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dfr4848 Dec 17th, 2008 08:24 AM

Christine - I certainly hope I didn't mislead. It had nothing to do with Greek cuisine, Greek culture, or Greek anything except we were in Greece. The couple didn't order cat. And in no way did I intend to even suggest that Greeks eat cats - sorry if I did. The suites in this hotel have full kitchens. There is no restaurant on site. According to Alex and his staff, this couple rather matter of factly said one morning they took one of the cats that were on site and fixed it in their kitchen in the suite for dinner the previous evening. The staff found this hard to believe, but the cleaning staff the next day found evidence that confirmed the couple's statements - as well as the fact that the cat was nowhere to be seen. (I won't repeat what the "evidence" was). This couple did this entirely on their own, independent of any outside influences, etc and without anyone's knowledge until they made their comments to the staff the next day. Alex and his staff (which are all Greek of course) were horrified and understandly upset. It just seemed bizarre to us, but we're not familiar with Korean customs either. I hope this clarifies things.

Yes, our daughter has fallen in love with Greece as did we. She returns to the States in a few days and would clearly liked to have stayed if it were an option.

dfr4848 Dec 17th, 2008 08:41 AM

elburr - thanks. It is a wonderful country and we thoroughly enjoyed Athens.

cristine27 Dec 17th, 2008 09:11 AM

dfr4848 thanks for the clarification! I didn't understand the story correctly before.

But Oh my god!! I find it absolutely horrible and can't justify it in any way whatever the culture!

I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip report though!

dfr4848 Dec 17th, 2008 09:25 AM

Dec 3

Clouds this am, but some sun in pm. Very pleasant. I get out the 1 short-sleeved knit shirt I brought.

We finalize plans for weekend trip to Nafplio, Mycenae etc. Make reservations at Hotel Byron. We end up with a single (E50/night) and a double (E70/night). Check bus schedules and decide on the 10:00 bus.

After breakfast, we take metro and visit Keromikos (Old Cemetary) and the onsite museum. Very interesting place. Some really impressive and decorative memorials. Legislation in about 300BC (I think - notes are sketchy on this) limited the more elaborate memorials as being too ostentacious, so you can see the differences after that.

The museum should not be missed. It's well organized and in chronological order from 1,500 - 300 BC. There was only one other small group there besides us, so we talked with the docents in each room and essentially got a private tour. Some of the jewelry, pottery and artifacts displayed are incredible examples of workmanship.

Have lunch at Greek "fast food" place off Omonia SQ. 2 sandwiches, fries (served in a bowl with a fork) and drinks for E12.10 total.

We then walk up to Central Market since it was essentially shut down the first time we were here. The activity is intense. Very organized with separate areas for meat (with whole carcasses), fish of every description, housewares, veggies and fruits (and yes, I'm staring at the tomatoes). The people watching is also worth the trip.

We had decided to meet daughter after her class at 15:00 in front of Nat. Arch. Musuem. We have coffee at outdoor cafe in front and then proceed only to find out 2 of our guide books are wrong on closing time. Ticket agent confirms it closes at 15:00, so we plan to be there tomorrow at 9:00 when it opens. Everyone says to double check, so we should have called the Museum directly.

Walk back to Syntagma then to Pangrati where we stop and market to pick up things for dinner at daughter's apt. Got pasta, ingredients for a sauce, fruit, salad with peppers and purple onions, brocolli and large red wine from Crete. Total came to E22. And then had to stop by that bakery for the chocolate cake!! I'm really getting addicted to that stuff and I don't have a sweet tooth.

Tomorrow - the 2 crown jewels: Nat. Arch. Museum and the Benaki.

travelerjan Dec 17th, 2008 10:34 AM

dfr, what a delightful trip report! It's so nice that you take the time to fill in detail -- for other newcomers it makes it clear how nice it is to take one's time and discover how much Athens has to offer ... instead of rushing into town, sightseeing non- stop for 48 hours then leaving.

Two observations on your first-day comments about the Metro: No, the system was not built for the 2004 Olympics it's been around for ages -- the gorgeous new station in Syntagma Square was finished in time for 2004.

Also, those artifacts displayed in glass cases in the Metro Station -- they are by way of explaining why the station took so long to build and YES, they all are GENUINE. After 4000+ years of occupancy, Athens has more ancient artifacts than many other entire countries! In another land, we' hustle the stuff over to the museum -- but in Athens the museum is already full to bursting. Even Athenians just trying to plant petunias in their back gardens may unearth pottery and ancient coins!

I remember walking thru the National Garden and suddenly there is a fab! mosaic floor, just closed off by a low linked chain. I guess the city authorities were just paving a path when whoops! an ancient treasure! Oh no, not another! Well put up a chain Petros, and lets get on with paving.

cathies Dec 17th, 2008 11:02 AM

What a lovely report! I think you are very lucky to have your daughter to share her knowledge with you. I'm sure you had quite a different experience from lots of us.

Hazel1 - Why be so mean? I loved the title, it certainly caught my attention and now I'm enjoying a great report - keep it coming!!

dfr4848 Dec 17th, 2008 11:07 AM

jan - thanks, and thanks for the clarifications. Daughter didn't know about authenticity of artifacts when I asked about Syntagma and Ackropoli stations. I truly find that amazing but your explanation makes sense. Hopefully they've survived the protests/riots; I simply haven't seen anything one way or the other.

We really liked the metro. Very efficient, reasonable, easy to use and unbelievably clean. I didn't mention that it's particularly nice that your ticket is good for transfers for up to 1.5 hrs, so we used it often to take metro to one stop, then take bus to final destination.

baladeuse Dec 17th, 2008 11:24 AM

I too am loving this trip report (including the title)! Brings back memories of our trip to Athens, Santorini and Naxos a few years ago. I wish we had had as knowledgeable a guide as your daughter though. What a great bonus.

Don't you just love children who go study in interesting places then invite you to visit!

ms_go Dec 17th, 2008 11:32 AM

I'm enjoying your report and glad you had a great time. What a great experience for your daughter. I'm looking forward to the time when ours does a study abroad, wherever that may be (probably somewhere French speaking, but who knows). Unfortunately that's a few years away; she's only a sophomore in high school now. Looking forward to hearing about your time in the Peloponnese--we loved it there!

dfr4848 Dec 17th, 2008 11:57 AM

cathies - thanks very much. Yes, we're glad to have found out daughter really did go to classes!

Dec 4

Partly cloudy, low 60s.

After breakfast we take metro to Omonia Sq and walk up to Nat. Arch. Museum then to the Benaki.

Gee, what can I say about these two places that hasn't been said. We've been to some well-known museums around the world, and these 2 are definitely world class. Definitely not to be missed. I won't "bore" you with the details of the displays, exhibits, etc (too much to mention and many guide books cover them well).

Nat. Arch. Museum - got there right at 9:00. It's well laid out and organized. Each exhibit, artifact etc has an explanation in Greek and English, so its very easy to thoroughly enjoy this place. We were continually entralled with the scope of the exhibits and the sheer size of some of the pieces and the museum.

After about 2.5 hrs I hate to admit that we were becoming overwhelmed. As DW said, there's not a sponge big enough to adsorb all of this. So we took a break and went downstairs to the courtyard restaurant for a break. Had some coffee. The courtyard was beautiful and the orange trees were loaded with fruit.

Went back through and finished the Museum - that's a loose term. One could spend days here. Visited the museum shop. Had some excellent reproductions for sale, but not cheap. Wanted to buy a book on the museum but was disappointed to find out they only had them in Greek and German.

Took metro to Syntagma and walked short distance to the Benaki. If you are severely limited in your time in Athens, I'd suggest you at least visit the Benaki. It's in the family's old mansion and spread over 4 very large but manageable floors. And it's arranged chronologically begining with 9,000 BC on the first floor and ends with Greek independence in the 1820s on the 4th. A tremendously well organized time capsule.

We took a bread mid afternoon and ate at the museum cage. Very nice place: beer, coke, tuna salad and a chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat rolls (both of which were excellent). Total cost was E15.10.

The museum shop also had some very good reproductions, but unfortunately, most were over E100.

Upon exiting the Benaki (which is almost across the street from Parliament) we notice police blocking off streets, buses lining up by Parliament, major traffic jams, protestors with signs - have no clue what's going on [but this is long before the protests which started on the 6th after the student was killed]. None of this stops the motorcycles though, so they just use the sidewalks almost making yours truly the latest traffic victim.

We walk back to the hotel, which has streets around it close off as well - and we're probably about a mile from Parliament. Traffic is almost at a stand still in the area. According to the hotel staff, there's some VIP in town so everything has to be blocked off. We can tell with the horns and shouting that this is not leaving Athenians in a very good mood.

We walk to Plaka later for dinner and eat at Hermion Tavera. We start with fried zuccini patties in cheese, then both order tsirapirous (fish) served with potatoes and steamed veggies. Local red wine and finish with custard with lemon wrapped in filo dough and coffee. Quite good. Total was E68.

Tomorrow - leave Athens and head for Nafplio, etc


travelerjan Dec 17th, 2008 01:38 PM

that custard in filo dough may have been an irresistable dessert called Galactaboureko ... as sinfully divine as well-made English trifle.

irishface Dec 17th, 2008 01:46 PM

DFR, thanks so much for a wonderful report. Looking forward to the end of it.

I was appalled at the thought of the cat being eaten. I know that there are vegetarians who are appalled at any creture being eaten. But to find out that it was a beloved pet, makes it very sad. I can't imagine, even as a meat eater, just casually going out and taking an unkown animal to butcher. Enough said.

Your report is so full of useful info! I think that Greece has moved further up my list of places tht I want to go.

thanks!

annhig Dec 17th, 2008 01:49 PM

ttt to read later

Maudie Dec 17th, 2008 02:04 PM

Book marking to read later when I have time to sit and enjoy your great report fully.

dfr4848 Dec 18th, 2008 04:25 AM

Thanks everyone.

Off to the Peloponnese:

Being a train buff, we ride trains in Europe whenever possible (and sometimes even when it's not!). So I suggested train to Nafplio. Daughter quickly gave me that "no way" look. She has taken several trips to central and northern Greece on the train and she wasn't trilled with the experience. So it's the bus.

After breakfast (and that last glorious look at the Parthenon), daughter meets us at the hotel. We check out and meet the cab that we requested the night before from Athens One (great service BTW and costs very little more than regular taxi).

I really need to add here how great the staff was at the Athens Gate. Truly accommodating and helpful. They consistently went out of their way to address any questions or requests we had.

Get to the bus station in about 30 min. [there are several bus stations in Athens so you really have to know which one to take]. Buy our roundtrip tickets for E18 each and it leaves right on time at 10:00. The trip is scheduled for 2.5 hrs.

Really impressed with the bus system. Busses are like those used on tours - very comfortable and immaculate. Daughter reminds us to sit in assigned seats - the Greeks are very particular about this (which we find out they are, but certainly not in a rude way). Bus never more than half full so it's a very comfortable trip.

We head out along the coast and the morning is beautiful. Bright sunny day and the sun glistens on the water with the purple hills in the background. I bring a book to read but am content looking out the window. We start to pass groves of olive trees, and more groves.

Pass over the Corinth Canal - looks like a masterpiece even with just the glimpse we got. Then we leave the freeway (I'll use the US term here) and head down the mountains along winding road.

When we get to the coastal plain, we encounter groves, and groves of orange and lemon trees laden with ripened fruit. Some are in the fields starting to pick them. And still more miles of them. Beautiful with the hills behind them.

We pass through Argos, several other small villages and get to Nafplio right on schedule. (I'll tie this in later, but we should have noticed that the bus driver did not call out the names of the towns at the stops)

This is daughter's third trip to Nafplio and is one of her favorites in the Pelopponese. [Her first was an all day sailing trip on a 42' sloop in the Gulf of Argolis when she arrived last Sept; I'm the sailor in the family so when I see the town and harbor, my envy level really goes up].

We hike up the hill to check in to the Hotel Byron. Our rooms are small but adequate, and have a nice view over the town. (Hair dryers are on the wall in the closet - never seen that before). The hotel has been described in one book as an "elegantly restored mansion". Probably wouldn't agree with that, but it's fine. We opt for the continental breakfast at E6 each. Staff is very helpful.

We immediately head out to explore the town, the main square, and harbor - and fall in love with the place. Very nice shops, relaxed atmosphere, clean, and lots of pedestrian streets. [Certainly don't have to worry about green walk signs here]

We stop at Kath Odon Geusi for lunch and ask to sit outside. Much too nice of a day to be inside. We have Greek salad, roasted red peppers stuffed with cheese, couple of chicken souvlaki, Mythos beer and cokes. The stuffed peppers are really good. Total E23.50.

We continue to explore the town and are pleasantly surprised by the reasonableness of the prices in most stores. The area if known for its amber and some of the jewelery is striking. I love wood carvings, so I'm particularly taken with the things I see carved out of olive wood (which as you probably know is so hard, it can not be nailed - only carved). I can already tell we'll prlbably complete our holiday shopping before we leave this place.

We have dinner at La Fanaria (which was suggested by several people on this board and guide books). We start with garlic spread, a carafe of retsin (that flavored wine we've only found in Greece - it's excellent), then veal stew with rice, chicken baked in a tomato sauce (which is excellent), baked eggplant with cheese and herbs. The quantities are large. Total comes to E29. Highly recommend this place.

Walk back to the hotel and agree we'll decide in the morning about plans to visit Mycenae and Epidauros.

dfr4848 Dec 18th, 2008 05:58 AM

Dec 6

Our plans were to stay in Nafplio through Mon and return to Athens in pm. We would go back to daughter's apt and help her pack the 2 extra bags we brought over then head out to the Soffitel Airport hotel since we had a 6:00 flight Tues morning. [That was DW's idea and turns out to be very smart move]. That left Sat or Sun to see Mycenae and Epidauros and whatever else we decided.

Today broke sunny but clouds soon came in with a definite threat of rain. This turns out to be the only day of our whole trip that the weather is "bad" all day. No complaints though. We decide to postpone Mycenae etc to tomorrow.

DW starts making comments about hiking to the top of the Palamidi castle overlooking the town. I look at that near vertical stairway (which has over 900+ steps) and promptly say no way. I'll read about it in the guide book. Daughter has same reaction. We do consider taking a boat out to the Bourtzi fortress in the harbor.

We head to the harbor where daughter says we can get headsets and do a walking tour of Nafplio. It's free; you just have to leave a form of id. We'd highly recommend this. There are 41 sites on the tour and it's very easy to start, stop, or pause the dialogue. The discussions are very thorough and well worth the time.

Nafplio has a much more varied and interesting history than we imagined. The influence of the Romans, Turks/Ottomans and Venetians is very evident and well preserved.

We have lunch at one of the covered outdoor cafes facing the harbor and order 3 crepes with man, cheese and peppers, cokes and a beer. The crepes are huge and delicious. Bill comes to E21.40 total.

We end up doing the shopping thing (as I predicted). There are a couple of museums in town which have extremely nice shops with very reasonable prices. We take a break in pm and have wine and cappucino (where they bring a small plate of snacks - very common).

We visit Karonis wine shop which is reported to have wine tastings, but they don't - at least not today and the owner makes hint of offering it.

Dinner is at Taverna Byzantium, which we had read offers a variety of international dishes. We start with fried cheese and a green salad with cabbage, carrots and parsley. Main couses of pasta Bolognaise, beefsteak with fries and veggies, and schnitzel. 1L of local red wine. All very, very good, especially the schnitzel. For dessert, the waiter brings (gratis) sliced green apples with honey and cinnamin. Total was E38.

We head back to the hotel and absentmindedly turn on BBC. It's our first knowledge about the shooting of the teenager in Athens. Reports show protestors in central Athens. It's a pretty brief report.

Tomorrow - Mycenae, and Epidauros (?)

travelerjan Dec 18th, 2008 06:07 AM

Another of my favorite places! Nice description ... and when someone asks you about the Palamidi, here's the veteran's tip -- don't climb UP the 999 steps ... take a 5€ taxi ride up the back way== wonderful views from up top, and then walk DOWN the steps! Easy-peasy, and there's a lovely little taverna under the trees right at the bottom, where u can reward yourself with a Frappe.

ms_go Dec 18th, 2008 06:44 AM

Your dinner at Ta Fanaria is making me hungry! We came home from our trip and tried to recreate that veal stew.

dfr4848 Dec 18th, 2008 07:59 AM

jan - will make a note of that! Another excuse to return.

Dec 7

Great decision to postpone Mycenae, plus some luck. Cloudless, sunny day with temps in high 60s. Also read that the sites are free on Sun.

Listen to CNN and BBC before breakfast. Protests escalating in Athens and spreading to Thessaloniki and other Greek cities. Reports of looting and burning stores in Plaka area. Doesn't sound good.

After breakfast, walk to bus station and get tickets to Mycenae at E2.40 each.

Bus leaves right at 10:00. (Driver had Greek Orthodox services on the PA system.). Beautiful morning for a ride and views.

What comes next is our version of the Keystone Kops.

We stop at a couple of villages, then Argos. We start to climb some hills and I start thinking we should've come to Mycenae by now (according to our map). Soon we get on the freeway and I know we've come too far. I look over at DW and daughter - and they have the same look on their face as I must have. What next? I suggest we get off at Corinth and see if we can get a bus back. Sounds good. [This is what happens when you spend too much time looking at the beautiful countryside and/or talk - and the fact that we had forgotten the driver doesn't announce towns]. We conclude we should've gotten off at the stop where the nun did who was sitting behind me.

Miles down the highway, I see first sign for Corinth. Good. Nope. We go right past. Then a second sign for Corinth. This one? Nope. Pass it too. Now, I remember there were no stops between Corinth and Athens. So I'm beginning to think we're going to go all the way back to Athens. So much for Mycenae etc. And I'm starting to have visions of spending Christmas in a jail in some remote Greek village for buying a cheap ticket to Mycenae and staying on til Athens.

Well, Zeus was with us. All of a sudden the bus pulls off the hightway and pulls into a place I immediately recognize as the stop we made on the way down. We hop off and go into the station where daughter asks the agent when's the next bus to Mycenae. She tells the bus outside is going to Nafplio, but will stop in Mycenae. Great. 3 tickets: E6. We get on and head back.

2 American students studying abroad are sitting behind us and say they're going to Mycenae. OK, so now there are 5 of us making sure we make the right stop. We do.

We get off. A guy in the station points and says it's several hundred meters down this road. We see no taxis and it's a gorgeous day so off we go. (Scenes from Wizard of Oz start dancing in my head). We walk quite a distance andd by now it's after 12:00. The ruins close at 3. We come upon a sign that says Mycenae, 4 km. OK, 2.4 mi. Certainly not a few hundred meters, but not bad.

Finally get to the town, and of course there's another sign that says the ancient ruins are 4 km pointing in a direction that's uphill. I'm increasingly finding this less humorous. [I might have found this more adventuresome had I not had major back surgery last year on 4 vertebrae].

We finally get to the top. And the first thing I notice is a line of taxis. Guys, what in the heck are you doing up here? How about at the bottom of this mountain?

We venture up to the tomb, then over to the palace complex (with more of those steps). We get to the top and it takes little time for us (me?) to realize this effort was well worth it. To me seeing the Lions Gate was a little like seeing the Parthenon - as many times as you've seen pictures, to see the real thing for the first time is an experience. To think that this was the seat of power from about 1,500 - 1,000 BC is hard to grasp. Building this complex is just as unimanageable.

We spend a considerable amount of time walking around in solitude. The quiet is uncanny. Very few tourist today. We notice the amazing views across the plains to the coast - this is one thing we hadn't read about. It's an incredibly beautiful sight.

Then I see this little thread of a road off in the distance. Is this what we just walked? The Death March? DW assures me it is!

It's getting close to 15:00. Epidauros will just have to wait until the next trip. We get down to the parking lot. No taxis (of course) but there's a sign with a number to call. [These guys aren't dumb]. Daughter gets on the cellphone and calls. He shows up (an E series Mercedes no less) and ask how much to take us back to the bus station. [I'm not walking back even if it is downhill]. He looks at the five of us and asks us where we're going. Nafplio. He says he'll take us there for E25. I do a quick calculation: taxi to station, E2 each for bus, time waiting for bus, then the trip. I said done.

We get in and in 30 min we're back in Nafplio. We all pay our share and say goodbye to our new friends.

We head straight for Kath Odon Geusi for something to eat. By now, I'm feeling like we've been on a hunger strike for days. Another great meal: mixed salad, mousaka, tavlaki, pasta with ham and mushrooms, cokes and a Mythos, all for E33.

DW decides to walk up the hill near the Nafplio Palace Hotel to take sunset pictures. I pass.

Walk around town the rest of afternoon just enjoying it.

Dinner was at Omorfo Tavernaki: schnitzel (wonderful), souvlaki, large fava beans cooked in tomatoes, mixed salad (lettuce, cabbage, parsley and carrots with lemon juice), cokes and 2L of local white wine. Excellent. E28 total.

Back at the hotel. BBC reported increasing violence, some stores and building burned, in Plaka and Syntagma/Parliament; new violence in Thessaloniki. Streets being blocked, massive traffic.

Guess we'll see when we return to Athens tomorrow.


Vicky Dec 18th, 2008 08:44 AM

Greece sounds fascinating and I had reservations for Santorini for May 2009 until my cousin told me about his trip in Sept and i asked if there were lots of stray cats and he said yes. I know I would spend the whole time being sad and would not be able to enjoy the beauty.


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