The Plaka has quaint little turn-of-the-century houses and busy pedestrian-only streets. We visited this area several times. Here we could get away from the noisy city center and enjoy one of our pastimes, watching people from all over the world. The major streets of Plaka are filled with many shops and restaurants (or as they are called here: Tavernas) and they offer inexpensive Greek dining.
Two places that we enjoyed in the Plaka for great food were Petros and Tavern Kolokerinos. We had lunch at Petros several times and ate at Tavern Kolokerinos one
evening and enjoyed the music, songs, Greek folk dancers, and belly dancing.
Athens is no Vienna in the respect that there are no large sections of the city that have remained intact for hundreds of years, except the Plaka. Before the late 1800's Athens was basically a village and that village still exists in the Plaka and Anafiotika neighborhoods where you can still walk around and feel like you are on a small island village rather then a big city. Even the noise of the traffic finds it difficult to make its way through the winding streets and stairways.
Plaka was a great place for us to pick up our postcards, worry beads (komboloi),
statues and various souvenirs. Plaka Photos
At the top of Syntagma, which means Constitution, is the Parliament Building, formerly the King's Palace, built between 1836 and 1840. It's a classical style of architecture, and is the dominant style of all the old public buildings, houses and mansions of Athens. It's a square that seems to be overrun with pigeons.
It's also the place of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded by the elite soldiers who also guard the Palace and
are chosen for their height and strength. Every so often they do a little
march and dance to break the monotony of standing still all day. They do
this in their pleated mini skirts, woolly white tights with tassels on
suspenders below the knee, and red clogs with black pompoms. The sight
of the Changing of the Guard is more like slow motion ballet choreography
than a parade ground exercise. In spite of all that, they do look quite
fierce. Syntagma Square Photos
On Wed. May 24, the roads around the Parliament were heavily guarded and
blocked off. Some 2,500 University students and professors were protesting
against a new law upgrading state technical colleges to university status.
Protesters pelted officers with plastic water bottles and eggs. It was
quite a sight to see so many armed uniformed men around every corner.
In the area around the National Gardens lies the largest of the ancient Greek temples, the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It sits in front of Hadrian's Arch, the gateway to the city during Roman times. Library of Hadrian (ruins) was erected as a library by Emperor Hadrian (131 AD). After the
establishment of the modern Greek state, it housed an infantry and cavalry
quarters until it became a political prison.
There used to be a river that ran through here and the river is actually
still there but running through a tunnel beneath the street. On the Internet,
I read that there is a plan to raise the river and put the traffic underground.
That would make the city more appealing, should they actually do it.
We plan to make it back to Greece, but we will skip Athens and spend all
of our time seeing the Greek Islands, especially Crete. There are definitely
things to see and places to go that one should not miss in Athens and I
am very grateful for the opportunity to have been able to visit there.
It is just that once is enough.