A Piraeus Life For Me

Trip Start Oct 21, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12.22.09               A Piraeus Life For Me

Today was a wonderful, relaxing day.  This morning after breakfast, I relaxed at the hotel while Murray visited the National Archaeological Museum (by all reports, it sounded like a fascinating museum!).  Around midday, Murray returned and we went up the street to "our" local souvlaki/kebab shop, where we grabbed a “cheap but cheerful” lunch (Murray's words) and ate it on the street.  (I had chick pea balls in a pita, with yogurt, tomato, cucumber paprika, herbs, and French fries – Murray had the same, but one each of pork and chicken instead of the chick pea balls.  Awesome!)

From lunch, we walked to the Monastiraki Metro Station, where we spent some time viewing an archeological exhibition contained in the actual station (remember how I said there were ruins EVERYWHERE in Athens?!).  During archaeological excavations conducted during the construction of the Metro, remains of various settlements along the vaulted bed of the River Eridanos were found, which dated back to the 8th century BC!  So, right before jumping on our Metro train, we viewed this exhibition and walked via elevated walkway over the ruins.  It was pretty cool!

Later, as the crowded Metro train pulled up and we were boarding it to Piraeus, a little old Greek lady, about four feet tall and clearly full of gumption, shoved me right in the belly in her quest to get aboard the busy car and secure a seat!  (Don’t worry – it didn’t hurt too much.)  I couldn’t believe it.  I mean, a shove right in my big, pregnant belly?  I guess old ladies trump pregnant ladies, huh?

Anyway, we took the Metro to Piraeus (and I finally did get my own seat on board), a city adjacent to Athens (or these days, pretty much melded right into it) that is the main port of Greece and one of the Mediterranean’s major ports.  Piraeus is the hub of the Aegean ferry network, the center of Greece’s maritime import-export and transit trade, and the base for its large merchant navy.  While today, much of Piraeus is a hodgepodge of rejuvenated pedestrian precincts with shopping strips, restaurants and cafes, and more grungy areas with run-down buildings and industrial zones, still its proximity to the sea gives it a different feel from Athens. 

From the Metro, we walked along the waterfront (Saronic Gulf) past the Olympic Peace and Friendship Stadium (again, you may remember that Athens hosted the 2004 Olympic games).  We then wound our way around the busy Mikrolimano (Small Harbor), where the seafront is lined with interesting restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs.  From there, we walked to the next harbor over, the beautiful Zea Marina area. 

Today was another day of awesome weather in Greece – sunny, warm, clear, and bright.  We spent hours exploring the various harbors and climbing the backstreets of Piraeus (and when I say climbing, I mean CLIMBING – every street leading away from the waterfront goes UPHILL!!!  It was tough, at times, for this mama!).  We found the port city to be an interesting and sometimes beautiful place.  While the surrounding cliffs contained magnificent, old sea-village buildings (Murray and I fell in love with one old house in particular - and again pondered buying and restoring it, so we could spend our remaining days waking up to the glorious views of this sea port); the groves of orange trees everywhere were luscious and smelled divine; and the view from the upper streets – of Athens, the sea, and the surrounding mountains – was stunning, still we were unimpressed by the poor waste management system of the city, as every dumpster we passed contained mounds of as-yet-uncollected trash! 

At some point during late afternoon, and somewhat lost within the center of Piraeus, we hopped on a random city bus, hoping that eventually it would take us closer to the Great Harbor – and it did.  Getting off the bus around that area, we did some more exploring before navigating ourselves to The Flying Pig, a recommended gastro-pub owned by a Greek-Australian!  It was a fun little pub, and while there, we enjoyed some interesting beers (Murray), and tea and a salad (me).

From the Flying Pig, we walked back to the Metro and jumped on another train back to Athens – this time avoiding any belly-punches by scary old ladies.  When we got back to Athens, we spent at least an hour really exploring the large flea markets of Monastiraki, which are interesting and fairly bustling.  From the flea markets, we walked up the hill past Hadrian’s Library to a guidebook-recommended restaurant called Platanos for dinner, but when we got there, we found out that they didn’t open for dinner for at least another hour.  So, we walked a bit further on from the restaurant and found another neat little place to kill some time at while we enjoyed a few drinks – a new Greek beer for Murray, and an Appletiser (100 percent sparkling apple juice – a real treat!) for me.  (Also at our drinks place, we met another Greek-Australian – our waiter who, once he heard Murray speak, “turned on” his Aussie accent out of nowhere!) 

After drinks and good conversation, we walked back to Platanos for a lovely dinner of olives and bread; cucumber-tomato salad; saganaki (fried cheese); humungous stuffed dolmades (me); and baked leg of lamb with potatoes (Murray).  By the end of dinner, it was after 10pm and I was knackered.  So, we returned to our hotel, where I got the Magic Jack working and made a few calls to the US (woo-hoo!) before hitting the hay.  Tomorrow we are planning another day trip outside of Athens – hopefully my feet recover by then.  Hah.
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