24h in Athens; a city that is more than a city.
Whoever said heaven is a place on earth, probably had Greece in mind. My phone tracker says I've already visited 12% of the world, a high percentage someone would think considering how big the world is, yet I found no place like Greece, nowhere else before! There is nothing so special about Athens you would say; besides the Acropolis. But most likely you would be wrong. Athens is anarchy and democracy all at once. It is Tension!
There is no simple way to put it down to words. One cannot describe the feeling of walking down the streets of Athens city centre from Omonoia Square, to Monastiraki, to the Acropolis Hill. A capital that consists part of a glorious history, the birthplace of civilisation and of democracy, where some of the wiser men on earth used to stay up all night in symposiums, and following a couple of drinks established the basis of philosophy as we know it today. A few thousands years later, we still speak about Gods and semi-Gods, hence philosophers, and we still stay awake at nights, seeking for the meaning of things in the bottom of our whiskey glasses. Athens teaches you to fall in love with life and people over and over again. This city is like a colourful canvas of music playing on the loop, with melodies awakening a sweet nostalgia, emerging from powerful eras of its glorious past. Time stops and you dance with the city. As Plato puts it in his 'Symposium':
'According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves. [...] Love is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.'
So back to the 21st century. We recently visited Cyprus for a wedding and decided to do a quick 2 days stop to Athens to visit friends and family. I was longing for this trip for so long. There is only a certain amount of things one can do in a day's time, still we tried to take full advantage of the first day and do as much as we could. And in an instant Athens reminded me of all the things I have been missing for the past 6 years, of all the reasons I never wanted to leave this place at the first place.
Starting the day with a powerful brunch at Penny Lane Comfort Food Cafe in Chalandri can actually make your day. This new place in a semi industrial style and a hint of funky colourful interiors is simply delicious! But first thing first, it's about time for me to collect my official diploma in print! After about 8 years, I literally decided to go back to uni and pick up whatever was left from me there. Better late than ever is what they say, isn't it! So here I am, walking down the same corridors and revisiting old memories. How intense!
Making our way towards Aiolou street and Folk. hotel for a coffee, we are passing through some of the most iconic pedestrianised streets of Athens. Chaos, noise pollution, traffic, the smell of amazing goodies, crazy drivers, yellow taxis, another version of NY city! Carlos was making comments like: 'I literally have never seen any other city like Athens, before! There is something so different in this place. Something unique. I don't know if it's good or bad, but it's definitely unique. I could live here!' A city that enchanted Carlos! That is a first.
Following a long coffee at folk. with this two Greek goddesses Eleni and Eleni and a quick souvlaki on the go, we made our way towards Monastiraki and the narrow picturesque streets climbing the hill of Acropolis. Catching up with these two was priceless, and one of the things that I have missed the most during my time in the UK. Finding people that really get you and love you unconditionally no matter the distance, is one of the most expensive things you cannot buy. And the walk through this magical city continues. Shops, hundreds of local boutiques, art galleries, thousands of people, a million birds, the warmest weather, and this smell that can trim your bones; the souvlaki smell. If you haven't tried it yet, you don't know what you have been missing your whole life!
For various reasons and under different circumstances, Athens was torn down and was rebuilt multiple times. Thus, you can see traces of the past all over the city. Building on this, Bernard Tschumi designed the new Acropolis Museum, in respect with the historical importance of the archaeological remains and the ancient findings on site, a landmark of contemporary architecture, yet a non-monumental building that puts under the spotlight the museum artefacts instead of the building itself.
It's about 5 PM and we start making our way back to Monastiraki Square to catch some of the most breathtaking views of the Acropolis hill from the 360 Degrees Rooftop Bar during sunset time. A glass of red wine and the time stops. On the background you listen to retro music. The sun goes down and the city lights on! And at this time of the day, the city gets more alive than ever! A great sense of nostalgia. We soon decide that it's time for dinner. We have already spent most of the day eating and drinking on repeat. We walk along Plaka streets and choose a traditional tavern with live orchestra playing traditional greek repertoire. Delicious food once more, and overlooking the 13 cats that were surrounding us during our time there, we had a pretty much awesome closure of a wonderful day!
Instead of an epilogue, I am closing with another legend that says it all:
'The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.'
__Homer, The Iliad