis. As a student, I got in free, so bring your student ID card if you have one. Seeing the Acropolis is an absolute must if you’re in Athens. It’s a bit of a hike to get all the way to the top, but along the way you’ll find many remnants of Ancient Greece. There are also several signs to inform what each place is and what it was used for, making it both an enjoyable and educational experience.
Of course, everyone’s favorite part of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, Athena’s temple. Bear in mind there is some scaffolding, but the structure is thousands of years old. What did you expect? Greece is trying to keep it all together.
After some stunning views, I headed back down the mountain to relax at my hostel. Not long after I got dinner. Unbeknownst to me, Greeks like to eat late. 9pm is totally normal for them, so when I got dinner at 7:30pm, the restaurant was a little empty.
Regardless, Scala Vinoteca always promises a wonderful evening. The restaurant is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. But the interior is both sleek and cozy. The staff is attentive and professional. The wine list is impressive, and the food is elegant and modern.
A complimentary dish of fried risotto balls and some sort of delicate cracker were provided. The waiter mumbled so I didn’t hear what it actually was, so you’ll have to forgive me. My only complaint: I wanted more. Of course, the dish was meant to whet my appetite, but it was simply yummy.
Next I had langoustine croquettes topped with caviar. They had a perfect, crunchy exterior and a decadent inside. It was balanced, not too fishy or cheesy. The dish also came with a box of black rocks. Two of the rocks were actually local cheese disguised as rocks. They made me search through the box to find them. Why? I’m not really sure, but the cheese tasted good, so what do I care?
For me entree, I had homemade Greek pasta with cad and fava beans. As the foam might suggest, the dish was light. The cod’s flavor was not overpowering. Each ingredient received its own time to shine. Additionally, the portion was the perfect amount to leave me satisfied, but still ready for dessert.
So for dessert, I decided on an almond gateau with sour cherry ice cream. They also paired the dish with a muscat. Accented by the crunch of crushed almonds, the gateau was light and creamy as mousse. Meanwhile, the ice cream provided a bright tang, and the muscat coated my tongue in the honeyed taste of sun-dried grapes. A perfect end to my evening.
The next morning I went to the National Archaeological Museum. Athens has no shortage of history, so there were plenty of statues and artifacts. It’s a true wonder to see such ancient treasures. However, the whole city is full of museums and ruins with such history. You might get tired out, so don’t force yourself to do too much.
I next stopped at Vegan Beats for lunch. As the name suggests, Vegan Beats is a hip restaurant that serves healthy, vegan food. But don’t let that scare you off. Their food is packed with flavor, only this time you won’t feel bad about eating it. I had a lahmajoun tortilla. Lahmajoun is a thin dough filled with minced vegetables, herbs, and spices such as cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and cinnamon. Delicious! Vegan Beats also offers a variety of lemonades to quench your thirst. I had a ginger lemonade. It didn’t last long.
With my belly full, I went to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I don’t like to be negative, but I was a little let down by the temple. To be honest, it’s not much of a temple. It’s just a handful of columns, some standing, others collapsed. Although the columns were really big and really old, there’s not much to look at. For students, the temple was free to see, but everyone else had to pay 6 euros. In my opinion, it’s kinda a waste.
On my way back to my hostel, I took a walk through the National Garden. The garden had plenty of intimate paths in the shade of thick, green trees. There was even a little pond with tons of turtles.
Tired from the heat and hours of walking, I stopped at a local tavern for wine and pasta. Then I called it a night. The next day I had my sights on Santorini.