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 Mediterranean Cruise 2008 - 9/30 - Athens

Cruise Pictures

Tuesday 9/30 - Athens
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Shortly after falling asleep, my sister finally arrived around 3:30am. We talked for a bit and then she got settled in while I spent at least an hour attempting to fall asleep again. At 7:30 my alarm went off and I got up for a free continental breakfast on the Executive Level of the Marriott (yay for Gold status). The breakfast included a large cereal/muesli bar, a selection of cold cuts, cheeses and fruit as well as your standard continental bakery items. Pretty darn good for free.

I then ventured out to meet up with my parents and their friends at their hotel while my sister slept in. It's funny how much faster it is to get to the train station when you're not lost and lugging around crappy luggage. On the Metro I made my way to the Omonia (pronounced like Ammonia) and walked a couple blocks to the Best Western Zinon. It's an older hotel and it shows. The elevators have swing open doors and only hold four people and that's only if they're feeling very friendly. The inner doors are hinged like closet doors and open inward forcing the fourth passenger to squeeze against the other passengers to allow them to open and close. Also, the elevators don't differentiate between up and down when stopping at floors, you just have to ride it until it stops at the floor you actually want. The rooms are also tiny and the showers barely have enough space to turn around. I'm glad I stayed at the Marriott.

At 9:00 our private tour guide and bus showed up and we headed to Corinth. The tour guide provided some historical background as we visited the Corinth canal which is 4km long and 250 meters almost straight down to water level. We then continued on to Corinth to see the temple of Apollo as well as the Corinth Agora. Agora was the name of the public market which was so busy and crowded that the word agora became synonymous with crowds, hence the term agoraphobia, the fear of people and crowds. The Agora was also where the apostle Paul would have sold the tents he made to support himself while in Corinth. Next to the Agora were the ruins of an ancient church, believed to be the one that Paul started in Corinth and addressed in his two letters to the Corinthians, as well as the spot in the market that Paul is believed to have publicly preached.

We also learned that Corinth was destroyed by barbarians that killed all the men and enslaved all the women and children, leaving no one behind to rebuild the city. Today, the region is as famous for it's oil production as it's sun-dried raisins, pistachios and olives. Also at the peak of a mountain stands a strategic fortress that overlooked both the Aegean Sea and the Sardonic Gulf.

After our tour, we went to the Plaka market area surrounding the Acropolis. We found a restaurant to have lunch for decent prices, about 10 euros per person after the 10% discount the restauranteurs offered us as we walked by. I ordered a pork gyro since lamb wasn't offered. My pork was a bit under seasoned though the thick and flavorful authentic tzatziki sauce was delicious. Overall the food was good, but not great but at least prices were reasonable, though not cheap. I wasn't particularly surprised by this since the menu was available in 6 different languages which is a tourist trap warning sign.

Apparently pork is a traditional gyro meat in Greece, though chicken is quite common as well. I have yet to see the same lamb meat loaf cylinders that are common in America. I suppose that lamb loaf may be the American version that is purported to have originated in Chicago but I'll see what other regions in the Mediterranean have before I make my conclusions. Note that the pork and chicken cylinders are made by stacking slices of meat together on a spit and roasting them, unlike the American lamb loaf that is finely ground and formed into a cylinder around the spit.

After lunch the group walked up to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and Athena's temple. It was a bit of a trek up the hill but there were some very nice views along the way. On our way down we split up and unfortunately our group took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of the Acropolis. It took about 40 minutes to find our way back to the entrance we started at and about 20 more minutes to find the rest of our group. By that time I was completely pooped from walking up and down hills searching. I also missed my opportunity to go to the Athens central market, which might be closed on Wednesday, and some of the specialty shops I had hoped to visit.

My parents and I separated from the group to meet up with my sister and then we wandered around the Plaka looking at shops. As we were all tired and it was starting to get late, we chose a quick restaurant to eat at which had essentially the same menu as the lunch restaurant. Once again I had the pork gyros. This time the pork was well seasoned which was a dramatic improvement on the previous restaurant, except that the pitas, which came off a big stack in a plastic bag, were dry and tough. I also ordered a Cappuccino Fredo (iced, but unfortunately not frozen).

After dinner my sister and I sent my parents to their hotel in a taxi while we did some last minute exploring. We got some gelato for dessert (Hazelnut or her, Pistachio for me) and checked out a few other stores. I was interesting in buying some Ouzo, an anise flavored liquor and I also discovered that Absinthe liquors are easily obtainable (they are still outlawed in America even though the warning on the bottles indicate that the dangerous side affects of Absinthe no longer exist). If I can find a liquor store that ships to America, I'll buy a bit of both.

After that my sister and I hopped on the Metro and went back to our hotel to clean up and get a good night's rest. One last thing observation was the large numbers of stray animals. I knew about this from my research on Athens but seeing the actual problem up close was another thing entirely. Some of the dogs have survived pretty well and managed to stay pretty clean, but others are a little rough around the edges or even injured. In the highly trafficed tour areas (e.g. Corinth and the Plaka) the large numbers of humans mean that the dogs are quite tame and socialized and are not aggressive. In fact, if you feed them or offer to pet them, they seem pretty happy to sit down and soak it all in while they can. In the evening, they seemed to appear all over the place in the plaka and they'd simply lie in the middle of heavily trafficed walkways. There are also many stray cats and I even fed some leftover lamb from one of the other parent's dish to a skinny little cat, though they tend to stay in doorways and on the side of the road instead of lying in the middle. It's really kind of sad and every other dog I see I wish I could take home. I decided to take pictures of several of the animals and will share those tomorrow.

9/30 pictures are here.
Posted 10/02/2008 06:48 AM in Drinks, Food, Greece, Ramblings, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel | Total Comments: (12)
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looking @ your pics makes me hungry! thanks for putting in some pics of the parents =) i miss you guys! also, you look like you're getting skinnier--i guess all that talk about the healthy mediterranean diet is true...
Submitted by caroline on 10/07/2008 02:51 PM

You like the sauce, 'ey?
Wikipedia claims that processed meats (lamb, beef, and/or chicken) are used in the States due to restrictions concerning the storage of raw pork. I wonder if I've ever had pork gyros? But, yeah... your description of stacked-meat cylinders reminds me of the chicken and beef shawarma spits used at places like Pita Inn. Having roomfuls of fresh pita ready for serving probably helps with the taste of the bread there, too.
Submitted by Dan on 10/07/2008 02:56 PM

write more!
love all your posts and pictures so far. you are surprisingly detailed :) keep it up! have fun and say hi to mom and dad for me and andy!
Submitted by Stef on 10/07/2008 08:18 PM

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Taking the Metro to meet up with my parents.   Some nice hillside views along the way to Corinth.   A pear iced tea I picked up. Pretty tasty, medium sweetness, mild pear flavor. Overpriced at a tourist trap for 2.5 Euros (about $3.75)

This 270 meter deep canal separates Corinth from the rest of Greece. Built in the 1890s, it was a critical passage way through Greece.   On the bridge above the canal   Waiting for the bus after finishing the canal.

The Temple of Apollo along with an old bath house built around a spring (long since dried up and collapsed)

Sign describing the temple of Apollo   Example of Corinthian style pillars   Auditorium for Corinth.

Map of the Corinth Agora (market). The markets were extremely busy and the term agora became synonymous with crowded, hence the word agoraphobia, the fear of crowd and people.   The Corinth Agora, each merchant had a covered stall like the single remaining arch in the left picture. The Apostle Paul would have sold his tents in this agora to support his ministry (hence the term tent-makers)

Open area near the market that people would speak. It is believed that the Apostle Paul preached in this location.   The Bema, where legal announcements and proclamations were made.   Information on Lechaion Road, one of the major thoroughfares for Corinth   Some of the shops and buildings along Lechaion Road.

Some example artifacts at the museum in Corinth   Strategic fortress that could watch over the Laconian sea as well as the Aegean and provide early warning of approaching enemies

The Northwest end of Adrianos Street where we decided to stop for lunch at #9 Adrianos, a restaurant called Erithanos where they offered all passers-by a 10% discount.   I was a bit put off by their menu which was translated into 6 languages (tourist trap) but prices were acceptable and the food was decent. My pork gyros (a traditional meat) were a tad under seasoned and the fries were very soft instead of crispy, as if they had been oil poached instead of fried, but the tzatziki was excellent. Overall a good meal, though I think we could have gotten better for cheaper if the parental units had been a little more adventuresome.

The Ancient Agora which ironically lies in between the new Metro line and the new central market street (Adrianos)   The Temple of Athena, which stands on the north side of the Acropolis, and leads to the Parthenon, as seen from our Northwest entry point.   The middle stoa, about half way up the hill leading to the Acropolis   Near the top of the hill and the base of the Acropolis, looking back at Athens

The auditorium on the Acropolis   Looking back at Athens from the Acropolis

At the base of the Temple of Athena

More Temple of Athena

Looking back at Athens from the Temple of Athena   Approaching the Parthenon from the Temple of Athena   Looking down the side of the Acropolis near the Parthenon

The group at the back of the Parthenon   Side of the Parthenon   Interesting carvings in the rock (like Legos). I assume this was done with modern equipment to allow pieces to interconnect   Corner of the Irikthion (sp?). Each corner was different. Not sure of the significance.

Some more views of Athens from the Acropolis   Temple of Zeus, as seen from the Acropolis

Saint George church atop Mount Lycabettus   Looking back at Athens, there appears to be a tortoise. I assume it's a bronze statue but I'm not sure, could it be real?   Some olives seen along the way.

I'm not sure where they took this picture.   Cappuccino Fredo, medium sweet iced espresso topped with whipped milk.   The cylinder of pork gyro meat which they cut with an small electric circular knife. You can see the bulk pitas in a plastic bag on the right.   The pork was much tastier than at Erithanos and the fries were slightly crispy, but the pita was dry and tough. Tzatziki was also good here, but not as good as Erithanos.

Taverna salad was good with a balsamic dressing, parmagiano cheese and Greek raisins.   We ate dinner at a restaurant in Plaka, at the large intersection of Adrianos which was okay, but nothing special. The fried calamari was soggy and not that tasty.        


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