Friday, 6 January 2017

Athens 2016 - #6 The Four Ps

I sometimes said that my odyssey in Athens had personal, practical, political and philosophical dimensions.  I said this partly because it's true, and partly because they all began with P.

Now that I've reached the end of this chapter, I've assembled a selection of eleven insights under each heading.  (Regular readers will know my commitment to lists containing eleven magical items.)

I shan't be sharing the Personal bits (the clue is in the word) and I'll be attempting the Political and Philosophical heavy-lifting over the coming weeks, but for now, and with as much brevity and levity as I can muster, here's eleven Practical insights from my few weeks in Greece:

1. Best cafe - HBH coffee bar on Stounari overlooking Exarchia Place.  Coffee is always good: the comfy chairs outside are fantastic; and it faces ESE, which means you get delicious sunshine on your face all morning.

2. Best bar - Booze Cooperativa on Kolokotroni.  It's difficult to explain.  There are papier mache chickens, apparently modelled on the Chicken Run chickens, but by someone with a degree in Dark.  There is a man who I hesitate to call a DJ who ceaselessly concocts post-ambient jazz-rock fusion from a laptop, apparently by improv.  They sell Czech Bud.  Everyone is either mad or beautiful, or neither or both, and the owner - a 60-something gentleman wearing a black suit, white t-shirt and autonomous long grey hair - stalks the building and its environs as though hunting snarks.

3. Best view - the Acropolis is good, and the rock next to it (the Areopagus) is good too, but the best views of Athens are from the top of Lykavittos.  It's a bit of a steep climb - which I wouldn't recommend in very high temperatures - but it's worth it.







(Note weird boots in the third pic...)

4. Best place to just sit and watch the world - Syntagma Square.  This is where the Greek parliament is.  It's a busy place in and of itself; it's a major Metro station, and the starting point for the city's tram; and every protest march worth its salt heads there.  There's coffee shops and restaurants and hotels and taxis, and fountains and trees, and there's even a McDonalds.  Ignore all these.  Just sit and watch.  Mornings are best.

5. Best place for lunch - Couleur Locale, Monistiraki.  So cool it aches.  Amazing view.  Truly delicious food, served in portions you can actually eat.

6. Best place for dinner - highly subjective, of course, and my sample is painfully small - but go to Rozalia on Valtetsiou.  Hard working and highly skilled cooks and waiting staff; good ambience; good prices.

7. Best bookshop - by a country mile, Bookstore Politeia.  Quite remarkable place.  More good books in English than most UK bookshops, both fiction and non-fiction.  They don't have to stock trash fiction, of course (why would anyone Greek go to the trouble of reading utter rubbish in another language?) but, even so, the range is amazing.  My favourite - they had a copy of every single Richard Powers novel.

8. Best bakery - my local, imaginatively called 'Bakery Stores' (in English.)  It's on Trikoupi, near the junction with Kallidromiou.  Great bread, great staff, terrific little apple pies, amazing sandwiches.

9. Best stroll - any walk that takes you through the National Garden, just south of Syntagma.  Described by Henry Miller in The Colossus of Maroussi as 'the best city park in the world'. 

10. Best stall - at which to buy newspapers, cigarettes, cold drinks and so forth, is on Ermou, just down from Monistiraki Square and opposite a sports/shoe shop called Unity (hmm).  It sells everything you need AND it plays music all day and all night (I've heard Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin, Bowie...) AND the people who work there talk politics.  Perfect.

11. Best place - unfortunately, the best place is not actually in Athens, its 60 or 70 miles away, not far from the ancient city of Mycenae, down a weird road and then turn right along another weird road and then drive up the hill a while until you reach the Temple of Heraion at Argos.  A simply sublime collision of physical geography, ancient human artefact, deep cosmological myth and a stunning view across the plain of Sparta towards the mountains of the Giants.  Genuinely awe-inspiring, goose-bump stuff.




That's enough for now, methinks.  

Oh, no, just one more thing:





Kevin, too, thought the Temple of Heraion was good...







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