Saturday, April 12, 2008

Athens, Greece

So it turns out that ouzo gives you really bad hangovers. Ditto for absinthe. And since some of us were up late last night drinking absinthe mojitos, shots of ouzo and the odd cigarette or eight - this entry is going to be kind of like my visit to Athens – short, but sweet. The ancient architecture in this city is stunning, so if you travel here be sure not to miss the Acropolis, the Athens Marble Stadium, Hadrian’s Arch, Temple of Olympian Zeus or the National Archeological Museum which all offer glimpses into the city’s illustrious past.

After marveling at the jaw-dropping views of the city from the Acropolis, Matt & I decided to soak up some local culture, something which we found both amazing and insufferable in equal parts. But even the negatives: the loud, screaming chatter, the pushing and shoving on the subway and the apathetic service seemed to melt away when we observed the passion and joy with which the Greeks live life. They are just as quick to buy you a drink as to step on your foot and once you get used to this erratic behavior, it becomes kind of liberating.

We stopped in at Bretto’s Ouzeri, a quaint marble-topped bar crammed with wall-to-wall bottles of exotically flavored liqueur and giant barrels of ouzo. Sip a decadent cocktail, smoke the Cubans on offer and chat with the gossipy locals (who are more than happy to tell you every last detail about themselves). We loved it so much we came back twice in the same day. If you’re into beer, a must-see is Craft, Athens’ only microbrewery. We adored the Weisse Lager and Black Ale and paired them with crispy zucchini fritters dipped in minty yogurt sauce for lunch. After viewing the guards outside the Parliament House and sipping vino at the Grand Bretagne Hotel (don’t miss the views from the rooftop bar on the 8th floor) we strolled around Psiri, an up and coming nabe full of coffee shops and nightlife boites popular with young locals. We popped into the Platanos Taverna for our last meal of the day and located down a series of winding alleyways, beneath the stars this outdoor cafĂ© was incredibly romantic. In a neighborhood of crumbling row houses and courtyards dripping with bougainviella, we ate in a dimly lit courtyard filled with Greek families. The tender lamb, spicy moussaka, warm bread and feta cheese (washed down with a local white wine) was simple, totally unpretentious and nothing short of perfect. If you're planning a trip - check out Matt Barrett's Athens Guide, it's an insider's guide chock full of practical information and a great resource for any traveler.

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