A Short Stay in Athens
Copyright 1997 By Matt Barrett
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It's the long awaited moment that you have been saving for. The trip to Greece,
home of Homer, the Gods, Democracy, modern thought and a cast of characters too
numerous to list and many with names too difficult to pronounce. But as you make
your way through the airport and then to your hotel downtown there is an uneasy
feeling brewing inside. The traffic, the endless concrete of apartment buildings
is not what you expected. No men in skirts and pom-pommed shoes walking the
streets. No sign of Anthony Quinn. Just a big sprawling, congested, noisy,
chaotic, polluted city. You know that your island vacation awaits you but first
you must survive this final test...Athens.
Sounds awful right? Don't worry. Athens is a fun place. It just looks like hell
at first glance. You don't have to be counting the minutes until your flight to
Mykonos or back to America. You can have a great time in this city and actually
miss it when you return home. If this does not seem possible to you...trust me
and read on.
There are bargains to be found if a travel agent knows where to look for them or
wants to look for them.
Fran of Business and Vacation Travel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is also very
good. You can reach her at 1-800-638-6786
Let them know I sent you.
Andrea hates flying. I hate flying. Amarandi loves flying but her behavior on
planes make us hate it even more. If we are lucky she finds a little friend and
they terrorize the rest of the passengers and leave us alone at least for a
little while. Usually we are not so lucky. On one flight our neighbor yelled at
me for not controlling my child. On another flight, the people behind us got off
the full 747 at an unscheduled stop in Ireland and never came back. It's not
that she's a bad child it's just that she is wild and spontaneous and free and
there is nothing we can do about it. So if you happen to see us on your flight,
do yourself a favor and ask for seats on the other end of the plane and pray she
doesn't become friends with the child in the next row.
I'm not one of those people who is afraid of dying in a fiery mid-air collision
or a crash during take-off or landing. (Andrea is.) I just don't like being
cooped up in those tight little seats with nowhere to go but to the bathroom.
Usually on an Athens Flight the bathrooms are filled with people smoking
cigarettes and surrounded by people smoking too. It's like running the gauntlet
and when you finally breach the walls discovering the enemy has already been
inside and stunk up the place.
But the reason that flying is such a misadventure for us is because we always go
for the cheapest tickets. I know I would have no complaints flying First Class
on Swiss Air rather then Economy on Tower but I figure I can stand just about
anything for 10 hours. And once I get off the plane I have my whole vacation to
But it's not like I am not used to horrible flights. In my youth I was an expert
at tracking down the cheapest fare, no matter how many hoops I had to jump
through to reach my destination. I used to fly AirHitch out of NY. They buy
left-over seats on chartered flights and sell them for $169. The thing is you
are not positive that your preferred destination is actually where you will go,
if you go anywhere. That trip to back to Manhattan is a hard one without a Greek
vacation under your belt. Nothing to do but grab my pal and go to Astoria for a
night of Rembetika, Retsina and Greek food for not much more then what I had
planned to spend my first week in Sifnos.
If I survive the night and still want to go to Greece, the following day
is a day of decision. I can wait a week for the next charter to Athens that
might have an empty seat, unlikely because it will be July and everyone returns
to Greece then, or I can take my chances with my AirHitch (or AirTech) voucher
and head for the airport to get on a flight to anywhere. This is not very
feasible if you are traveling with your family or addicted to plans but being
young and open to new experiences it seemed like an adventure to me. I called
the office and got a list of flights that had seats available. I didn't know
where I was going, only where I might go. In this situation phrase books are
useless and one should avoid the temptation to change money.
I had it easy this time. My destination turned out to be Amsterdam. There
was a short delay in which we actually ate our dinner on the runway and I used
up my 3 hour allotment of sleep time, we were airborne. After a nondescript
flight we landed in Amsterdam. Then, following a quick tour of the city and it's
bars I took a pleasant train ride to the coast where I boarded a giant ferry,
complete with disco and cinema, bound for Great Britain. After another pleasant
train ride, I found myself in London where I could recuperate from all this
pleasantness and search the papers (Time-Out or the Standard) for a cheap flight
to Athens or somewhere in the general vicinity. In this case a 4 a.m. flight
from Gatwick to Santorini did the trick.
Had I known what Santorini would be like I would have packed a parachute
and gotten off as we flew over Athens. I had spent many years avoiding the
Spring Break college scene in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and here it was to greet me
in the Aegean. After gathering my wits at the only restaurant I could find with
Greek food, I decided to make a break for it and caught a boat for Athens.
Duration of the trip in traveling time was a mere 42 hours. The total cost
only $300 and I still had a return ticket from Santorini to London (that I
couldn't even give away.)
I shouldn't complain. My friend Leigh took a "non-stop" flight from New
York to Athens, had to change planes 3 times in Yugoslavia, was detained for not
having a visa and almost imprisoned for transporting a bag of Japanese twig tea.
He flew back TWA.
My first experience on one of these flights I was told by a voice on the
phone to be at Grand Central Station at 4 a.m. to pick up my ticket. I suppose
that's normal if you are homeless, a drug addict or trans-Atlantic bargain
hunting. When I got there, there were several other young travelers waiting for
the voice to arrive with the tickets. When a man did turn up, he was not the
'voice' but nevertheless persuaded us to board a waiting bus. When we pulled up
at the airport terminal he told us to "...get in line, keep quiet, and don't
talk to reporters or official looking people."
"What kind of flight is this?" I asked Rusty, the beautiful redhead girl
who was going back to school in Lucerne. " Are they sending us as mercenaries to
Angola?" We may not look like heroes but watch what happens if you dangle this
ticket in front of us.
The best cheap flight I took at a time I didn't even want to go anywhere:
it was such a good deal I couldn't resist. It was a flight from Athens to
Copenhagen where they put us up in a fancy hotel, fed us and flew us to NY the
next day. I remember landing in Copenhagen and i remember arriving in New York.
I don't recall what happened in between but I am pretty sure I had fun.
On a flight from Athens to New York we were able to stop in Czechoslovakia
and spend several hours standing in various lines just like the locals do. It
was very educational. Then an hour out of NY we were given the added thrill of
an unscheduled stop in Danbury Connecticut for no extra charge.
A lot of my flights seem to stop at Gander in Newfoundland. I guess to
stock up on cheap Canadian goods and replace the fuel spent sitting on the
runway in New York, idling the engines while awaiting clearance. When it comes
to take-off, I guess cheap flights are a low priority. As for landings it's hard
top say. Who knows what's going on below while you are circling the airport for
I took a flight that I bought in West Berlin on East-German Air. We got on
a bus that took us through the Wall to East Berlin where we left from.
My 7 a.m. flight from Athens to Brussels on one of the Iron Curtain
Airlines was canceled, I discovered when I arrived bleary-eyed at the airport.
The next flight was a week later and I had just said good-bye to my girlfriend
for the last time because leaving the country is always easier then breaking up.
I went back to my room and hid there for the week.
I always run into someone I know on a cheap flight. Then I spend the
entire trip trying to avoid them by pretending I'm asleep. It's the old "I would
never join a club that would have me as a member" number.
The last cheap flight I took solo made me realize that sometimes
economizing can backfire. I had been hanging around Athens all week trying to
get my flight confirmed. There were a few minor complications such as the
booking being done by telex through New York and my agent having taken a small
mid-week vacation, but I was finally told to pick up my ticket one morning for
my flight that afternoon. Unfortunately the agent had made a slight mistake and
had booked me for the following Monday, a week away. I took the time to work it
out. A week at my hotel, food and minus a weeks paycheck from the job that was
waiting for me in America and my $300 ticket actually cost more then a thousand
So the moral of the story is if you are young and not on a schedule and
you can handle minor setbacks then go for the cheap flights. But if you get on a
flight to Athens and you see me with my distressed wife and my exuberant
daughter do yourself a favor and upgrade to first class. Don't worry. They won't
let us in there. We have tried.
When you get off the plane you will most likely have your first experience
with the dreaded 'luggage carousel'. It sounds like fun but usually it's not,
especially during the heavy season when several flights at a time are using the
same carousel. When you come to the baggage claim area you will see a mob of
people waiting as the luggage goes around. Chances are you won't see the luggage
until you work your way to the front of the crowd and do battle with your fellow
travelers. After a ten hour flight this is the last thing you want to be doing
and for this reason I say travel light. Bring one bag and mark it with a
colorful piece of fabric so you recognize it immediately and don't have to pick
up several identical pieces before finding your own. Traveling light in Greece
requires no great sacrifice. You don't need lots of clothes, no matter who you
are or what your lifestyle is. The heaviest thing you need will be a wind-braker
and chances are you won't use it. If you need a heavy sweater for early spring
or late fall, buy one in Greece. They are cheap and beautiful and they last.
Bring a couple bathing suits. 3 T-shirts. 2 pants (one for comfort, one for
dinner) a couple pairs of shorts. A couple skirts. Underwear. Towel. Sneakers
and personal effects. If you can live without a blow dryer, electric raiser etc.
leave them behind. You can buy flip-flops or leather sandals in Athens and most
likely these will be your feet apparel of choice.
If you can keep it down to one bag, you will be in and out of the mass of
disgruntled baggage seekers before you know it, and you will find traveling to
be a very simple affair. Like anything, the more pieces involved, the more
complicated the game.
Not to endorse a particular companies product but a couple years ago my
wife convinced me to buy a bag from Eagle Creek that is both a suitcase and
knapsack. The frame zips away. It doesn't have a hard shell like luggage but I
have brought back many a bottle of ouzo with it and have not broken one. It's
light and when it's on my back I don't even know it's there. Suitcases are
cumbersome. Even wheels are no bargain, especially going up steps and uneven
pavement in the villages. To the Samsonite crowd a backpack might seem like
sacrilege but there's a reason why they are so popular. They make life easier.
If you were able to change money in the states, then get out of the
airport ASAP. I usually only change about $25 in Kennedy. There will be a line
for the taxis and though it looks frightfully long, it moves very quickly. Most
likely it will be a beautiful sunny day. Relax and enjoy it. If you didn't
change money in the states, don't worry. You can change it at the airport. If
there are two of you, one can change money while the other gets the luggage. The
rates seem pretty much the same whether you are in the airport or downtown. I
usually change $100 for starters and check rates at banks and currency exchange
stores when I get to the city.
Transport To Athens or the Islands
If you have arrived on anything but Olympic you are at what is known as
the International Airport. If you have a flight to an island you need to get to
the Olympic Airport. There is a double-decker bus that goes there or you can
take a cab. Just get in line right outside the front door. Most likely you are
going to your hotel, hopefully somewhere in the vicinity of downtown. Again,
take the bus or taxi. You can buy a ticket for the bus at the bus stop. A taxi
should cost you about 2000 drachma to the center. They usually charge 100
drachma per bag that you put into the trunk. If the driver does not turn on his
meter and tells you that it's a set price or his meter is broken, don't panic.
You have the advantage despite only being in the country for 10 minutes. First
of all realize that you are not dealing with a hardened criminal. Taxi drivers
are underpaid. The cost of gas is high and the fares are low. Let's just call
them opportunistic. If you were Greek they know they could not get away with it,
but a foreigner will never know the difference. When you get into the taxi, make
sure he turns on the meter right away. If he refuses, there is usually a cop
there, or other taxi drivers. Chances are he won't risk losing the fare and will
turn it on. Anyway as I said, you should not have to pay more then 2000, give or
take a few hundred drachma. Most taxi drivers are fine. Try talking to him. Many
speak English. Some have spent years in America. Some of my closest friends are
Most flights arrive in the morning and afternoon. I have never arrived in Athens
at night. If you have a hotel and your taxi driver has deposited you there, lay
down and relax for awhile. Resist the desire to go to sleep. You want to get
your body synchronized with Greek time as soon as possible. If you really need
to, take a nap for a couple hours and set the alarm. When you wake up, take a
shower, a couple B-vitamins or some Super Blue Green Algae and prepare yourself
for action. If you have not booked a hotel in advance, take a taxi to the Plaka
area of Athens. There are several hotels. Walk around until you find one that is
priced right and looks comfortable. I stay at the Adams. It's like a hotel for
young people and faded aristocracy. The owners are very nice. They keep the
place clean and it is right where you want to be as far as enjoying the best of
As for other hotels, I recommend getting in touch with Kiki Zikou at
Dolphin Hellas. She can send you a list and do your bookings for you and make
sure everything runs smoothly. I suggest finding hotels either in or within
walking distance of the Plaka. If you are staying at a hotel further away, you
can always find a taxi at the front entrance, but getting one back to the hotel
is not as easy.
When in Athens the desirable areas to stay in are the Plaka, Makrianni, Koukaki,
Thission, Syntagma and Monistiraki. These areas all border the Acropolis and the
archeological park around it. Everything you need including shops, restaurants,
the metro to the ferries, buses, taxis and nightlife is within walking distance.
Don't get stuck in areas like Ambelokipi, Illissia, Omonia or Alexandras which
are noisy and far from the sights. Traffic is hell in Athens and a trip downtown
can take you an hour or more. For this reason be aware if you are booking
through an agent because in many cases they may know the classification of the
hotel but be totally ignorant of the location, which is very important.
Probably the most important discovery I made during my recent visit to Greece
concerns booking hotels, cruises and tours. While common sense would dictate
that bypassing the travel agent and booking directly one would save on the
commission this is actually not true in Greece. What I discovered was that the
prices Dolphin Travel had were all at least 15% cheaper then the rates that I
got directly from the hotel.
(I also discovered that when you book with an American agent they can add
as much as 40% or 50% as their comission.)
So before you knock yourself out looking for a hotel or cruise and doing
it yourself in order to save money, keep in mind that the easy way also happens
to be the least expensive and that by using an Athens-based agency like Dolphin
you can save hundreds of dollars or more.
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Your First Night
Some people like to get right out, walking around and shopping. Personally
I like to find a nice quiet outdoor cafe and have an ouzo and a snack so I can
relax and get into my Greek groove.
First of all you need to get your bearings. The Plaka is under the
Acropolis. There are two main streets. Kydatheneon begins at Nikis st, which is
one block down from Constiution(Syntagma) Square. The easiest way to find it if
you are not already in the Plaka is to find the square. Ask anyone. It's big and
you can't miss it.
At the TOURIST INFORMATION office you can get the weekly ferry and bus
schedules, a free map of Greece, a free map of Athens, fares, brochures and so
on. They will also give you a poster of
Greece to take home with you if you ask them. It used to be at the National Bank
of Greece but has now moved to #2 Amerikis street. It's in between Stadiou and
Panipistimiou, two blocks
down from Syntagma Square, or a block past Wendy's.
Return to the square. Then find the McDonalds. I hate to refer people to
it even as a landmark, so once you have found it and utilized it for the purpose
of navigation I want you to forget it even exists. Now, with your back to the
square walk down the famous pedestrian street of Ermou. The first street you
come to is Nikis. Take a left and start walking. Right before it curves and
connects with Phileninon street, you will see on your right a small pedestrian
street. That's Kydatheneon. Turn right onto it and you are in the Plaka. If you
continue past a small Byzantine church on your right, the Folk-Art Museum on
your left(worth a visit), you will come to a cafe on the corner. This is as good
a place as any for a beer, a soda or an ouzo, and though it has gone slightly
upscale in the last few years, it's a nice spot to people watch and enjoy the
late afternoon, early evening. It's not my number one choice, but it will do.
If you order ouzo you may ask for a 'mecro peekeelee-a', which means a
small snack (or assortment). If you don't ask for anything you will probably get
a bowl of peanuts which is OK too. The whole art of drinking ouzo and living to
tell about it is the eating of mezedes, snacks that keep body and mind
relatively stable while drinking. You will very rarely see a Greek obnoxiously
drunk. Drinking in Greece is a from of communication. I don't want to endorse
the consumption of alcohol as a remedy for anything but when done in moderation
there seems to be almost a spiritual dimension to it. For me anyway.
If you continue down Kydatheneon you will pass a small shop on your right that
sells drinks, yogurt, coffee etc. This is a nice place to have a coffee in the
morning. There is only one table so you better get there early. He has an
assortment of commercial flavored yogurts and cartons of fruit drinks (peach and
pear are both amazing). Right next to it is the Children's Museum, a nice place
to see with or without children.
You may notice that there are several restaurants with tables in the
street. In fact it will be difficult not to notice because every time you pass
one a maitre'D (I use the term loosely. The word 'hawker' comes to mind) tries
to pull you over to see the menu. These restaurants are not bad. Typical fare:
mousaka, souvlaki though they will encourage you to go for the giant shrimp and
lobster. But if you want to know where the locals eat keep walking until you
come to a small park on your left. There is a kiosk (periptero) that sells
everything from gum to English language newspapers (including the ATHENS NEWS,
USA TODAY and the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE.) Surrounding the kiosk are
tables that belong to the restaurant across the street. This is the Byzantium
Restaurant. It used to be called Kostis and all the locals ate here. The owner
of the building took it over, made it a little more upscale and though some
might disagree, it's a better restaurant. The locals would say he spoiled it.
It's one of the best in the plaka, especially for lunch, and the parade of
people walking by make it an evenings worth of entertainment.
I like the Byzantium's spinach pie (spana-kopita), their fish soup (psaro-soupa)
you can get it with or without a plate of fish. You can get a Greek salad
(horiatiko), eggplant salad (melitsana salata), yogurt dip (satziki), and all
the standards. It's not cheap but it's not expensive either. I love their roast
potatoes (fourno pahtahtes) and chicken (kotopoulo). They have bottled wine and
cold beer. The menu is in several languages including English. Look for strange
and funny translations on menus here and all over Greece. It's a high form of
entertainment for travelers. Galeos is not red snapper which is what all the
menus tell you. It's shark, kind of a humorous translation. You can walk right
in and see the food. Either ask the cook or waiter how to pronounce whatever it
is you want, or drag your waiter in and point to it. It's perfectly acceptable
If you should be lucky enough to be here before the weather gets too hot you may
notice several basement restaurants. These are called Bakaliarzidikos and they
specialize in fried codfish. There are three of them, the oldest being Domigos
near the corner of Kydatheneon and Adrianou Streets. The reason they are not
open in the summer is because with all the ovens and fryers it's just too hot.
But they have the best homemade wine (khee-ma) and the codfish (bakaliaro)
served with garlic dip (skordaya) is out of this world. The tables are cramped
and you can tune in to the conversation next door as easy as your own. It's very
friendly and full of expatriates and smart people. Just about anything on the
menu is good and your clothes will smell of codfish for days to come.
The next cafe after the Byzantine restaurant is the Sikinos cafe. The tables are
under the trees of the small park and it's another great place to settle down
for a drink and a night, morning or afternoon of people-watching. It is
expensive though no more then a similar cafe in New York or San Francisco. I
usually get an ice coffee (Frappeh) with milk and sugar (mehtrio), read my
Athens News and watch people for an hour or too. It's one of those spots where
if you sit long enough you will see everyone you have ever known. Usually after
an island trip I will hang out there and see people that I saw on the ferries or
the beaches. They also have half decent cappuccino. Whatever you do don't
confuse it for a restaurant. A meal here will cost you a week's wages.
Across the street is the Cine Paris, the best outdoor movie theater in Athens.
Of course you haven't come to Greece to go to the movies but if you are not
ready for a wild night out and just want to sit back and be entertained, you are
in for a treat. Almost all the movies are in English with Greek subtitles and
when you go inside you will discover that the theater is on the roof with a view
of the Acropolis. Some nights you can see the colors change during the sound and
light show. There is a bar and you can have a brandy and watch your favorite
stars in the shadow of the Parthenon.
As you continue down Kydatheneon street you will pass a gold shop, a tourist
shop and a gelato-ice-cream store. Then on your left, above Domigos
Bakaliarzidiko is Brettos Liquor store. But it is more then a liquor store. It
is the oldest distillery in Athens. Go inside and admire the old barrels full of
spirits and the colored bottles that line the walls up to the ceiling. He has a
tiny bar where you can get drinks by the glass. If you want to try good ouzo
have some of his. It's very mild tasting and a great before-dinner drink. Be
sure to stop here before you go back home. His brandy is better then Metaxa. You
can buy ouzo in metal canisters if you are worried about bottles breaking in
your luggage and it's a gift that you can't find in America. If you take a taste
test comparing his ouzo with commercial brands that are available in the USA you
will be surprised at the difference. I have turned around many people who
claimed they didn't like ouzo. They had never had good ouzo. Hopefully I haven't
ruined their lives.
Next to Brettos and across the street are a couple shops that sell milk, juice,
soda, yogurt, cookies, pastries etc. One store sells crepes out of the window.
Neither is expensive and if you want a snack to bring back to your room these
stores are as good as any.
Kydatheneon meets Adrianou street, which is the other main street in the Plaka.
If you continue on Kydatheneon you will pass a small newspaper shop on your
right. Whatever you do, don't touch one of their newspapers or even stop to read
the headlines. They will yell at you and embarrass you. I have walked miles to
avoid buying a newspaper from them. I don't know why they are so mean, perhaps
they don't like their job, but shop there at your own risk.
If you continue up the hill there is another restaurant in front of some
small uncovered ruins of ancient Athens. It's called Spilia Tis Acropolis. This
is a decent place too and a little quieter then sitting on the main street.
If you like to Shop and stroll, make a right on Adrianou. Tourist shop after
jewelry store after T-shirt store and then repeated again and again. Everybody
who comes to Greece walks up this street and buys postcards, worry beads
(komboloi), ashtrays, icons, you name it. There are also street venders selling
nuts and refugees from what was once Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union selling
strange toys made from flour and balloons or offering to write your name on a
grain of rice for 1000 drachma.
Hand-crafted Gold is inexpensive. I never buy it because my wife, Andrea makes
Greek 22k and hers is as nice as anything you can find in Athens with the
exception of a store called BYZANTIUM at 120 Adrianou on the Plaka. Their work
is so good
and so inexpensive that Andrea, (who is considered one of the finest goldsmith
in America), even buys from them. If you are a lover of Gold jewelery don't buy
anything until you have seen their work. If you walk down Adrianou it is on your
left at #120(next to an ice-cream shop). For directions you can call them at
324-6606. Let them know I sent you.
If this does not excite you there is an alternative. Turn up Hill Street
and follow the street as it becomes Scholiou and then Epiharmou Street, Stop and
look straight ahead and up. It's the walls of the Acropolis and on your left The
Cafeneon. Find a table indoors or out and order a carafe of ouzo and any mezedes
that appeal to you. I recommend the cheese balls(tiro keftedes). You may be
surprised to notice that there are not many tourists there, mostly young Greeks.
This is good.
If you tire of snacking and want a substantial meal try the restaurant
right across the street called Tsekoura. For those adventurous types I suggest
the snails (saligahri). Good Dolmades too.
Where Epiharmou connects with Tripodon is another ouzerie known locally as
Kouklis. You will see a building with a packed balcony and windows. Again order
a small carafe of ouzo or their terrible red wine. The specialty here is flaming
sausages (lookahniko). Wait until the fire is out before eating. Also try their
trout (ehpestropho), giant beans in tomato sauce(yeegendes) and anything that
looks good on display inside or what one of your neighbors is eating.
Next door to Kouklis is a fancy ice-cream and milk shop called Amalfi. If
you have a sweet tooth I encourage you to go inside. Again you won't see many
tourists but at least one copy of the menu is in English.
There is another restaurant worth going to in the Plaka called Platanos.
To find it walk down Adrianou towards Monistiriki. Turn left on Mysicleos street
and then take your first right which is Diogenous street. It's in the platia. Go
inside and see what they have. Everything is as good as it looks.
Next door is the Greek Music Museum which is my favorite museum in the
city. Each display has headphones so you can hear each instrument in context and
in a variety of styles. If you continue walking you will come to the famous
Tower of the Winds.
If you are a vegetarean I suggest going to the EDEN Restaurant on the corner of
Misicleos and Lissiou streets. To find it just walk down Adrianou towards the
Monistiraki flea market, and turn left on Misicleos and walk up the steps. Some
of their food is great and some isn't. I love their eggplant salad. It's sort of
hit and miss. When it's good it's very good. When it's not, it's just OK.
If you feel adventurous keep walking uphill on the small old streets until
you come to the road that rings the Acropolis. You will know you are on it
because there will be woods on your left and a view of the city on your right.
Keep walking past the last shops and cafes until you come to a big rock on your
right. When your eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness find the stairs cut
in the stone. You may want to take off your shoes because it's a little
slippery. To break an ankle so early on your trip would be unfortunate. Climb
the steps to the top and find a seat on the rock. In front of you stretches
Athens. Behind you is the Acropolis. Enjoy the moment.
Follow Tripodon(by the long parking lot near Psaras Restaurant) back
through the Plaka to the statue of Lysikratos to the small cafe-wine shop known
as the Dirty Corner. Have a beer, ouzo, brandy or a soda before going back to
the hotel. Tomorrow is a busy day.
The Matt Barrett Cure for Jet lag and Insomnia
It's four in the morning and I'm wide awake. Too late for Melatonin. I can read
ZORBA THE GREEK but Andrea is asleep and I don't want to wake her by turning on
the light. So what can I do besides lie here and listen to the early morning
sounds of Athens. I get dressed and leave the hotel heading in the general
vicinity of the giant church on Metropoleos Street which runs between Syntagma
and Monistiraki square. When I find the church and the large platia, I walk down
Metropoleos until I get to Monistiraki, which is one big construction site
because they are building the new metro. I turn right on Athinas street and walk
away from the Acropolis and towards Omonia Square. Strange people walk by me but
they seem more nervous then I am.
After a few blocks I come to my destination, the Athens Market. I turn
into the meat market where small trucks are unloading carcasses of beef, lamb,
chickens, rabbits, pigs and even an occasional wild boar that looks like a small
woolly mammoth. The market is actually several streets of shops covered by a
large roof. When I reach the end of the street I walk into the restaurant on my
right called Giannopoulos. There's another on the next corner equally as good
Even at this hour it is full, a mixture of workers and people who have
stopped for a late meal after a night on the town. Women in mini-skirts and high
heels next to butchers in blood-splattered aprons and fishermen in overalls and
boots. On stoves giant pots of beans, chickpeas(rivithea), beef, lamb, peas and
potatoes are simmering or boiling.
Most people are eating patsa, a tripe soup endowed with mysterious life-
giving properties that the workers swear by. At this time of night this is the
center of activity in Athens and patsa is the elixir of life. Feeling a little
under-the-weather? A hearty bowl of patsa will fix you right up. Hung-over? No
problem. Make sure you eat all the strange pieces of meat even though some of it
resembles indoor plumbing. You're sure to feel better and it tastes better then
it looks, providing that the intestines were cleaned properly. There's no better
way to start the day or so they say. Men yell back and forth and greet each
other heartily, then go off to open their stalls for the customers who will be
I love the Fish market. It's my favorite place in Athens, and at six in
the morning it's really happening. In a few minutes I have walked through.
Andrea will sleep until ten. What shall I do until then?
I walk back to the Monistraki train station, buy a ticket and walk to the
right side of the tracks and take the subway to Pireaus. The train is full of
people on their way to catch the boats to the islands. I get off at the last
stop and cross the street. Ships are coming and going. The docks alive with
activity. The sun is rising over Athens. Passengers are boarding ships. Port
policemen and merchant marine are blowing whistles and guiding large trucks up
the ramps of the ferry boats. Ice-cream for the Western Cyclades, fruit and
vegetables for Santorini, cinder blocks, orange juice, everything you can
imagine being loaded in trucks to be distributed to shops and restaurants on the
islands. Ships and boats of all sizes. Giant ferries to Crete and Mytilini, just
now arriving from their nightly journey, are to the right. In front of me the
mid-sized boats to Mykonos, Ios, Santorini, Sifnos, Milos, Kithnos, Serifos,
Paros, Naxos, Samos, Ikaria, Tinos and Syros. To my left are the smaller boats
that go to Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Spetsi, Salomina and Angistri. Beyond are the
ships to the Dodekanese, Kalymnos, Kos, Rhodes, Leros, Patmos, and Symi. Beyond
these are the cruise ships, just in for the day or night before leaving to hit
every heavily touristed port in the Eastern Mediterranean. I would love to be on
one of the ferry-boats right now, and in fact I could probably be to Salomina
and back before Andrea wakes up. Instead I walk to the train station and home to
the hotel to help my family greet the new day.
Greece is not the land of hearty American-style breakfast. If your hotel has a
dining room and serves eggs, toast, marmalade and coffee, take advantage because
you won't find much better outside. I usually have a coffee at the Adams and
have a cheese-pie(teerowpita), or spinach-pie(spanahkopita) from one of the
small shops or bakeries. There's a great one on Voulis Street, two blocks down
from Syntagma and another on Nikis Street next to Eleftherodakis Bookstore.
Across from the post office on Metropoleos at Syntagma is Metropol, a
cafeteria where you can get any style of omelet, coffee, pastries, tea or bread.
It's not what you would call a "Greek experience", but if you are one of those
people who requires a hearty breakfast to get yourself going, this is your best
bet. They even have espresso and cappuccino.
I imagine you can get an Egg-McMuffin at McDonalds or something similar at
Wendy's if you are desperate for familiarity but I would never stoop so low that
I would recommend either place.
For really good coffee try FLOU on the corner of Voulis and Appolonis
streets. They also have a selection of spanakopitas, tiropitas, crepes,
croisants, fresh fruit juices, ice-creams, omelets, milkshakes and sweets.
There's only one important rule for going up on the Acropolis. Go early.
By 11 AM you should be on your way down the hill. Of course it is a must see.
Even if you can't get into the beauty of the building, it's historical
significance, or the architecture, the view is great, maybe even worth the cost
Continue down the mountain and into the Ancient Agora below. Part of it is
free and you can go through it to get back to Adrianou Street, or you can pay
the entrance fee and walk the streets of ancient Athens, though by now you are
probably in need of a break or even hungry again. Wander the streets of Plaka
until you find Adrianou street again. If you go right you will end up back at
Kydatheneon street where you can have a nice lunch at the Byzantine, or you can
go left for further adventure.
The Flea Market
Near the end of Adrianou you will come to a small square, every inch of
which has been taken over by fancy tourist restaurants and cafes. Hurry through
it until you come face to face with Hadrian's wall. You can't miss it. Turn
right and then take a left down tiny Pondrousou Street.(If you need to ask
directions remember Bonanza: The Ponderosa) You are now in the tourist
infested heart of the so-called Monistiraki Flea-Market.
It's really only a flea-market on Sunday when people come down from the
hills and out of the woodwork to sell their wares on the street. You can buy
anything from antiques, fished out of the garbage cans of Koloniki, to used
phone-cards. Most of the action is further down behind the train station and in
Avisynia square. If you are lucky, the cafe will be open. Tables and chairs will
begin to fill the square as the merchants pack up their remaining merchandise.
More then occasionally there is live music and dancing in the streets. If it's
not Sunday it is an area of tiny interesting shops. Most of those on Pondroussou
are geared for the tourist trade. Beyond the train station the stores get a
little more interesting.
If you are looking for inexpensive reading material, there are several
used book stores in this area selling mostly paperback books. There are also old
coin, stamp and print shops, mini-army-surplus stores where you can buy actual
machine guns left over from the nazi occupation. They look more like garden
tools than guns and you probably won't be able to get them through customs but
if you are into that kind of stuff, these stores are worth looking through.
If it's not Sunday and you are still walking down tiny Pondrousou street
past the countless tourist shops, stop at the shop of Stavros Melissonos, known
among sandal-makers as 'The Poet',(and among poets as 'the sandal-maker'). If
you are going to buy sandals, and indeed you should, this is the place. I also
encourage you to buy an autographed copy of his book, The Rubaiyat.
Where Metropoleos street meets Monistiraki square are several souvlaki
shops, next to and facing each other, each one just as good as the other. But
you must be careful here. If you sit down and order a 'souvlaki', the waiter
will return with an enormous plate filled with salad, chopped pita-bread and a
skewer or two of meat. Of course this is not the souvlaki you know and were
expecting. I remember seeing a family of tourists who moments before had been
bursting with excitement over the anticipated arrival of their first souvlaki in
Greece, stare in astonished disbelief at the five plates put before them. Sadly
they ate them thinking they had made some kind of tragic mistake when they
ordered. They had not made a mistake. While everyone in the world knows what a
souvlaki is, these restaurants have given the word a new meaning. The reason is
simple. The cost of a sandwich versus the cost of a whole meal.
When they tried the stunt on us my friend Dorian confronted the waiter.
"What the hell is this?" He asked.
"It's a souvlaki", said the waiter. "It's what you ordered".
"I didn't order this." said my friend.
"Sure you did. I took the order myself. See it's written right here." He
showed us an illegible scrawl on a piece of paper.
"If this is a souvlaki, then what do you call the skewer of meat wrapped
in pita-bread?" Dorian asked.
"That's the "Special Sandwich". Smiled the waiter with an embarrassed look
on his face that told us that he knew he had been trapped by a couple of
"Take these away and bring us two souvlakis. The kind they sell as
souvlakis everywhere in the world but here." Said Dorian. The waiter returned
smiling with our souvlakis.
So when you go to one of these places be sure to tell them Souvlaki
On the corner where Ermou meets the Square of Monistiraki there is a small
church. Next to it is what looks like yet another tourist-style souvlaki
shop/restaurant, but don't be too quick to write it off. If you go inside you
will realize that it is one of Athens oldest tavernas, just bending with the
times. They have an enormous assortment of hot dishes from which to choose, and
if someone in your party wants a souvlaki, this place will bring you the best of
both worlds. Outside is cooler but a little noisy, and while inside can be hot,
the decor is entertaining. It's called Sigalas.
The Market by Day
If you continue down Athinas towards Omonia, you will once again find yourself
at the Athens Market. This is the time to be here. It's a mob scene but lots of
fun. Wander around and look at all the fish, some fresh, some frozen and listen
to the voices of the merchants as they call out their prices. Surrounding the
fish market on three sides is the meat market and across the street are the
fruits and vegetables.
Check out the stores that sell olives at the other side of the vegetable
market on Sokratous street. It's OK to sample. Find a type you can't live
without and buy a kilo to keep with you on your journey. I like the big ones
from Agrinion. My wife likes the shriveled oil-cured type. Taste them all. If
you love olives this is your special heaven.
There are also spice shops, cheese shops, canned goods, dry goods, live
chickens, you name it. If you want to be creative with your shopping for gifts
to bring back to family and friends, look around here. I usually bring back
around ten giant cans of Mytilini sardines to go with my ouzo.
For a fantastic eating experience, not for the fainthearted try the
basement taverna on the corner of Sokratous and Theatrou. Don't be afraid. It
just looks a little rough. There are no menus but you can look around and see
what everybody else is eating. Most of the customers are men. It's almost like a
private club and it is a little intimidating, but worth it. The wine is great.
The grilled fish (psaree pseetoe)incredible. If you want to play it safe order
yellow split pea(fahva), with bread (psohme), soup(soupah) and whatever looks
good at the next table. If this place is too intense for you there are always
the restaurants in the meat-market.
If you continue down Athinas street you will come to Omonia square, Athens
oldest. It's worth a trip, just as you can't go to New York without taking a
peak at 42nd street. Omonia is much tamer. It's surrounded with fast-food stores
and an enormous old cafeneon. If you walk back up Panipistimiou you will pass
the University on your left. If you walk up Stadiou street you will pass Virgin
Records Superstore on your right. Also the OTE building where you can call home
if you want. Either road will take you to Syntagma square.
Eoulou and Ermou Shoppers Paradise
You can also take the shopping street of Eoulou behind the meat market and
closed to automobiles, going back in the direction you came. Lots of interesting
stores, mostly clothing and fabrics. Great in August when everything is on sale.
Where the road splits go either way. The high road will deposit you at the
Cathedral, the low in Monistraki at Hadrian's wall. Or you can take a left on
Ermou, now Athen's major auto-free shopping street, which will take you up to
Syntagma square. You can go back to your hotel for a siesta, or drink coffee and
read the Athens news at one of the cafes on Kydatheneon Street.
The National Gardens
Behind the tomb of the unknown soldier on Amalias street, at the top of
constitution square is what my brother says is Athens greatest treasure. The
Kings Gardens, or the National Gardens is like a tropical paradise right in the
middle of the concrete hell of Athens. You can spend hours wandering around.
There are two duck ponds and a duck population that has gotten completely out of
control. We always save our bread from lunch to bring here, or you can buy
doughnuts (koulouria) from a little man near the large pond.
There is also a small zoo featuring wolves from Bulgaria, strange antelope
like creatures, monkeys, peacocks, hawks, buzzards, a lion, parakeets, canaries
and goats, all sharing their cages with ducks.
You can walk along the paths admiring the exotic fauna and the ducks.
There is even a small cafe near the Irodou Atikou street called O Kypos where
you can get a nice frappe, an ouzo and mezedes, and enjoy the afternoon while
you feed your leftovers to the ducks who come to your table begging for food.
If you walk out to Irodou Atikou Street on your left is the camp for the
evzones, who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and what was once the Palace
across the street. It's now the home of the Prime Minister, though they say he
prefers his apartment. If you walk downhill you will pass Zappion on the right
where in the summer you can see puppet theater (Karagiosis) and other forms of
entertainment at the large outdoor cafe. This area is a popular place for
Athenians to stroll and sit when the weather is nice. Further ahead is the
Olympic stadium built in 1896 out of marble for the first modern Olympics.
If you go back up Erodou Atikou and cross Vassilias Sophias (if you are
able), you can go to the Benaki Museum which should be finished by the time you
read this. Or if you can't cross the street take a right and visit the Byzantine
Museum and the War Museum next door to each other on Vas. Sophias.
Koloniki and Lykavitos
If you continue up the hill you will be in Koloniki Square, the rich snob
section of Athens where you can sit in a cafe and listen to middle aged women
complain about life as they shift from Greek to English to French.
But don't stop here. There's more fun ahead. Walk up Anagnastopoulo at the
top of the square and go right on Iraklitou, then up the steps and through the
small park. If you have kids you can leave them in the playground while you take
a seat at the Ouzerie in Platia Dexameni. This is one of the best spots in
Athens, high enough to be breezy and cool, with excellent food. Dexameni means
cistern which is what the square sits upon. There is also an outdoor movie
theater that shows mostly English language films.
I usually don't go any further but if you are adventurous keep walking
uphill until you reach the tree-line and make a right. You are now in the wilds
of Mount Lykavitos. You can take the Funicular Railway to the top or you can
walk. Whatever you do it's worth it because at the summit is a church with a
spectacular view of Athens, the Acropolis, the mountains surrounding it,
Piraeus, the Aegean sea, and on a clear day the islands beyond. It's worth being
here for sunset and there just happens to be a cafe-ouzerie up there too.
On the back side of the mountain is an outdoor amphitheater. Read the back
page of the Athens News to find out if anyone of interest is playing. It's one
of the finest places to see a concert and you never know who will be performing
up there. Anyone from Leonard Cohen to Peter Gabriel.
For those of you interested in Spiritual Health there is Jenny Colebourne's
ILLIUM CENTER OF LIGHT where you can take classes in Yoga, Eutonia, Reflexology,
Shiatsu, Crania-Sacral Therapy, Reiki and more. She is located at:
18 Dimoharous street
11521 Athens Greece
Tel. 723-1397 Fax724-4127
One of the up and coming areas of Athens also happens to be within walking
distance of the Plaka. This is the area called Thission. They have closed the
main street to traffic and numerous bars, cafes and restaurants have opened and
give the area a lively New Orleans feel to it. In fact you are just as likely to
hear New Orleans Jazz in the bars as you would Rembetika. To get there you can
go to Monistiraki and walk up from the old Turkish Mosque at the square one
block and take a right on Adrianou. Follow the tracks on your left until they go
underground and you can actually turn left. Follow the road until you begin to
see signs of night life and cross the street.
If what you see does not appeal to you follow the main road called
Apostolou Pavlou around the opposite side of the Acropolis until you are
directly in front of the Parthenon. Take a right on Mitseon street and walk half
a block down the hill until you come to the famous Socrates Prison Taverna.
Excellent grilled chicken, roast lamb and other meats and vegetables. Lots of
mezedes and great wine.
To get back to the Plaka go back up to the main road which has now become
Dionissiou Areopagitou, cross the street and take a right. Turn left at Vronos
Street and walk until once again you are at the Dirty Corner. Take a seat. Have
a nightcap or an ice-cream.
One of the new up and coming areas of Athens is the section known as Psiri.
Similar to Soho in New York it is a former industrial center that is being
developed into an art and cultural area. Similar to the Plaka with tiny streets
and shops this area is much more working class by day. Some suggested places,
according to Melia Tatakis of Odyssey Magazine are:
Assomoatous-rock music at Platia Assomaton.
Aspro-a laid-back wine bar.
Naxos (near Christokopidou Square), a cafeneon specializing in charcoal grilled
octopus, and for Sunday mornings live Greek music at Methistana on Lepeniotou
Besides these places there are numerous cafes and restaurants, and very
few cars to bother you. There are also plans for the opening of many galleries
and theaters in this district and the bordering former gasworks area, many of
which have already opened their doors.
This area is for the explorer. Those who have tired of endless T-shirt
shops and Mousaka signs and being danced to by men in evzone costumes while you
drink domestika and look at a room full of people as foreign as you, this is the
place to go. This area is for people who want to see what it is like to be young
and hip and hang out in Athens.
Wildlife and the Great Outdoors
For such an unnatural setting as Athens, there is lots of open space and
wildlife in the area around the Acropolis and most of it is free and full of
ancient ruins. Next to Kouklis Ouzerie on Tripodon Street there is an entrance
to a small park. Walk through it and you are on the slope of the Acropolis
looking up at the massive walls. If you walk up through the grove of trees there
is an opening in the fence. If you walk to your left you will find yourself in
the ancient theater of Dionysious. On a moonlit night take a bottle of wine or a
couple beers and relive it's ancient past. You can wander around the ruins and
chances are nobody will care. Don't worry about the barking dogs. They are
generally friendly and starved for attention.
As I mentioned before there is the big rock below the entrance to the
Acropolis, just as good a view in the day as it was at night. Below that is the
Agora and only part of it requires an entrance fee.
If you walk from the entrance to the Acropolis down the hill and across
the street you can climb the hill of Philipapou and spend hours wandering around
the forests. To walk from there all the way to the Kings Gardens you need cross
only three main streets, by cutting through the Plaka, walking up Kydatheneon
street and crossing Fileninon and Amalias. The next time someone tells you that
Athens is nothing but a concrete jungle you can give them a good argument.
That's what they are calling it now. We used to call it 'the train to Pireaus'
or the 'subway', even though there's only 3 or 4 stops and connecting lines that
are actually underground. But the giant moles they used to dig the Chunnerl have
been hard at work under the streets of the city, digging through solid rock and
they say by 1999 it won't be just the 'train to Pireaus', but a whole subway
'system'. For now it's uselful for getting from Monistiraki to the ferries in
Pireaus, or going in the other direction to the cool breezes of Kiffissia. On
the way there are stops at the new Olympic Stadium, the town of Amaroussi, and
you can even take it to Omonia or Victoria Square.
To get to the metro just go to the construction site that used to be
Monistiraki Square. It's the building with the clock.
Located behind the Polytechnic University, this area is comparable to the
East Village of New York though you may find your first impression rather
horrifying if there happens to be a riot going on and the tear gas is flowing
freely. Still, for the very, very adventurous and the young and hip, this is the
place to go. There are lots of bars, clubs, Rembetika music, punks, hard-core
anarchists, coffee shops and student oriented stores including computer and book
My favorite places are usually closed in July and August. The first is the
An Club, where you can see the latest up and coming Greek bands and occasionally
groups from other countries. If you are into the club scene in America you will
feel right at home. Another one of my favorite places is called Seven Steps at
49 Arahovis street, just up from the square. If you have tired of Greek food and
you want to try something special, the owners moved their acclaimed New York
restaurant of the same name to this location when they lost their lease.
In 1922 after Greece's disastrous invasion of Turkey and the exchange of
populations, Athens and Pireaus filled up with refugees. With no work available
many of these people hung out in underground clubs called Tekedes, smoking
hashish and listening to Rembetika music, which could be compared to American
blues. The lyrics were about loss, betrayal, addiction, exile, and of course
smoking hash. Eventually this music developed into Greek popular music but in
the last twenty years there has been a revival and many new clubs and groups
have appeared. There is an excellent book by Gail Holst called Road To
Rembetika, available at both Compendium Books and Eleftherodakis on Nikis Street
or the giant Eleftherodakis on Venizelou.
If you are interested in buying tapes or CDs I recommend collections by
Markos Vamvakaris, Yannis Papayianou, Vasilis Tsitsanis, Sotira Bellou, Marika
Ninou, and my favorite Apagarevmena Rembetika (Forbidden Rembetika). There is
also a fantastic collection of Rembetika from the German occupation and the
Civil War by George Dalaris.
If you can find it, the movie Rembetika by Kosta Ferris is a remarkable
account of the lives and careers of Marika Ninou and Vassilis Tsitsanis and is a
sort of history of the music and lifestyle. You can order it with subtitles and
many of these titles from GREEK/AMERICAN MONTHLY (1-800-530-8541).
If you are interested in a night out on the town, either at a neighborhood
Taverna or an authentic Rembetika club call George the famous taxi driver.(502-
4482 or 093-205887)
Look t my Rembetika Music page at http://www.GreekTravel.com/Rembetika
I swore I wouldn't put this in my guidebook but I realize that for some men it's
a passion and they suffer if they don't know it's at least available should they
want to play. I also know that many women who long to go to Greece don't get the
opportunity because their husbands want to go somewhere they can play golf for
their holidays. Since relationships are a series of compromises I have decided
to add this little section and let people know that yes, you can play golf in
Athens. Tennis too. There is a nice course in Glyfada, near the coast of Athens.
It is slightly expensive by our standards at about $50 per day, but when you
gotta play you gotta play. For more information you can contact George the
famous Taxi driver by FAX or phone at (011301) 502-4482 or on his mobile phone
at 093-205887. He can make arrangements for you or your spouse (while you see
More Guy Stuff
Greece has one of the largest merchant marines in the world. In the area between
the island of Salomina and the Attiki peninsula many of these ships lay in
disrepair waiting to be sold for scrap or fixed and painted. Alas there are no
guided tours to this area but George Kokkotas the famous taxi driver told me
that he would be interested in taking people there to see the ships. Contact him
if you are interested.
Traveling With Children
The Greeks love children and there are plenty of them around so don't worry
about having to entertain yours. As for things like pampers and baby food, they
are available, even on the islands. The Plaka is quite stroller-friendly and
safe for kids, keeping in mind that there are occasional streets that autos do
use. As for the rest of Athens this next article will give you some idea.
Strollering Through Athens
A friend with a baby asked me if Athens was stroller-friendly, a term now
obsolete in America with stores, sidewalks and buildings of its towns and cities
totally accessable to baby carriages and the handicapped. It didn't take long
for me to answer that saying Athens was not stoller-friendly would be giving a
false impression, as if Athens is merely unconcious or unaware that people have
children and a popular way to transport them is by stroller. Because to anyone
who has tried to get around the city pushing a small child it would seem that
Athens is not indifferent or unaware, but is actually in a state of war with
them. Perhaps Athens is merely the innocent bystander and the war is between the
automobile and the pedestrian, of which the woman pushing a stoller is at a
serious disadvantage due to it's lack of agility and flexibility. But a war it
is, and I being the type who loves a challenge set out. I believe that a battle
can be won in this war, with enough intestinal fortitude, a trustworthy co-pilot
(My wife Andrea), a child willing to take the risk (my daughter Amarandi,
heavily sedated with ice-cream), and superior machinery, in this case our
MacLaren B-63 stroller. A standard lightweight design that I would put up
against any of the heavier, slicker European models. It is a rugged route that
will take us from the shadow of the Acropolis to the flatlands of Kypseli, and
After a hearty breakfast of double Greek coffees we set out from the Hotel
Adams in the heart of the Plaka. We don't forsee much difficulty in the first
leg of our journey since most of it will be on pedestrian streets, but on
Kydatheneon we are nearly run over by a speeding motorcycle. Luckily there is a
cop at a nearby cafe who absentmindedly blows his whistle at the offender, then
continues with his conversation and coffee.
"I guess we won't have to worry about him again", I tell my co-pilot
Andrea, but she seems unconvinced.
We continue up Kydatheneon easily sidestepping several delivery trucks, a
BMW and a Mercedes. Apparently these pedestrian streets are off limits to only
certain cars, perhaps those costing under ten million drachma. We easily cross
Nikis and head towards Amalias where we find one of the dreaded uneven
pedestrian crossings which even those without strollers fear. These are
unsinchronized lights that only let you get as far as the median before
stranding you there for five minutes between eight lanes of cars racing by in
both directions at eighty kilometers per hour. Adding to the difficulty is the
width of the median which can accomodate the stroller, or myself though not
both. I must decide whether I will stand in the street and risk certain death,
or have the front wheels of the stroller in the street which would merely
endanger my daughter from the knees down. I compromise and stand next to the
stroller though should any of the vehicles veer into the median I am in a poor
position of response and we will both be killed leaving only Andrea to react
quickly enough to save herself and tell our tale, upon finishing the journey of
course. But after what seems like an eternity we are rewarded by seeing the
little walking man in the traffic signal turn green, and a minute later traffic
actually stops and we can proceed.
The National gardens are as safe a place to have a stroller as any in the
world though our progress is frequently stalled by packs of ducks who cross the
pathways wherever they please. It's the one setback we had not counted on and we
are forced to change our plans and exit the park on Vassilias Sophias rather
then Irodou Attikou to make up for the time these creatures have caused us to
As we walk down Vassilias Sophias, we marvel at the brand new metal
barriers that have been errected to keep automobiles from driving and parking on
the sidewalk. We are impressed at this giant step in Greek traffic control until
we realize that the spaces between each barricade are large enough for a car to
get through, though they may still impede large trucks.
On Panipistimiou the traffic lights are working to perfection but there is
a policeman directing and nobody is sure what to do, most of all the pedestrians
who are all trying to get his attention. He finally notices the large crowd and
lets us pass. I urge my crew to stay in the middle of this crowd since
stragglers and old people are frequently separated from the pack and run over.
Across from the University there is a small traffic jam on one of the side
streets. No problem for the twenty or so motorcycles who deftly avoid it by
driving down the sidewalk, scattering pedestrians and leaving us shaken in their
"This is insane", screams Andrea through the din, and I can see that she
is starting to crack. It could be time for a break though all the cafe tables
are dangerously close to the street. "We've got to push on", I tell her.
We decide to take Acadamias street towards Omonia and possibly increase
our chances of survival. We begin to notice that at every traffic signal, the
first to race through the changing lights are twenty or thirty motocycles that
have squeezed their way through the traffic to the front. We see them at every
light and we are curious. Are they the same motorcycles or is this the accepted
style of driving?
On Acadamias we discover that the sidewalks are too narrow for our
stroller and on-coming pedestrian traffic to share, but people are more then
willing to squeeze against the buildings and allow us to walk by. The Athenians
are generally good-natured when it comes to children and are more willing to let
us pass then they would be if I was pushing a shopping cart full of groceries.
They smile at Amarandi and step aside. I tell myself that I need to get a
realistic child-sized mannequin to use for downtown trips when Amarandi grows
We cut through Green Park after spending twenty minutes trying to cross
Alexandras Street, with another woman who had somehow gotten her stroller wedged
between a car parked on the sidewalk and a traffic signal pole. As we look back
from the safety of the park she is still trying to disengage herself while
trying to dodge the cars that are cutting the corner closely to save time. There
are very few vehicles on the paths through the gardens and we feel a sense of
security. We stop for frappe's while Amarandi plays on a coin operated car ride,
pretending she is running down people with strollers.
As we enter Kypselis we discover that we cannot cross the street because
cars are bumper to bumper as far as the eye can see. When we find an opening on
one side there's none on the other. We decide to walk in the street where our
chances of being run over are only slightly worse then on the sidewalk.
On Odos Kypseli we are almost run down by three motorcycles who have made
an illegal u-turn into the bus-only lane. We are frustrated by the terrain which
is rough and un-even. A four-wheel-drive stroller might be more suited for the
broken pavement and shifting geological strata.
At this point we take a break and have lunch with Andrea's two aunts who
remember Athens the way it used to be with dirt streets and sand piled high on
the sidewalks for the construction of apartment buildings. We long for the good
old days and cannot focus on our meal knowing that the hardest part of our
journey is yet to come.
We begin walking back down 28th of October street towards Omonia. We
notice that many of the cars illegaly parked have tickets on them, given out by
uniformed meter-maids, a giant step for Athens. We finally catch up with one and
marvel at her style of ticketing. Three copies are made. One for the offending
auto, one for her and the record keepers at the newly formed Ministry of Illegal
Parking, and one copy to crumble up in a ball and leave on the sidewalk by every
car. More work for the Dept of Sidewalk Litter at the Ministry of Government
Amarandi is taking a nap but as we walk over a small section of tiled
sidewalk she is rattled awake just as we pass a pile of rubbish waiting to be
picked up . There is barely room to pass and in the pile is a stroller that
looks like it has been run over and mangled by a tank. My daughter looks worried
and Andrea begins petitioning that we give up this journey and take the bus
back. I stand fast. There will be no surrendering as long as I am in command.
As we are crossing Panepistimiou Street we are hit head on by a tidal wave
of pedestrians coming from the opposite direction. We momentarily lose sight of
one another and I know from experience that we have about twenty seconds before
the lights change and traffic will be roaring over this very spot where we now
stand in confusion. I still have control of the stroller but Andrea has been
swept away with the crowd back to the other side of the street. I have a
decision to make. I can turn back and wait with Andrea for the light to change
again, a proposition that does not sit well with me because this particular
light is notorious for favoring vehicle traffic. I see Andrea motioning me to
continue on. She will try to catch up with us. "Don't worry about me", she
shouts above the din of autos revving their engines waiting for the light to
change. Her last words are lost as the motorcycles and cars take off sending the
last remaining pedestrian street crossers leaping for their lives. I lose visual
contact with her. Though it worries me that we may not see each other again for
awhile I know that I have a mission and must push on. It's what Andrea would
But without her navigational skills the going is much rougher. Pieces of
missing and uneven pavement take me by surprise. I fasten Amarandis safety belt
just to be sure that she is not bounced out of the stroller. We are approaching
the Athens market. Should she fall out here she might be lost forever among the
thousands of feet that wander past the stalls buying meat, fish and vegetables.
It's worse then we expected. Not only do we have to deal with the cars and
trucks as we are jostled off the pavement onto Athinas Street, but the crowds in
the market are oblivious to the stroller, their eyes fastened on the produce,
looking for bargains. All Amarandi can see is a sea of legs. She's packed in
like a pepper in a can of spicy Portugese Sardines. I don't know how much longer
I can hold on to the handles. One of my wrists is badly strained, laying useless
at my side. I am pushing one-handed but mostly we are being swept along by the
current of humanity. The Mclaren B-63 is groaning from the pressure and it's
only a matter of time before the rivets begin popping like metal projectiles
from a pellet-gun, perhaps seriously injuring innocent bystanders. We have got
to get out of this crowd. But the melted ice from the fish stalls has coated
the street and I'm having trouble getting traction, the strollers wheels are
spinning madly and the tread of my airwalks are rendered useless by the scaly
fish water. I know that if we don't get out of here and up to the pedestrian
street of Eoulou there is no was we will make it back to the Plaka by ouzo hour.
Suddenly I see an opening in the crowd and like a fullback breaking through the
defensive lines to daylight I am free. I stand on Evripidou Street and catch my
breath among the canned and dried good stores. I check Amarandi's pulse. She's
OK. Just a slight case of traumatic shock. Nothing a little more ice-cream
As I am planning the remainder of our course Andrea bursts from the crowd
like an olive pit, spit from the lips of a cyclops. She picks herself up off
the pavement. She's shaken and bruised but no permanent damage as far as I can
see. We take a break at a bench on Aelou street, watching the Athenian
housewives walk in and out of stores, some of them with children in strollers.
We realize that apart from the wrecked one in the rubbish and the woman stuck
between the pole and the car on Alexandras, these are the first strollers we
have seen. Apparently there are places in Athens that strollers are an
acceptable mode of transportation and places where they aren't. These pedestrian
areas are perfect and because they lead right into Monastiriki and the Plaka we
know that the rest of our journey will be easy. The trip was much like white-
water rafting on the Colorado. We had just passed through the last major rapids
and all we needed to do was lazily paddle our way back to the Plaka to our
favorite place for ouzo and meze.
As we cross the pointlessly bumpy stones in the square in front of the
main cathedral we are all smiling to ourselves thinking about our journey. Not
many families had tried to do what we had done and fewer had succeeded. Though
we know there will be no medals and no parades we realize there is no way to
underestimate the importance of our accomplishment. We had proven that it could
be done. Others would come later with corporate sponsors and special equipment
and they would be the ones to reap the financial rewards and the fame. But it
would be us who they would acknowelge as having been the pioneers of this
dangerous land route to Kypseli and back by stroller.
And they can keep the riches and fame because I think I can speak for
myself and the whole crew of the McLaren B-63 when I say it's not the money. We
did it so others might follow. So that one day all of Athens will be safe for
stroller pushing pedestrians. To know that we have bought that day a little
closer is reward enough for us.
-Matt Barrett and the Crew of the Mclaren B-63
Fear of War and Terrorism
It seems that every few years there is a some kind of flare-up or issue
that makes people who were planning on spending their holiday in Greece suddenly
cancel their reservations and spend two weeks in the Poconos. It's usually one
of two reasons: fear of terrorists or fear of war.
Greece is not an unsafe country. The airports are no less secure then any
other. The problem is that Greece wants to stay friends with everyone. When
America calls for sanctions against another country, Greece tries to get around
them. In a way it works since it limits terrorist activities against Greece, or
when Greece is called upon to be a mediator and helps bring together opposing
factions, but many times it incurs the wrath of our government. Then they put
out a warning declaring Athens airport unsafe, knowing that this will affect the
flow of tourist dollars which the country needs to survive. Greece complies and
tightens security and all is forgiven, except several thousand tourists have
already changed their plans and the damage is done.
War with Turkey has been on the minds of most Greeks since the Byzantine
period, and there have been wars. The last time Greece invaded Turkey in 1922
with the blessings of the great powers they suddenly found themselves alone when
France switched sides and the other powers didn't feel like starting World War
II a few years early. The Greek army was defeated and the Greeks who had been
living in Asia Minor for centuries were chased out of their homes and back to a
country they had never been to. It was known as the Asia Minor Disaster.
Since then there have been skirmishes and a war of words that seems to
heat up to the boiling point every couple of years. War is unlikely for the
following reasons. First of all the US would not permit an invasion of Greece.
The Greek lobby in Washington is powerful, plus not only does America have
business interests in Greece, but Greeks are in control of many major US
But the real reason there will not be a war is the situation of Turkey
which is surrounded by enemies. The Turks who conquered the area in the not so
distant past, have never been accepted by the Arabs, Greeks or the Persians, not
to mention the Armenians and Kurds who have suffered the most from Turkish
expansion. An attack against Greece by Turkey would open the door for any, if
not all of Turkey's neighbors to come in and carve off a piece for themselves,
not to mention the various ethnic groups within Turkey who can't even be
controlled in so-called 'peacetime'. War with Greece would mean the end of
Turkey and no country wants to commit suicide. As for Greece taking it upon
herself to invade Turkey, the scars from the betrayal of 1922 run too deep. So
the two countries will continue to antagonize each other and life will go on.
With the threat of war now past lets get into some trips outside the
immediate vicinity of the Plaka. One of my favorite places is Rafina on the
other side of Mount Pendeli and Himitos. It's like driving to an island. There
are a couple ways to get there. The easy way would be to call my taxi driving
friend George Kokkotos on his mobile phone (093-205887) and inviting him to be
your host. If you split the cost between three or four people it will be quite
inexpensive and you will have George there for translations and advice, not to
You can also go by bus. Take the metro to Victoria Square and walk up
Heiden Street at the top of the square. The first large street you will come to
should be 28th of October Street. If it's not you are walking in the wrong
direction. Keep going up Heiden until you come to Areos Park and can't go any
further. Find the bus that says Rafina and get on the one that has passengers on
it. It's a forty minute drive depending on traffic. They usually leave every
Another option instead of the metro is a yellow trolley from Venizelou (or
Panapistimiou street) Take the number 18,13,11,5, or 3 and get off at Alexandras
Ave, just beyond the Archeology museum. You will see the park and the buses one
In Rafina the bus will let you off in the harbor. There are numerous
restaurants that specialize in fried squid (kalamarakia), small fried
fish(mareedes), shark with garlic sauce (galeos me skordaya) and other things.
There are ferries going to the Cyclades and Evia, going in and out of the harbor
and lots of fishing boats. It's just like being on an island. There is a long
beach there that is usually only crowded on Sunday. The town itself has a few
too many apartment buildings for my taste but the waterfront is nice. There is
nothing like spending the day with some close friends, some fried fish and
several bottles of ouzo.
If you are going to the Cyclades islands the boat trip is two hours
shorter from Rafina.
Of course you can just as easily go to a real island in the same amount of
time. If you stand on the Acropolis or the roof of your hotel and look towards
the sea you will notice an island a few miles off the coast. That is Aegina, a
city state in it's own right in ancient times and at times a visible thorn in
the side of classical Athens.
To get there take the metro to Pireaus and cross the street. Walk to your
left past the buildings on the peninsula that juts into the harbor until you
come to the boats that look like D-day landing craft painted white. Find the
next one to Aegina. They run very frequently. It will take you to the main town
on the island, or you can take one of the boats to Agia Marina on the other side
of the island. When you get off the boat just take a walk around and get to know
the place. there are lots of places to eat and drink and there are beaches at
Agia Marina and on both sides of the port.
You can also go on to the island of Angistri, the village of Methona on
the Peleponisos or the island of Poros, all within day-trip distance of Athens.
Go in the morning, have lunch, swim and explore in the afternoon, have dinner
and take an evening boat back.
The temple at Sounion was the first and last sign of 'civilization'
Athenian sailors would see to and from their journeys. It's a magnificent site
on top of a hill on the tip of the Attika peninsula. Not a bad place to watch
the sunset either. Again, if you are three or more use the taxi. Otherwise you
can catch the bus at the same place as the buses to Rafina. Try to find Lord
Byron's name carved in the marble.
You can even spend the day on the beautiful island of Hydra, in a class of
it's own as far as the islands go, particularly those close by. There are no
automobiles on the island, only donkeys for hauling luggage and building
materials up the stepped streets of an amphitheater like village. Former home of
Leonard Cohen and jet setter haven. No beaches but who cares? Magnificent
village and swimming off the rocks is fine. Cafes on waterfront are for people-
watching. For good inexpensive food search the back-streets or walk down the
To go there wake up early and take a cab to the Flying Dolphins at Zea
Marina in Pireaus. Buy your ticket either in advance at the office in Syntagma,
right next door to the National Bank, or through your travel agent, or from the
ticket booth in Zea. They run fairly frequently, usually one an hour. Be sure to
look at the schedule and buy your return ticket when you arrive in Hydra if you
haven't gotten it in advance. You can also take the ferry back for a more scenic
journey including a lovely sunset.
You can also make it easy on yourself and do the Saronic Gulf Day-cruise
which is very affordable. You can get tickets and information from Kiki at
Dolphin Travel. (011-30-1) 322-5381. This way you will stop at all the islands
and your only responsibility is getting on the boat. The boat has a bar, food,
music and you will most likely make friends on board.
Also recommended for day tours are Naphlion, (former capital of Greece),
Mycenae, Epidavros and Delphi.
Athens best Taxi driver is GEORGE KOKKOTOS OF V.I.P. TAXI SERVICE. Having your
own air-conditioned personal taxi in Athens is like having your own chauffer
and guide for a fraction of the cost. Taxi drivers have a reputation of taking
advantage of travelers, especially those not yet familiar with the currency.
Plus, not only is getting a taxi difficult, but getting it to take you where you
want to go is hard too. George speaks perfect English and knows all there is to
know about Athens. It's a great way to see the real Greece. I recommend him for
excursions such as Delphi, Epidavros or anywhere on the mainland. (He says he
will go to the islands too.) If you are in a group of three or more people it is
cheaper to use George then to go on the guided tour bus, and more fun since he
will be more flexible. George knows the country and will help you find many
bargains and hidden places not on most tourist itineraries. He can also take you
on a guided tour of Athens nightlife. If you are in Athens and need a car at
your disposal for business or pleasure, George is at your service. One of the
few taxi drivers in Greece who does not smoke. For sightseeing, guided tours,
excursions all over Greece, or even a day of golf, call, e-mail or FAX George.
Phone and FAX(011 30 1) 5024-482
or mobile phone 093-205887.(from USA dial 01130-93-205887)
E-Mail to GreekTaxi@aol.com
If your FAX does not go through try again. Sometimes it takes a couple attempts.
Books To Read
I am amazed at how many people I see reading Steven King novels and other
worthless time-passers. These books are escapes. If you are in Greece you are
already escaping. Why escape from the escape? Embrace the escape. Read about
Greece while you experience it. There will be plenty of reading time on your
journey on boat trips, on beaches and in cafes so why not further your
understanding of the country and the people? No this does not necessarily mean
reading Euripedes and Homer though they are an option of course. I am talking
about the modern Greek writers whose works are not only profound but totally
enjoyable reading. Here are a few suggestions.
Zorba the Greek: In my mind Kazantzakis best novel. It's the story of a guy who
inherits a lignite mine in Crete and meets a man named Alexis Zorba, a free-
spirited, passionate man who teaches the narrator how to live. It has the power
to do the same for you.
Dinner With Persephone by Patricia Storace. I have only read reviews and an
excerpt from it but as far as being informative, well-written and able to
enhance your understanding of the people and the country, this book looks like a
sure thing. Bring it with you especially if it comes out in paperback anytime
Colossus Of Marousi: This travel journal by Henry Miller is sexually tame for
those who love Miller, though some say it is his best book.
Flight of Ikarus by Kevin Andrews is a book about traveling around Greece in the
1940's. It's a portrait of modern Greek peasant life.
The Unwritten Places by Tim Salmon is probably the best book about traveling in
rural Greece. It takes place in the mountains of Epiros where they author takes
you through a walking journey of the remote villages, roads and pathways.
Z by V. Vassilikos is a political thriller that takes place in Thessaloniki in
the early sixties.
The Fratricides, Freedom or Death, The Greek Passion all by Kazantzakis and are
not only easily read, but profound, as is Report to Greco his loose
Roumeli and Mani by Patrick Leigh Fermer, a former guerrilla leader, chronicles
his travels in Northern and Southern Greece.
Hellas: A Portrait of Greece by Nicholas Gage, the author of Eleni, is an
informative and readable introduction to the country.
The Mermaid Madonna and The School Mistress with the Golden Eyes are both
pictures of Greek island life. Madonna is about the inhabitants of the village
of Sikamias on Lesvos. The School Mistress is a modern rendering of the legend
Mary Renault Historical Novels are all informative and readable. They include
Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy, and The Nature of Alexander are about
Alexander the Great. The King Must Die is about Theseus, king of Athens. The
Last of the Wine takes place during the Peleponesian war and follows the life
Alexias, a young man from Athens. The Mask of Apollo takes place in ancient
Syracuse where Plato's friend Dion is trying to persuade the tyrant Dionysious
to accept the rule of law.
Greece Unorthodox by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring is a very funny book about life
in modern Greece. It is must reading for any woman going there with romance in
her heart and anyone who wants insight into Greek character and society.
The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone brings to life ancient Athens.
The Greek Islands by Lawrence Durrell is a little big to lug around but great
pre-trip reading as is Vanishing Greece.
There are many more. Most are available in the US by
The Greek American Monthly
406 Wimer Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
There are also some very good English language bookstores in Athens. Compendium
at 28 Nikis street, Eleftherodakis at 17 Panapistimiou, Bookstall at 6-10
Harilaou Trikoupi st and Eleftherodakis original shop on Nikis street directly
Most kiosks around the center carry the daily ATHENS NEWS which is in English. I
have been reading this paper for over thirty years and it's one of my favorites,
There are sections on World News, Greek News, Entertainment, and lots of helpful
information. The Greek news In Brief is not what it used to be but occasionally
there is an interesting article that seems to defy reality. My favorite is the
one about the shepherd who blew his house up when his dynamite got wet and he
put it on the hearth to dry. Then there's the human head found by a fisherman in
Crete that had three autopsies done on it before they discovered it was the head
of a mannequin.
Hellenic Times is a review of the weeks news, plus articles on Greek
culture, arts, sports etc. Much like the Athens News except that it is weekly.
The USA TODAY comes out weekdays. They usually arrive at the newsstands in
the mid afternoon. For sports information, baseball box scores etc. It's
incomparable. For news, business and everything else get the International
Herald Tribune which is published every day except Sunday.
Odyssey Magazine is available around Athens or by subscription. Call 1-
800-9-HELLAS in the USA. From elsewhere call 212-977-6719. Their summer preview
issue has lots of valuable information about what is going on in Athens and
around Greece. It comes out every other month. The writers are very good as is
the layout. It is by far the most professional looking of all the print media.
If The Athenian is still publishing it's worth getting a copy. It's
monthly and similar to Odyssey though less glossy.
Around Athens is available at travel agencies. It's mostly advertisements
The Greek American Monthly is a very informative magazine that is able to
translate complex issiues into simple layman's terms. To learn more about the
country I suggest getting a subscription. 12 issues is only $25.
The Greek American Monthly
406 Wimer Dr
Pittsburgh PA 15237
Tel. (1-800) 530-8541
Can rain ruin a vacation? Of course. If you have planned on going to a Greek
island and basking in the hot Mediterranean sun and you get nothing but clouds
and downpour of biblical proportions you may leave feeling slightly dis-
satisfied. But if you are in Athens and you have an umbrella, the rain can be an
eye-opener. A time for reflection, reading relaxing and learning what it feels
like to not have to be somewhere or do something.
While I wander around Athens I always have my eyes open for nice places to
hang out. Cafeneons, ouzeries, pastry shops. They are everywhere and when that
rare rain does fall I welcome it. I can sit in a cafeneon, read my paper, write
in my journal, reflect and become aware of my surroundings. Yes, it's easy to
feel trapped as if the rain is keeping us from doing something we should be
doing but this is a vacation. The only thing you need to be doing is relaxing
and the rain can become a tool that enables you to slow down. Many people who
come to Greece become caught up in the pace of doing. Go to the Acropolis, visit
the Agora, hit the museums, Athens by night. Their vacation is a continuation of
the hectic pace they follow in America. That's not what you are here for. Relax.
Let it rain. It's so rare why not enjoy it?
Greek Island Synopsis by Matt Barrett
Though I haven't been to all the islands, I have gotten a few reports on the
ones I haven't. You can't really describe an island culture in one or two
sentences, but I can give you some idea and give you a mental image to go with a
name. If you are traveling to the more popular islands during the summer months
it is not a bad idea to make reservations first. You can do this through Kiki at
Also keep in mind that you can go through the hassle of booking tours and
accomodations yourself but if you do it through Dolphin you will save at least
15% because of the special arrangements between the hotels, cruise companies and
the Greek Travel agents who give them most of their business. This is the nature
of the travel industry in Greece which is in sharp contrast to the US where
travel agents can tack on their comission adding up to 50% to your cost.
Visit my web page at http://www.GreekTravel.com
Mykonos: Expensive, decadent, and fun for gays and staight people. Beautiful
crowded beaches and clubs that never stop and if you can't handle it there are
frequent boats to escape by.
Santorini:Visually spectacular. Must be approached by sea to get the full effect
of sailing into a giant crater so don't fly there. Thira is touristy, Oia is
quieter. The daytime action is at the beaches, Perissa and Kamari. Good Raki and
domatokeftedes (fried tomato-balls). Ruins of Ancient Thira are worth the trip
if you are unimpressed by the most spectacular sunsets on this planet.The one
essential island, Santorini should not be missed. The Phenix studios and
apartments are a great place to stay overlooking the bay on the rim of the
volcano. If you have questions about prices, locations etc e-mail me. If you
would like to make a reservation contact:
Mr. Christos Vlahoyanis
PO Box 47. Santorini.Greece 847 00
Phone (01130) 286-22116 or 286-22007 or Fax 286-23809
Mention me and get a generous discount.
Paros:Grand Central Station of Aegean. Most boats stop here. Town is full of
foreigners and bars. Head for the smaller villages or Antiparos.
Naxos: The big island. Green and beautiful. "A mini Crete" says my friend and
fellow expert Tony Dazzle.You'll need a bike or car. Like Paros, get out of
town. Lots of bars and restaurants for nightlife. The best beaches in Greece!
Try Agia Anna.
Andros: Batsi is touristy but fun. The best place is the village of Chora on the
other side of the island. No autos allowed in the village which juts out on a
peninsula between two long beaches.
Tinos: The Holiest of islands. If you go during a religious holiday you will
have a unique experience. First you won't find anywhere to stay. You will find
yourself in the company of thousands of old women all talking at the same time.
You can remedy this by leaving the port and finding somewhere else to stay, like
one of the other smaller villages or beaches.
Syros: A working class island. The capital of the cyclades with a century old
ship yard servicing ocean going freighters and tankers, right in the harbor.
Beautiful town, more like a small city. Two or three of the best restaurants in
Greece. Extremely nice beaches too. I am convinced that the town of
Hermiopoulis, will one day be a popular destination in the off-season. The
reason is the architecture. In the late 1800's the town was the main port for
Greece and is full of old buildings, churches and mansions that have now been
restored. It has cobblestone streets and great cafes. If you love old buildings
and good food, come here.
Ios: Arrive by day to a quaint white cycladic village. By nightfall every house
is a disco, bar, fastfood or boutique. Not recommended for anyone over 25, at
least for not more then a day or so.
Sifnos: Visually attractive and still Greek. For the thirty and older crowd,
married with children. Apollonia has fun nightlife. Great bars. Great beaches.
Fantastic food and wine. This is a nice way to start your trip. It's a quiet and
beautiful island that has retained it's Greek character. A great way to relax
and get yourself acclimated to Greek life. A stepping-stone to the more popular
islands but you may never want to leave.
HOTEL STAVROS in the port of Kamares a few steps from the ferry and a long
beautiful beach. Stavros and Sarah both speak English (She's British). They also
rent cars and can help you make connections and find accommodations on other
Telephone (011 30 2) 843-3383 or 843-1641 or FAX 843-1709.
For Traditional Greek food try Kambourakis on the waterfront. The best
spot for ouzo and octopus. Don't leave without buying a piece of pottery from
Adonis the famous potter and Casanova, known world-wide for both. His shop is
across from The Old Captain Bar owned by Tony and Lefteris, two of the nicest
guys in Greece. Their English is as good as yours and they are very helpful.
Besides being famous for it's traditional food and pottery, Sifnos also
has two fine Italian restaurants, Duo Porcini in Kamares and Mama Mia's with
locations in Plati Yiallos and on the walking road to Artemona from Appolonia.
You can camp at Kamares and Platiyialos
Vathi is one of the most beautiful beaches and harbors in Greece. It used
to be accessable only by boat but there is now a road and rooms to be rented.
The best place to stay is at Manolis. You can make arrangements through Kiki
because neither Manolis or his son Stellios speak very much English.
Swimming off the rocks at Chrisopigi is a great experience. The village of
Kastro has been inhabited for 3000 years.
Check out my Sifnos Page at: http://www.kitchenmedia.com/matt/greece/Sifnos.html
Serifos: Poor neighbor of Sifnos. Relatively undeveloped outside of main port.
Nice beaches. Like Sifnos, Milos, and Kythnos, for older travelers.
Kea: Quiet and traditional. Like going to the most remote island in the Aegean,
but it's so close to Athens. How can this be? Try going there and you will know.
You can take a flying dolphin from Pireaus but it leaves at 7:30 in the morning.
It's smooth sailing until you hit the Cavo d Oro, the most treacherous stretch
of water in the meditareanean, and then you start praying. Hydrofoils are made
for lakes and rivers, not rough seas. Alternative? Take the ferry. But it leaves
from Lavrion, an hour plus bus ride to a city with 75% unemployment and is best
known for being used as a stand-in for war-torn Sarajevo when it was too
dangerous to film there. If you get this far, stay in Voukari. The village of
Ioulis is a fantastic labarynth of white cycladic houses perched on the side of
a mountain, but there is nowhere to eat, though they have a great cafeneon in
the main square.
Milos: Up and coming. Neat rock formations. Bikes or car essential. Slightly
industrial but don't let that scare you away.
Folegandros: Fantastic, they say.
Sikinos: Not ready for Prime-time. Good reason to go. Ferries from Eastern
Cyclades stop there on the way to Ios and Santorini and back.
Crete: Iraklion, Ag Nikalao, Malia, and the major tourist beaches have been
taken over by British package tours. Instead take the boat to Chania, the bus to
Omalos and walk down the Samarian Gorge. The south coast is busy, but at least
it's nice. Try the east or western tips. Rent a car. Kato Zakro is a trip. Save
this island for the off-season.
Karpathos: Another world. Don't come here to party but to watch and learn. Very
traditional and sophisticated, especially the mountain villages. Beautiful
island, large quiet, scenic with good beaches.
Rhodes; Big city but stay in the old town and you'll like it. Lots of nightlife.
Try Sticky Fingers or the 60's bar. Tell Kosta Iraklides I sent you. Check out
the rest of the island.
Kastelorizo: This is where they filmed Meditareania. See it if you want an idea
of the island.
Symi: Quiet, rough and dry but with it's own special beauty. This is where they
filmed Pasquali's Island.
Kos: Tourist industry. Drunken Swedes herded like cattle into enormous bars. But
if you are going to Bodrun then you have no choice but to be here.
Kalymnos: Spongefishermen's island. Very dry. Inhabitants have historically made
their living from the sea. Now they supplement it by owning bars, rooms,
restaurants and hotels.
Patmos: Saint John wrote the Apocolypse here. Now David Bowie hangs out. My
friends tell me it's magical but with several large cruise ships unloading
tourists every day, how magical can it still be? Save it for late September.
Lipsi: Totally quiet island but with good tavernas and empty sandy beaches. Very
Amorgos: Few beaches but great swimming off the rocks. Most boats arrive at
inconvenient times, like three in the morning which gives a traveler a strange
first impression, but the island grows on you. Interesting travelers, not your
typical tourists. Easy to get to from Athens, Naxos or Paros. Stay in Cora, near
where the bus stops.
Samos: Big and green. Nice beaches. Touristy. Car or bike essential. Industrial
city of Karlavassi with deserted warehouses and factories would make a cool set
for a movie abouth the end of the world. The main port is busy but fun. Day
trips to Turkey. Ephesus is fantastic.
Ikaria: Laid-back. Mysterious and very beautiful with good beaches. There is an
art school here that may be worth checking out. Suspicious of travelers you may
have to win them over.
Chios: The ship-owners island. The port is a city with traffic and buses. Lots
of interesting fortress villages.
Lesvos: I love this island. City port. Great market. The best food, especially
seafood. Famous for ouzo and sardines. The ouzo is actually made by importing
ingredients and assembling in the famous factories. Still, next to Brettos, it's
the best. Try Mini, Veto and Kefi. (tip: to find the best ouzo check the
alchohol content. The closer to 40%, the better the taste). The sardines come
from two big bays, Yeros and Kaloni. Erressos is the birthplace of Sapho and
Mecca for Lesbians. It's also one of the best beaches in the world. Molyvos is
built around a medieval castle. Many foreigners, some visiting some living
there. There's a Zen center and other spiritual forums. Plomari is famous for
having the best ouzo, but actually it's only the strongest. They say the
inhabitants are all crazy. Kaloni is the birdwatching capital of Europe and has
more wildflowers then anywhere in Greece. The best sardines too. Thermal spas at
Skala Thermi, Eftalou and Yeros. The beach at Vatera is about ten miles long.
The island is big. Too big for motorbikes. You will need a car. If my
discription of Crete has scared you off, come here instead. Ask for me in
Vatoussa or Xidera where I hang out. E-mail me or Kiki about accomodations like
the Olive Press Hotel which is a converted factory. It's beautiful and right on
the beach. Also the Sea Horse in Molyvos.
Lemnos: Large, busy with locals but few tourists. has a very special quality
that should be experienced. Good food and great swimming. (My friend Tony says
Aegina, Angistri or Poros: A nice day trip from Athens. Take the ferry rather
then the Flying Dolphin(hydrafoil) so you can relax and enjoy the scenery of the
Hydra:Former home of Leonard Cohen and jet setter haven. No beaches but who
cares? Magnificent village and swimming off the rocks is good enough for
recovering from last nights festivities. Restaurants and cafes on waterfront are
for people-watching. For good inexpensive food search the back-streets or walk
down the coast. No cars on the island. Lots of donkeys. Suitable for families or
decadent party animals.
Spetsi: Expensive. Nice beaches. Pine trees. Nightlife and water-taxis.
Nightlife in the old harbor.
Skiathos: The Mykonos of the Sporades.
Skopelos, Alonissos, Skyros: Hard to get to but worth the trip they say.For more
info about these islands contact Jeannie at Aegean Travel in Astoria New York.
Her number is 1-800-536-1866 or e-mail email@example.com
Thassos and Samothraki: Full of Germans until the war in Yugoslavia made it
inconvenient for people to drive here. Now they are quiet and beautiful.
Corfu: For many, the first and last stop in Greece. Very green. Full of British
tourists and American college students. Nice beaches but crowded except in the
off-season. They play cricket here. #1 in rainfall.
Kefalonia: Lots of Italians. Large green island. Locals known for being clever.
Nice beaches. Village of Fiscardo was one of the most beautiful in Greece, but
that was twenty years ago.
Zakynthos: Favorite Ionian Island of most expatriates and philhellenes.
Best Combo: A week in Sifnos and three days in Santorini. Easy connections. One
is quiet and beautiful the other wild and beautiful.
For info on hotels, transportation and bookings email Kiki at
Yacht and Sailboat Charters.
Without a doubt the best way to do the Greek islands and coasts. The best
company is GPSC Charters, whether you want to go with a flotilla or off on your
own. If you have never sailed they offer a 10-day cruise combining the pleasures
of a vacation in the Greek islands with the fun of learning to sail...with
Singles couples or groups are welcome. Surprisingly inexpensive.In fact a 10 day
trip including airfare from NY, hotels, transfers,a guide and seven days sailing
will cost about $1675. Call or e-mail for details.
CPSC Charters LTD
If you hate flying and don't fancy a ferry trip then you will be happy to know
that by leaving from the port of Rafina rather then Pireaus, you can shave off
two hours from your time on the ship. Ask Kiki about hotels there or George the
Famous Taxi Driver about transfers.
Unfortunately the majority of Greek Travel agencies have taken a
MacDonalds cattle herding approach. Make lots of money by getting lots of people
doing the same thing. There are exceptions and you can wander around Athens or
the internet looking for them. I have found Dolphin Hellas to be the most
responsible and reliable. They are one of the oldest agencies in Greece and go
out of their way to make sure their clients have a problem-free holiday. They
realize that to be successful you have to have return customers while other
agencies believe there is an inexhaustible supply of tourists and just push you
through the system which is in great need of repair.
I am not saying that Dolphin is the only agency that you can trust with
your vacation time. There are others, but having found Dolphin, I find it
unnecessary to keep searching and I recommend them to everyone, regardless of
your travel needs.
The woman I have worked mostly with and have found to be charming,
entertaining, most helpful and generous is Kiki Zikou. Everyone I have sent to
Greece who used Kiki said that she was one of their favorite things about the
country. You can reach her at:
117 42 Athens Greece
Phone: (011-30-1) 922-7772 or 922-7773 or 922-7774 or 922-7775
If you have any difficulties that require the service of someone with knowledge
of the system,(i.e. lost travelers checks, customs problems, residence or work
permits, visas), or help starting a business or finding a job
Call Dorian Kokas(011 30 1) 867-0196
Dorian has suffered every indignity possible within the Greek bureaucratic
system and is more then willing to advise and help extricate any unfortunate
souls who happen to find themselves at it's mercy. The following story is a
sampling of what you may have to go through.
My Dear Friend Matt: You asked me to write a story about some sector of
Greek life, in particular the problems a foreigner might encounter here. Well,
here it goes. It may be menial, but on the other hand it might give useful
information to someone deciding to reside in Greece. It has to do with, yes my
friend, a drivers license. Before I get into what happened to me, let me give
you some background information.
Let's say that you are an American coming to Greece for an extended period
of time. You rent or buy(tax-free) a car and you have an American license.
You get an international license from E.L.P.A. for 25,000 Drs. It's good
for one year. If you overstay that year you must leave the country for one hour
and then come back for renewal. Cost? 25,000 Drs.
The original American license must never expire. You can not get an
international license for longer then the expiration date on the US license.
The international license is good for all over the world except, of course, the
If at any time your American license expires and you have not gone back to
the states to have it renewed you may get yourself into the mess I got myself
into. I hope this story amuses you.
A True Story by Dorian Kokas
My American license was one month from expiration so of course, was the
international. Dilemma: Go back to the states for renewal or get a Greek (EC)
license. I decided, mistakenly, that the latter would be more practical. My dear
friends... the time has come for all devoted employees of AAA to take arms and
fight their devil counterpart in this poor god-forsaken country and to finally
abolish the laws pertaining to licenses. Their counterpart is called E.L.P.A.
Naive American: What do I have to do to get a drivers license?
E.L.P.A.: 1) Official translation of the American license at the foreign
ministry. 2) Chest ex-ray. 3) Eye test. 4) Greek I.D. or residence permit. 5)
Four photographs. 6) Application. 7) Bill of health from an MD. 8) Verification
that the license is real from E.L.P.A.
Naive American: Where do I start?
E.L.P.A.: Anywhere. Why are you so naive?
AT THE EYE DOCTOR
(The temperature is 101 degrees in the middle of August. The windows are open)
Doctor: Look at the paper.
Naive American: It's too small and it's blowing all over the place. Can you shut
the window? ( The paper blew off the tack on the old yellow wall. He puts it
Doctor: Are you crazy? We'll die of heat if we close the window.
Naive American: But it's blowing left and right. I can't read it.
Doctor: The third line.
Naive American: I can't read any line. ( It blows off the wall again. He re-
Doctor: Third line. (He thinks again.) No. The first. It doesn't move so much.
Naive American: E,F,L,E,E,K,M,K. (It was actually E,E,A,E,E,B,B,I, but I
The Doctor wrote out the paper and I made my way to the pathologist.
Pathologist: Take your shirt off for the X-ray.
Naive American: I've been smoking for years, will it affect my driving?
(World War Two x-ray machine made a buzzing sound.)
Pathologist: OK. In five minutes you get it.
(Five minutes go by)
Pathologist: Here's your x-ray and your papers. Good-bye.
Naive American: Well, what did it show?
Pathologist: What did what show?
Naive American: The x-ray of course. Am I alright?
Pathologist: How am I supposed to know? For what the government gives me for
licenses what am I supposed to do, study x-rays? If you want a check-up make an
appointment. Don't be so naive.
Now with two papers in hand, the naive American makes his way to the foreign
bureau for the official translation.
Officer: Yes, I know, an official translation.
Naive American:(thinks to himself) Wow. What efficiency. He knows!
Officer: First floor for stamps. Eighteenth floor for application. Third floor
for signature. Ninth floor for regional taxes. Then back to me.
Naive American: Where's the elevator?
Officer: There isn't any.
Advice for future venturers into Greek reality: Know your name! It's very
I got my translation which read: Dorian Kokas. Legal US drivers license. (Watch
out kids; "Dorian" Kokas. That is, or was my name.)
The problem was that my Greek I.D., (which took three years to get after proving
to the authorities that the bones in some grace in the Greek province of Pyrgos
were really those of my grandfathers) only mentions my Christian name, the name
I was baptized with which is Theodore. So my official translation is "Dorian"
and my I.D. is "Theodore". But wait. The fun isn't over yet. Now I had to go to
E.L.P.A. to verify the license. It took three hours and they gave me the paper.
I didn't look at it because of my anxiety to reach the ministry of
transportation with my photographs to get my license.
A DAY AT THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION
Employee: O.K. Yes, but there is a problem.
Naive American: What now? (I got used to this.)
Employee: Your I.D. says "Theodore", your translation says "Dorian" and your
verification from E.L.P.A. says "Miss Dorina".
Naive American: Dorina?
Employee: That's right. Which one are you.
Naive American: With which name is it easier to process the application? Which
of the three branches of government wields more power.
Employee: Well. E.L.P.A. of course.
Naive American: Then I'm Miss Dorina Kokas.
Employee: That's what it seems but how are you going to explain your appearance
to the director who has to approve the application?
Naive American: Give me one hour and I'll find a dress, wig pantyhose and be
Employee:(chuckling) The only thing you can do is get a court order which states
that Dorian, Theodore and Miss Dorina are the same person. If you are Dorina in
E.L.P.A.'s computer then you'll never be able to change it. Not in Greece.
(Kafka, I thought.)
I went to my lawyer who told me I needed two witnesses to go to court and
testify that Dorian, Theodore and Dorina are one and the same. None of my
friends were in Athens on the twentieth of August. The lawyer advised me to find
any stranger ( preferably a drunk) on the street and give him two thousand Drs
to appear for one minute in court and say they know me. But as how? Dorina?
Dorian? Theodore? Well, Theodore puts me in the Greek mentality associated with
Easter: smelly cheese, sweat, roast lamb, bouzoukia and girls with short skirts
and high heels. Dorian on the other hand brings up images of the U.S.;
Universities, McDonalds, girls with bluejeans who don't smoke, music friends and
memories. Then again, Dorina tantalizes my brain about how a woman must feel.
Why not change sides now and spend the rest of my life being chased rather then
chasing. After all, men do most of the physical labor in and out of bed. No, I
wasn't that daring. I said to the two young punks that they know me as
"Theodore", thinking that this was the most "legal" name. I dragged them to
court to the tune of two thousand Drs apiece and they testified under oath that
they had known me for ten years. I got my paper.
The next morning I gave my paper to the ministry of Transportation and they told
me that my license would be processed in one month with the name of "Theodore
One month later I went back to finally get the damn license. I Got it.
It read: Mrs. Dorian Kokas.
I guess you could call it a compromise.
The Greeks love to eat. (Who doesn't?) Many Americans have a fear of coming to
Greece because they are afraid of the food. There's nothing to be afraid of.
It's not like Mexican. Nothing is so spicy you can't eat it and the seasonings
they use are the very same ones you have on the spice shelf in your Kitchen.
What usually happens when you walk into a restaurant is after finding a table
(almost always outdoors between the months of May and October), you will be
permitted or encouraged to go to the kitchen to see what they have to offer.
There will be a large steam table full of pots with different dishes in them.
Pick out what looks good and don't be afraid to ask your cook, waiter or host
"Tea eeneh aftoe?". You have just asked "What is this?" Try to remember what
it's called until you get back to the table or else you can tell the guy right
there "Thelo aftoe." It will magically appear on your table. They will also show
you their assortment of meats and fishes for grilling. It's usually all pretty
fresh. Some of the fish may have been frozen and the squid generally comes from
the Atlantic or Monterey California. If you see fried squid on a tray don't
order it. You don't want anything fried unless it is cooked to order which is
generally the case. If I am beginning to intimidate you remember that 90% of the
people in restaurants speak English.
What Follows is a list of foods and descriptions.
Sadziki (sahd-zee-key): Yogurt, cucumber and garlic, and salt. Great on fresh
Melitzana Salata (mel-its-zan-na sal-ah-ta): Eggplant salad. Like Babaganoush in
the middle east. Eaten on bread.
Tarama Salata (tah-rah-mah sal-ah-tah): roe of carp. Greek caviar. Don't be
afraid to try it. It doesn't taste like you expect. Eaten on bread.
Saganaki (saga-nahki): fried cheese. Sometimes comes with tomato sauce. I like
it plain with lemon.
Capari Salata (cap-ah-ri sal-ah-tah): Caper salad. Sifnos specialty. Goes on
Tiro Salata (tee-row sal-ah-tah): Cheese salad. Strong sometimes spicy. Spread
Olives (ill-yes): a hundred different varieties. Don't say you don't like olives
until you have tried them all. You may find one you can't live without.
Casseri(keh-seh-ree) Soft cheese like mozzerela.
Keftedes (kef-teh-des): Deep-fried Meatballs. Other areas have their own variety
of keftedes. Sifnos has Revithiakeftedes (reh-veeth-ya-kef-teh-des), made from
chickpeas. Santorini has Domatokeftedes (tho-mah-toh-kef-teh-des) made from
Tomatoes. There are also Tirokeftedes (tee-row-kef-teh-des) made with cheese and
psarokeftedes (psah-row-kef-teh-des) made with fish. They are all delicious.
Spanakopita (span-ah-koh-pee-tah) Spinach pie
Tiropita (tee-row-pee-ta): Cheese pie
Kreatopita (kray-ah-toh-pee-tah): Meat pie
Choriatiki Salata (hoe-ree-ah-tee-key sal-ah-tah): Village salad or what we in
America call a Greek Salad, except here you usually don't get lettuce. It
generally consists of Tomatoes(tho-mah-tes),Cucumbers(an-goo-ree), Onions(crem-
ee-thya), Feta, Oil(lath-ee), vinigear (ksee-dee) and olives(ill-yes). Sometimes
they leave off the feta so you have to ask for it and they charge you extra.
When I order I ask for a hoe-ree-ah-tee-key meh feh-tah, a village salad with
feta, just to avoid this. If you want it without any of the above items just
tell the waitor: hoe-ris (without) and the name of the item.
Lakanika (la-cah-nee-kah): Cabbage salad.
Horta (hoar-ta): Boiled greens. Very healthy and good with lemon, oil and
Vleeta (vlee-tah): Cooked and served like horta but different greens.
Restaurants will have one or the other.
Yigendes (yee-gen-des): Big beans like lima beans served either with oil and
lemon or with tomatoe sauce.
Fava(fah-vah): Dip or stew made from yellow split peas that can be eaten with a
spoon or with bread.
Kolokithikia Vrasta(koh-loh-kee-thak-ya vras-tah): Boiled zuchinni seasoned with
oil, lemon and sometimes vinigear.
Patates Tiganites (pa-tah-tes tee-gah-nee-tes): fried potatoes. Greek french
fries blows MacDonalds away. It must be the oil.
Patates to Fourno (pa-tah-tes toh for-no): Oven roasted potatoes. My favorite
Briam(bree-am): roast vegetables. Usually contains potatoes, onions, zucchini,
eggplant, garlic and tomatoes.
Rivithia (reh-vee-thya): Chickpea stew.
Araka (ah-rah-kah): Peas. Cooked with onions and tomatoes. Stifado(stee-fah-
doh): Stew made with lots of small onions, tomatoes and either rabbit (kou-nell-
ee), lamb(ar-nee), or octopus(ock-toh-poh-thee).
Dolmades (doh-mah-des): Grape-leaves stuffed with rice, onions and sometimes
Macaronia (mak-ah-ron-ya): Spagetti as we call it. Served with ground beef (meh
kee-mah) or tomatoe sauce (saltsa). If you want to say without meat say ho-ris
Anginares (ang-ee-nar-es): Artichokes in lemon and egg sauce with potatoes.
Mousaka (moo-sah-kah): Baked and similar eggplant parmegeon but not as tomato
saucy. Contains eggplant, potatoes, onions, ground beef, oil, cinnamin, and a
flour, milk and butter topping.
Pastitsio(pah-sti-tsyo): Like Lasagna but not as saucy. Layered noodles, meat,
tomato sauce and topping similar to mousaka but denser.
Fricasse (arn-nee free-cah-seh): Stew made with spinach, lemon, eggs and oil.
Psito(psee-toh) Leg of lamb roasted with potatoes.
Sti Carbona(stee-car-bon-ah): charcoal grilled.
Pidakia (pie-dye-kya): Ribs grilled.
Psito or To Fourno (toh four-no): Oven Roasted with potatoes or roast.
Me Saltsa (meh sal-tsah): In red sauce.
Khirini (khe-ree-nee) Pork
Souvlakia (sue-vlak-yah): Shish-cabob
Loukanika (lou-con-ee-kah): sausage
Astako (as-tak-ko): Lobster. Mediteranean stylen no claws
Garides (ga-ree-des): Shrimp, usually large and grilled
Xifia (ksee-fee-ya): Swordfish. Grilled steaks or souvlaki.
Barbounia(bar-boon-ya): Red Mullet. Expensive and delicious grilled or fried.
Marides(mar-ree-des): Small deep fried fish that can be eaten whole, heads bones
Gopes (go-pes): Small tasty inexpensive fish served fried or grilled.
Soupy(soup-ya): Cuttle fish. Served grilled or with a red wine-sauce.
Midia (Me-dia): Mussels, Steamed or in a wine sauce.
Bakaliaro(bak-ah-lar-oh): Fried codfish served with garlic sauce (skor-da-ya).
Galeos (ga-lay-os), shark is also served this way.
Octopodi (ock-toh-poh-thee) Octopus. Delicious like filet-minion. Can be served
grilled (tis ska-ras) or boiled (vrah-stah). Excellent with ouzo by the sea.
Kalamarikia (kah-la-ma-rike-ya): Squid. Frozen is usually fried in small pieces.
Fresh is usually fried whole. Both delicious with lemon.
Sardeles (sar-dell-es): Sardines. Can be served fried, or from the can with oil.
In Lesvos a special treat is pastes (pas-tess) which means that the sardines
were caught that morning, salted on the boat and served raw that night. With
ouzo it can't be beat.
Rega(reh-ga): smoked herring in olive oil. Usually an appetizer.
Psarosoupa (psar-oh-soup-ah): Fish soup. Potatoes, lemon and egg base, can be
ordered with or without fish.
Kokoretsi(ko-ko-ret-see): Entrails of lamb wrapped up and roasted on a spit.
Patsa(Pat-sa): Tripe soup. Good for hangovers.
Bread is psoh-me.
Eggs are av-ga.
Omelet is Om-eh-let-ah. Try it with feta or the famous potato omelets(pa-ta-to
Wine is Krah-see. Red is Koh-kee-no. White is as-pro. Kee-ma is homemade from
the barrel.Glass is po-tee-ree. Caraffe is ka-ra-fi-kee. Bottle is boo-kal-ee.
Water is neh-ro.
Menu is cat-ah-lo-go. Check is lo-ga-dee-as-mo.
Thank-you is ef-ka-ree-sto.
Lately people have been asking me what gifts they should bring back for their
friends and relatives to show that they have been somewhere and even for
themselves. I recommend the following.
A Flocati rug from Mazarakis Flocati. They are soft fluffy beautiful made of
wool and come in many different colors. The best part is they can ship it for
you to the states and you won't have to lug it around or think about it again.
When it arrives it will be like getting a gift from yourself.
33-35 Voulis St
(2 blocks down Ermou from Syntagma take a left. It's on the corner of Apollonos
Tel: 322-4932 or 323-9428
Also in Mykonos.
Brettos Ouzo: Last summer I brought home a bottle that filled my entire
backpack. Greece lives in my North Carolina kitchen because of it. Also
recommended is Ouzo Mini(Green label with a girl in a mini skirt), and Ouzo
Veto. Ouzo's to avoid are Metaxa, Sans Rival, and well known commercial. My
favorite ouzos have an alcohol content of 42% or below.
Jewelry: Hand-crafted Gold is inexpensive. I never buy it because my wife makes
Greek 22k and hers is nicer.
Kombouloi: Worry beads. Inexpensive and people like them as gifts.
Pistachios: A practical gift for anyone. I have always preferred Greek
pistachios to American.
Olives: I go to the Athens market and sample olives until I find the best
tasting, then buy a couple kilos and wrap them up well so they don't destroy my
clothes. Then I divide them up in America. Kalamata you can buy anywhere in
America so leave them. Try oil-cured or the olives from Agrinion.
Icons: Hand-painted Yes. Prints no. you can find better ones in America. (Try
Wool Sweaters: One year when my summer stretched into November I was forced to
buy one to keep warm. That was over 10 years ago and I still have it and wear
Souvlakis: No, but I wanted to mention that one of my friends brought four of
them back when his family moved back to America.
I was told from an informed source that people who work customs at JFK argue
over who has to work the flights coming in from Athens because the passengers
try to bring so much contraband in. I don't mean drugs or guns, I mean food,
plants and even canaries. (Yes. The old woman next to me snuck a canary on in a
cage in a carry-on bag.)
NIGHT LIFE IN ATHENS(Thanks to Athenorama Weekly Entertainment Magazine)
ALEKOS ISLAND 42 Tsakalof in Koloniki. The oldest and most classic with
international clientele. Island style with good bartendering.
BABY GRAFITTI 6 Xoufou, near Omonia
GRANAZI 20 Lempesi in Makriyanni. (Tel. 924-4185) Very friendly place without
KOYKLAS Zan Moreas & Syngrou in Koukaki. (Tel 921-3054) Drag show with a huge
dose of humor.
LAMDA 15 Lempesi & 9 Syngrou. (Tel 922-4202)
LIZARD CLUB 31 Ap. Pavlou Thission. (Tel 09/415160)
PANTOPLEION TA PANTA BREI Ipparxou & Artemonos 9 near the beginning of
Vouliagmenis Ave. (Tel 926-0600)
R CAFE 5 Tsakalof in Koloniki
YDROXOOS 8 Lempesi in Makriayianni. (tel 923-0264) Friendly and cozy.
AN CLUB 13 Solomou in Exarchia. Greek rock groups.(tel 384-6224)
EBRIME 38 Ag. Meletiou in Kypsili. Alternative.(tel. 825-3441)
XEXASMENO PIGADI 87 Ag. lauras. Ano Patisia. Live music every night.(tel. 201-
ROUMI KAI TSOKOLATA 30 Kithnou and Taygetou in Platia Kolatsou. Live music every
night. (tel. 228-9194)
90'S CLUBS/DANCE AND NEW ROCK
ALEA 17 Foibis in Glyfada. Emphasis on ambient.(tel 894-4822)
ALSOS On Kodriktonos street by Areos Park. Rave Parties
BATTERY 100 Kiffisou near Kiffissia Station. Rave Parties every Fri and
BERLIN IN WONDERLAND 8 Iraklidon in Thission.
BUG CLUB 26 Desklion at the Gasworks. (tel. 345-1884)
CAMEL CLUB 268 Vouliagmenis Ave. (tel 971-6145)
CAROLINA TRIBAL HOTEL 55 Kolokotroni. Rave every Fri and Sat
ZOO Michalokopolou & Sebastias in Illisia. From Trip-Hop to Jungle.(tel.778-
FACTORY 112 Peiraios & 31 Ikraieon at the Gasworks.
FERNANDOS 7 Dion. Areopagitou by the Acropolis. Acid Jazz.(tel. 9227295)
G-POINT 268 Vouliagmenis Ave. (tel 971-6145)
KINGSIZE 3 Amerkis. (tel.323-2500)
LIQUID CLUB 88 Kyprou in Bournazi. From Progressive house to Goa
MAD ATHENS 49 Syngrou Ave.(tel.922-6694)
NEWS CLUB Amfiktionos and Bassilis streets in Thission. Electro-pop and Indie.
PLUS SODA 161 Ermou Thission.(tel.345-6187)
SUB 110 Ermou & 6-8 Aliton streets. (tel.323-6975)
WILD ROSE 10 Panapistimiou at Syntagma.(tel.364-2160)
BLUES 20 Panormou at Ambelokipi. Jazz & Blues. Closed mondays.(tel.643-3372)
HALF NOTE 17 Trivonianou in Metz. (tel.923-2460)
HI-HAT CAFE 28 Dragoumi near the Hilton.Jazz. Open from morning for
FRENCH QUARTER 78 Mavromichali behind the University.(tel.645-0758)
GROOVIN 80 Pratinou in Pangrati. Closed Mon.(tel.725-1738)
JAZZ IN JAZZ 4 Deinokratos at Dexameni Square in Koloniki.
PARAFONO 130 Asklipiou behind the University. Live Jazz daily.(tel.644-6512)
PINAKOTHIKI 5 Ag. Theklas in Psiri. Alternative and ethnic jazz.(tel.324-7741)
PUBLIC 6 Hatsiyanni Mesi. Live Jazz and Blues. Closed Tues, Weds.(tel.721-6258)
RHYTHM & BLUES 11 Tositsa in Exarchia. Jazz and food.(tel.822-8870)
TSAKALOF JAZZ BAR 10 Tsakalof st in Koloniki. Sat. and Sun afternoon musical
PALENIQUE CLUB 41 Farantaton st in Ambelokipi. Greek and Latin.(tel.748-
60's and 70's ROCK
ACTION FOLIE 9-11 Akti Dilaveri in Mikrolimino, Pireaus.
AMERIKANIKO 6 Akti Themistokleous in Pireaus. Fifties.(tel.451-5742)
ARGO MYKONOS 35 Ploutarxou in Kolonaki.Classics.(tel.725-4093)
ASOMATOI 43 Ag. Asomaton in Thission. Recorded rock nightly and live music on
Mon, Tues, Weds.(tel.323-6670)
MEMPHIS 5 Bentiri near the Hilton.(tel.722-4104)
MOJO CLUB 36 Papadiamantopoulo in Illissia. Rock, blues 60's.(tel.775-7033)
STAVLOS 10 Irakleidon in Thission. Rock. reggae every Sun.(tel.346-7206)
RESITAL 64 Eresou & Themistokleous in Exarchia.(380-5556)
REMBETIKA(Call for programs)
NTOYZENI 8 Makroyanni near the Acropolis. Closed Sun,Mon.(tel.922-7597, 921-
9427) (I went here two nights in a row. It was awsome and still going strong
when I left at 4am-Matt)
PERIVOLI T ORGANOU 19 Lisikratous in the Plaka. Closed Mon, Tues.(tel.323-
TA REMBETIKA 49 Karpou in Nea Kosmos. Open Fri & Sat.(tel.901-8891)
PEPORTAZ Ath.Diakou & Tziraion st. Near Syngrou. Closed Mon & Tues.(tel.923-
STOA ATHANATON 19 Sofokleos & Stoa Athanoton. Closed Sun.(tel.321-4362,321-0342)
H SOTA 118 Ermou in Thission. Rembetika, Laika, Neo-laika.(tel.325-2517)
DIPLOCHORDON 13 Ag Lagras & Galatsiou in Nea Patissia. Closed Mon.(tel.228-3863)
DIADROMES 45 Kefalinias & Patission st. Laika & Rembetika. (tel.884-0600)
TO MATI TO KYKLONA 9 Odemisiou & Bryoylon near Kasiriani.(tel 729-5308,721-4934)
APERITTO 25 Dimokritou. Authentic Rembetika and laika un-amplified.(tel.363-
MPOEMISSA 19 Solomou in Exarchia. Rembetika & Laika.(tel.384-3836)
KASTRO STO GALATSI 2 Beikou & Galatsi.(293-0873,222-3866)
KARABANI 1 Zakinthou & Fokinos Negri. Rembetika & laika.(tel.825-1896,822-1264)
EPODOS 70 Dimitrakopoulou in Koukaki. Laika & Rembetika.(tel.944-2843)
PALIO RABANASTRON 60 Dimitsanas st. Ambelokipi.(tel.645-4331)
PONDIKI 9 Eptanissou & Androu in Kypseli. Rembetika. Laika and Nisiotika(Island
Helpful Words and Phrases
Please and You are welcome: pah-rah-kah-low
How are You?: Tee-kah-nees
What is your name?: pos-seh-leh-neh
My name is: meh-leh-neh......
I'm from..(America): ee-meh ap-oh....(Am-eh-ree-kee)
I don't understand Greek: then cat-ah-la-ven-oh eh-len-ee-kah
Do you speak English?: Mee-las-ang-lee-ka
Goodbye: ya-sou (or ah-dee-oh)
Where is: poo ee-neh
how much: pos-oh kah-nee
It's too much: ee-neh po-lee
post office: tach-ee-dro-mee-oh
I would like a ticket for...:thell-oh eh-na iss-ee-tee-ree-oh yah...
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