When we were originally planning our visit to Athens, my friends and I had decided to take up our hostel, City Circus, on one of their day trips outside the city. In particular, we wanted to do the one to Delphi. The price wasn’t too bad and I desperately wanted to see as many ancient sites as possible. Then we realised that Delphi is a three hour drive from the city and we weren’t sure how much time we’d actually get in Delphi itself. It would be cheaper to do it ourselves and we’d also be able to work to our own timeframe but, the more we thought about it, the more we figured we should stay in Athens. We were only there for a few days after all and there was so much still to see that we would almost certainly run out of time to see everything we wanted to, if we spent a day elsewhere.
So, on our third day in Athens, after another City Circus breakfast, instead of heading to the bus station we made our way along our now regular route through the tourist shop lined streets, passed a couple of other shops selling church supplies, to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, next to Hadrian’s Arch.
On the way, we stopped off at a fresh fruit juice shop, just off Monastiraki square. They were just opening their shutters as we walked by and so we waited paitently for a few moments for them to finish soeting themselves out. It was excellent timing. The juices were stuffed full of fruits and only a few euros. For €2.50 I got an orange and pomegranate juice. It was quite sour but I do like that kind of thing.
Soon we reached the site of the temple. There are only a few columns still remaining of the once grand temple (one of which had fallen over) but they are some really beautiful columns, topped with elaborate cornices. We had seen the columns from a distance earlier in our trip but it was definitely worth getting up close to them.
We stopped for some photos but, despite how much I liked the place, this was probably our quickest visit to an archeological site, purely because of the small size of the place.
Our next stop was the Roman Agora, taking a route past the Monument of Lysicrates. This was the site of the Tower of the Winds but it was having some work done to it and so covered in, not only scaffolding, but sheeting as well so unfortunately it was completely obscured.
I don’t think The Flatmate was as fussed about going to this agora. It was much smaller than the Ancient Agora of Athens and we had already seen it, basically in its entirety, from the road above. Still I wanted to wander around ever inch of ancient Athens that I could so I insisted we visited (particularly because we had entry already included in our Acropolis ticket) and it was worth it. The Flatmate even said so. Even without the Tower of the Winds, there was a gatewayand multiple columns for us to take photos of.
Our last archeological stop of the day was Hadrian’s Library, next to Monastiraki square. This looked like it would have been a pretty impressive library, with several columns, lots of marble and even some surviving bits of mosaics on display. This was another beautiful site which didn’t take us too long to explore and soon we were done and ready for lunch.
We went back to our Plaka hillside from the day before, close to the Roman agora, and were approached by a guy from a restaurant with a rooftop area. Since it was only about midday by then it was still quite early for food and, at first, we had the roof entirely to ourselves. This rooftop experience made up for the previous night’s disappointment.
We decided to order a few mezze dishes to share and, since The Uni Friend is veggie, we went for some bread and tzatziki, stuffed vine leaves and fried zucchini. The tzatziki was probably the best tzatziki I have ever had. It was so yum. I must admit, stuffed vine leaves are not really my thing and these ones didn’t change my mind. Unusually, on this occasion, they came in a sauce and packed with meat, which we did not expect as generally they are just stuffed with rice. Well at least they are in our combined experiences. My friends weren’t too fussed about the fried zucchini either but I loved them. We got a massive portion and it was quite salty but I still managed to eat the majority of it myself!
We were able to get onto the free wifi in the restaurant and used it to figure out how to get to our next destination – the National Archeological Museum, which our free walking tour guide had said was amazing. It looked quite far away but the directions said it was only at 25 minute walk. We could totally manage that and so we loaded the route onto Google Maps.
The walk took us through several parts of Athens that we had not yet discovered and it was interesting to see the different dynamic as we passed through the less touristy parts of the city. One thing that didn’t change though was the number of random archeological sites that were littered along the sides of the road.
That is a massive perk to walking around Athens instead of getting the metro. You are almost guaranteed to find something old because the old stuff is everywhere. We were told that the city actually has a problem with plumbing because the pipes have to dodge so many archeological sites found below the ground. I don’t know if that is 100% true but you can’t put toilet paper down the toilets in Athens so there is obviously an issue for some reason or another.
Finally, after walking through what looked like people giving out protest information (not that I could say at all what actually was going on), we made it to the Archeological Museum. The museum closed at 4pm, so by the time we arrived we only had a couple of hours to see everything. That wasn’t a problem for me. By this point, my feet were hurting and I was really quite tired. I wasn’t exactly in the best state to take in a lot of information.
We started out in the pre-historic sections, where many artefacts from places like Mycenae were on display. These were mainly items found in burial sites and included the so-called Death Mask of Agamemnon and items supposedly from Clytemnestra’s grave. Then we moved on to items from Ancient Egypt, an era I am equally fascinated in, and then we went to see the collection of vases, of which there were a lot. And I mean a lot. You could probably spend a day examining all the decorations and reading the adjoining placards. As it was, I looked at a select few and left it at that. The exhibition also contained a couple of ancient skeletons and information about the illnesses and defects they had which researchers have been able to fathom. That was pretty interesting.
Lastly we wandered around the sculpture collection. Again, there were a lot of these. I didn’t recognise quite as many as I did in the Acropolis Museum, apart from the bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon, and I really didn’t have the energy to read all the information on display anyway. I know this was a bit of a waste but instead I just cast a glance over as much as I could, stopping at anything that stood out. It was getting to siesta time after all.
The Flatmate had already gone to sit out in the sun by the time The Uni Friend and I were done, by which point the museum was about to close. We joined her and regained a bit of energy for the walk back. This time, our route to the hostel took us through quite a dodgy feeling part of the city and we started to feel uneasy. Thankfully, there were three of us and it was still light so we just kept our heads down and hurried through the crowds of people millimg around on the pathways.
Finally, we turned a corner and found our hostel. It was bizarre that, if you turned right out of our hostel, you could find loads of quirky bars, heaving with people, but if you turned left you were in a part of the city you quickly wanted to get out of. The hostel itself felt a world away from that place.
Once in our room, I crawled into my bunkbed but spent my time Instagram-ing rather than siesta-ing. From what we had seen, people in Greece tend to eat dinner later than we do in England and we had been pushing dinner back until 8.30ish, after we’d had a nap and places were less empty. On this occasion, however, I was starving and so pushed for an earlier dinner.
We had decided to try the restaurant adjoining our hostel called Zampano. It did occur to me that perhaps it wouldn’t be as good as a restaurant which the locals might choose to go to but we found a few reviews online for the place, all of which were very positive. Besides, it was super close and had a deal on for all City Circus stayers: salad, appetizer, main course and either a glass of wine or beer for €14.95. That was more than I’d paid for dinner so far but I only ever ordered one course. You can’t argue with that much food for that price.
The deal started from 7pm so as soon as the clock hit that time, we were down there. There was one table set up for City Circus residents when we arrived so that’s where we were seated. We were the only people in the restaurant at that time and we were served pretty quickly. We had a set menu to order from and I went for a Greek salad (I know I’d already had one but the other option was pomegranate and rocket. I’m not a rocket person and I’d had my fill of pomegranates already that day), followed by meatballs and then slow cooked beef with some rice-esque accompaniment.
My Greek salad was delicious. On this occasion, it was served with some barley rusks bread, making it more filling and giving more textures and flavour. I preferred it this way. My meatballs were also tasty. I had been craving meatballs and tomato sauce (something I’d had when I visited the Greek island of Paxos years before. I don’t know what they did to them but Greek meatballs were delicious) but these came with onions, yoghurt and some kind of flatbread instead. That turned out not to be an issue, the combination went very well.
Where dinner fell a bit flat was the main course. Considering how long slow-cooked beef is cooked for, this had a surprising lack of flavour. The creamy, ricey stuff (I forget exactly what it was) didn’t taste of much either, making the whole thing sadly flavourless. My friends ordered sardines with some kind of bean puree and were equally not impressed. That was a shame but at least two out of three courses were good, as was the white wine, and we couldn’t argue with the price.
Awkwardly, it turned out that all City Circus visitors had to be seated at the same table (although one guy was seated separately for some reason). As we started to eat, a girl was sat with us but didn’t say anything. Then another girl was seated with us, after we heard her try and get a table elsewhere. In hindsight, I should have made more effort but we all rather kept to ourselves. I understand why that policy would be necessary on a busy Friday or Saturday night, when they would need the space, but at that time on a Sunday evening there were only a few other patrons, apart from our table with three different parties on it. There also seemed to be several waiters around so it didn’t really seem necessary for us to be crowded together but there you go.
Unsurprisingly, after dinner, we went back in the direction of Plaka and the tourist streets, heading back to Coco’s gelato shop. We wanted more of that stuff before we had to leave Athens. On this occasion, I decided to go for the chocolate dipped cone (I’m not much of a dark chocolate person anyway) and only went for one scoop, this time of white chocolate. It was a rich flavour but not overbearingly sweet, which I had feared it might be. I love white chocolate.
We wandered for a while looking for a bench to sit on and finally found one where we could finish off our ice creams. Despite it being late, it was still warm and we were not looking forward to returning to rainy and cold England the next day.
Once we’d finished, we popped back into Brettos bar for a final drink. That hadn’t been the plan but when we passed it we noticed that it wasn’t as busy as our Friday night visit and we could actually get a seat inside. We managed to find a nicer brand of white wine this time and so we had a drink whilst indulging in a bit of people watching, as we noticed other visitors making the most of the photo opportunities the place had to offer. It was the perfect chilled last night.