May 112009
 

Athens made me sad.  It was once this most amazing city, the home of democracy, philosophy and the arts.  The Athenians built the Acropolis and the Agora, images that loomed large in my imagination, after studying Ancient Greece in high school and university.

The Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens

The Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens

Sadly, modern Athens is cramped, dirty and, sorry to say, ugly.  It’s only saving grace is the ruins, and if it didn’t have those, I can’t imagine why anyone would visit.

Theatre of Dionysos, Acropolis grounds, Athens

Theatre of Dionysos, Acropolis grounds, Athens

Unfortunately as well, the scaffolding curse struck again – this time the Acropolis.  And the trip up to the Acropolis is made more unpleasant by the hundreds of hawkers (mainly Indian) following you trying to sell you water, asian umbrellas and tomato toys that go splat.  Just what we’ve always wanted.

I will say this in Athens’ favour.  The Metro stations are clean and efficient, and they have cool exhibits on the walls, showing the levels of the ancient roads and the drains.

The well preserved Temple of Hephaestus, Ancient Agora, Athens

The well preserved Temple of Hephaestus, Ancient Agora, Athens

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May 092009
 

We had some fantastic food while we were in Greece.  In fact, we enjoyed one restaurant in Santorini so much we went back 3 times!  The third time, we got free lemon tart – delicious!  If you’re ever in Santorini (which I highly recommend!) try Aktaion in Firostefani.

Aktaion Restaurant - the best!

Aktaion Restaurant - the best!

I’ve always been a fan of Greek salads, and the ones in Greece, obviously, are the best.  A thick hunk of marinated feta perched atop kalamata olives, cucumber, fantastic tomatoes, green capsicum and salad onions, generously drizzled with olive oil.

Greek salad

Greek salad

We tried some of the regional specialties as well, including fava bean balls, Santorini salad (fish instead of feta), zucchini pie, moussaka, omelette and deep fried fava, tomato, mint and onion fritters.  Julian was even brave enough to try Greek coffee, which apparently has the texture of dirt or sand…

Deep fried tomato (with fava, mint and onion)

Deep fried tomato (with fava, mint and onion)

Santorini salad (topped with fish)

Santorini salad (topped with fish)

Fava balls (with smoked mackerel)

Fava balls (with smoked mackerel)

Sea Bream

Sea Bream

From here, I’m hoping our culinary experience will improve even more – we’re off to Rome today!

Greek coffee

Greek coffee

May 092009
 
Church at Perissa Beach

Church at Perissa Beach

Leaving the wet weather behind in Berlin, we flew to the volcanic island of Santorini in the Cylades, Greece.  The caldera that makes for the spectacular view was formed by a major eruption 3,600 years ago.  We stayed in Firostefani, 15 minutes walk north of the main town Fira.  A good choice as Fira gets considerably busy because of the cruise ships arriving in the caldera at night and releasing hundreds of tourists into Fira (by donkey or cable car up the cliff) in the morning.

Our three days were spent wandering around, relaxing and eating (see later post).  The weather was sunny, the sunsets beautiful and the food fresh.  A little cold to swim in the clear waters yet.

The path to Oia

The path to Oia

Day two saw us hike from Firostefani to Oia, 2.5 hours  north.  We managed with the average directions that took us, more or less, along the ridge of the island, through Oia and finally down a couple of hundred steps to a small fishing ‘village’ in Ammoudi Bay for a fresh seafood dinner.  The walk itself followed a path that traversed black, white and red volcanic rocks and was filled with wildflowers as well as magnificent views of the towns and caldera.

Ammoudi Bay, bottom of the steps from Oia

Ammoudi Bay, bottom of the steps from Oia

Sunset (20:05) at Oia

Sunset (20:05) at Oia

Happy Mothers’ Day, mums! xxxx

Stay tuned for our Greek food post, and the 100s of photos from Santorini!!!