Athens in 27000 Steps and a Touch of Vertigo!

Rightieho!  We are up and raring to kill this one day in Athens!  Having been many times over the last thirty or so years I always try to see or do something different on each visit to Athens.  Our main aim today is to go to the top of Mount Lycabettus and also visit the new Acropolis Museum.

We set off from Psyri and head towards Monastiraki Square – almost on auto pilot.  The eclectic mix of shops have put out their wares and are read for business.

From Monastiraki we head through Plaka in an upward direction, passing the Tower of Winds as we go.  We are not visiting the Acropolis on this trip having done it several times before.

We veer off the main drag, still climbing the ancient streets and find ourselves in the little village of Anafiotika or Little Anafi as a nod to the Anafians that came to Athens to help with the rebuilding of the city after the Ottomans ruled the city.

Anafi, close to Santorini was known for its skilled tradesmen and whilst working on the re-building of Athens, they built a small hamlet on Acropolis Hill for their families to live in.  Not much of the village remains after excavations of the hill meant a chunk of the village had to be demolished.  However, what does remain is a charming Cycladic style village in the heart of the city which gives you fantastic views over to Mount Lycabettus.

Next up on the itinerary is the new Acropolis Museum.  All I can say is that this is a fantastic museum and deserves its title as one of the most important museums in the world. Not only does the museum house some of the worlds most impressive archaeological collections and works of art, the architecture of the museum is a piece of art in itself.  Its simple lines take you though a chronological journey of Greece’s past and culminates in the top floor Parthenon Gallery which gives you spectacular 360 degree views over to the Acropolis and modern day Athens.  In the distance we can see Mount Lycabettus which is the next destination on today’s whistle stop tour.

With phone in hand, we key Mount Lycabettus into Google maps.  We decide to take a slow amble as we know this is going to require some level of exertion.  It would be easier to take a taxi but you see far more on Shank’s Pony and along the way we stumble across Rizari Park.  There is a small art installation by artist David Harding who has taken two lines from Samuel Beckett’s poem Cascando “If you do not love me I shall not be loved / If I do not love you I shall not love.”

I later read that during Harding’s research on Beckett he came across an article that noted: “New Irish Offshore Patrol Vessels named the Samuel Beckett Class.” It turned out that over the past year, the PV Samuel Beckett has been patrolling the sea off Libya, rescuing refugees.  (ref Documenta 14)

Leaving Rizari Park we follow Marasli Street for a couple of kilometres. We know we are in the foothills of Mount Lycabettus as we are led up steep steps that are located between blocks of flats. Soon we reach the entrance to the funicular which takes us up through the mountain, almost to the summit.  We alight below a series of cafe’s and restaurants.  Although I don’t yet have sight of the summit, I can feel the vertigo taking hold of me.

Peter bounces over to the edge to see the spectacular views across Athens, over to Piraeus and beyond.  We are looking down on the Acropolis and also the open air Lycabettus Theatre.  I’d love to see a performance there one day!  Meanwhile I am quite happy to cling to the walls of the church and admire it from a distance.

Eventually I decide to put on my big girl pants and initially begin to edge my way towards an iron fence – although relatively flimsy it gives a sense of a barrier between me and the cliff edge. After looking at the views through the fencing I move around the perimeter getting closer to the edge just enough to have my photo taken to show “I was here”.  Am I smiling or grimacing?  It’s hard to tell!  I wish I could shake this condition off – vertigo really is an annoyance when you want to travel and see the sights.

Walking back down to the funicular is a bit more hair raising than walking up.  I have to cling onto the railings for dear life!  Once back down on terra firma we grab a cup of tea in a nearby cafe and then take a slow amble to the National Gardens.  We have been here several times before and know that we are guaranteed some shade and tranquility in this beautiful oasis in the heart of the city.

We now head back towards Syntagma Square just in time to see the changing of the guards – a beautiful ceremony that I never tire of watching.

The rest of the day is a blur.  We visit the Cathedral Church of Athens and generally mooched (the British term) about until we dropped.  Back at the hotel I see that we have done nearly 27,000 steps!  Crikey O’Reilly!

Although I could quite easily have collapsed there and then in the hotel room, this is our last night in Athens on this trip so we just about summon up enough energy to have a walk around Monastiraki to look for somewhere to eat.  It is quite busy so we walk slightly off the main drag and come across Hermion Restaurant which was nice and quiet.

So that was it for this trip.  It has taken me over 4 years to finish writing it up and which has been a good work out for the old grey cells!  I have many more trips that I need to finish even further back than this so my brain really is going to get some exercise.

Apart from being a mad collector of photographs of doors and door knockers I also love graffiti.  I know it’s a bit of a contentious issue but I’m definitely one of the lovers when it’s in the right context and Athens is one of the best cities in which to admire (or hate) it.  So here is a little montage of some of the graffiti images I came across in my one day in Athens.  Until the next time – take care and stay safe. xx

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