May 29, 2024

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Travel Anywhere

A Trip to Athens, Greece Must Include a Trip to Plaka

The demonstrations in Athens have been fewer in recent weeks and it could be that the populace has understood that tourists are wary of traveling to the Greek capital. The austerity measures have exacerbated a bad situation here, with Greeks as well as immigrants foraging in rubbish bins in the capital. However the Greek media report that tourism will be up by 40% on last year’s figures according. Whether this is true or not, remains to be seen.

There was a demonstration yesterday, but one protesting on behalf of the environment – not overtly a political one. It was an irritant as the main streets were sealed off to traffic and it cost me three Euros more than usual plus an extra half an hour to get to Plaka, my favourite area of Athens.

Plaka is an amazing place, situated under the shadow of the Acropolis and the Parthenon; it has a magical atmosphere and bustles with tourists and Athenians taking a stroll along the ancient marble streets- most of which are pedestrianized. It has beautifully restored Neo-Classical buildings and many souvenir shops and restaurants. You can haggle there and that is also true in the shops selling gold jewelry.

Kidathenaeion Street is one of those streets in Plaka which has everything from traditional tavernas and restaurants to café-bars, pizzerias, ice-cream vendors and a small bar covered from floor to ceiling with colorful glass bottles which has been there for at least a century, to museums and souvenir shops. There’s even a mini-market on that street. It comes alive at night and even though Greece is in a recession it still lives up to its name – the joke -plaka – the place to have fun. It’s the centre of frivolity during the build up to the last weekend of Carnival when you can’t walk down that street without being hit one the head with a large plastic hammer and covered in foam and streamers.

It is also the best street to people-watch and you can see the now older men who have made their money over the years by doing just that and picking up men who want to go to brothels or strip clubs and taking commission on women’s purchases. These men are now a dying breed, but you can still spot them sitting at a café in a position which commands a view of the whole street.

There’s a children’s museum on the street, as well as an art gallery and a beautiful Byzantine church. If you are lucky to be there at Easter you will see the procession to the church on Good Friday and the people going there for the celebrations at midnight on Easter Saturday when there are the red eggs to break with each other. These are supplied by the tavernas for customers who want to eat the traditional soup and spit-roasted lamb after midnight on the Saturday.

Even in winter this street is worth a visit. It begins on Philellinon Street which is a stone’s throw from the parliament building in Syntagma Square, so it is within easy walking distance of the city centre, and in my opinion, well worth a visit.