We spent our first day in Athens recovering from our travels.  Our first impression of the city driving in from the airport was that the buildings looked a bit run down – what I would call gritty but my father-in-law would call grotty.  I liked the fact that despite the size of the city it’s all relatively low-rise – maybe 6 – 8 storeys high for most buildings.  It was nice to come in from the east past the impressive Museum of Cycladic Art and Benaki Museum which we unfortunately ran out of time to visit, Parliament House and Syntagma (Constitution) Square – the scene of many protests – and its accompanying public gardens where we did manage to catch our breath one day on the sprawling lawns.

We drove past the magnificent and historic Hotel Grande Bretagne and down part of Ermou Street where you can find all the shops including some global brands but as I mentioned in my earlier post, I love the fact that Greece has stayed proudly Greek.  The beautiful blue and white striped flag of Greece flies in front of most buildings and houses here and I think there is only one McDonalds in Athens – I never actually saw one until I got to Santorini and even then it was in one of the back streets.  I think they have managed to avoid some of the pitfalls of globalisation and commercialisation and I found the street shops quite charming especially around our apartment where old style tin and basket shops could be found.

Psyri is pretty edgy – Mr Rosanna went to grab some delicious takeaway souvlaki on our first night and came out into the street from our apartment to find some junkies loitering below but by and large, we felt pretty safe.  There were beggars and homeless people in some of the streets and at nearby Monastiraki Square but nothing compared to the amount of homeless people we have in Melbourne.  The whole area is frequented by locals who visit the laneway bars, shops, restaurants and tavernas for which Psyri is known for.  There is a horrendous amount of graffiti and street art, which might be off putting for some, although we got used to it but noticed the difference when we eventually visited character-filled Plaka which has no graffiti.  There were a lot of very cool bars only a few metres from our apartment including the South-American inspired Juan Rodriguez (below with our Athenian-born waiter from Sierra Leone out the front) where we had dinner one night amidst all the smokers inside!  Yes, there are a lot of cigarette smokers in Greece and I think it’s one of the things that Australia has been much better at combatting along with gun control and environmental conservation.


The other thing which takes some getting used to is Greek toilets.  As their pipes are so old and narrow, their sewerage system can’t accommodate toilet paper so there is a bin provided next to every toilet you go to in Greece for used toilet paper (eek!).  Apparently, it’s pretty nasty if you forget and throw your paper in and then your toilet overflows.  The other thing they don’t do well is showers, in that not all showers have a wall fitting to hang your shower rose.  Instead you have a hose attachment with a shower rose at the end where you just hold it and shower different parts of your body but it’s not ideal if you’re someone who likes to stand under a shower with the water coming down onto your head.

On our first whole day, we woke up before dawn and it was too early for a meal at the Museum of Gastronomy downstairs so instead we went for a walk through the laneways full of interesting shops and cafes, stopping to have a koulouria (breakfast bread ring tied in a knot with sesame seeds) at a place packed with locals and walked to Monastiraki Square and its accompany flea market where you do need to watch out for pick pockets (there and on the metro train stations).  It was very touristy but my children loved buying mati (evil eye) key rings and miniature statues of Greek gods.  Mr Rosanna and I preferred the antique section and shops near Cafe Avissinia where I found a beautiful green stone elephant, which I now have to carry back in hand luggage.

We went past the famous Poet sandalmaker store (pictured above left) but found better quality and more fashionable sandals at Kallipous handmade shoes a few doors before where I bought the pair pictured above on my feet.  We got as far as the start of the ruins leading up to the Acropolis before jet lag and fatigue started to kick in.  We had lunch at a shaded tavern where we were serenaded by Greek rembetiko musicians playing the bouzouki and visited by our first cats of Greece – the first of many to come, before heading back home.


Author: missrosannablog

I'm a marketer, writer, blogger and creative type interested in all things arts and culture in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia ranging from inner city to outer suburbia and beyond.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: