Athens with friends -part 2 

I know I haven’t been able to write more to my readers. We have moved back to Prague, with a loaded car, a dog cage , a brown Labrador, 20 month old infant, thankfully my husband bought me the tickets to fly back a day before he was due to arrive in the Czech Republic.  So, in my previous post I have shared with you all on the first day events of our friends arrival to Athens and how amazing it was to see the Acropolis, we also did see the monistaraki square, I say where all the business happens. My friend hesitated to go to the fish market as the stench was unbearable. 

Nevertheless, We did not miss the oppurtunity to see the vegetable market and the tiny streets around. They kept telling me what a incredible guide I make with a 20 month old daughter strolling around the city and showing the historical place was a moment I cannot forget. 

The events on the second day was just as much exciting as the first day. We saw the famous plaka. Almost explored the entire area with all the sophisticated streets, I even discovered an incredible old yet vintage art gallery owned by an famous artist- . His place was worth seeing for for the artist lovers. And as the day fell over and night approached, we all went to a roof top restaurant at the hotel Athens Gate situated at the 8th storey to view the incredible 360 degree view of the Athens! With the lights lit up as the darkness fell over, we had the best view of the Acropolis at night! It is a view that you could never forget! 

And thus winding up our Athens tour which lasted 4 days, with amazing people, great food, lots of red wine and a beautiful story to tell share. and since this was my last week at the Athens I honestly enjoyed to the best and will always cherish the memories I made with the land of history, heritage, culture, sea, sand and Greeks! 

Looking forward to a new beginning to start back at home – Prague! With a lot to look forward to, a working new mom! 

Stay tuned for more stories. It doesn’t mean my travel has stopped. There is a lot I am waiting to explore. 

Athens with Friends -part 1. 

Last week in Athens has left me with so many mixed feelings. As I earlier mentioned in my last post that my friends are visiting me. And they have finally arrived here yesterday. We set our journey to receive them at the airport on the half empty highways at half past nine with excitement in our hearts.

The room I arranged for both my friends, one named Klara the young blonde energetic woman who is here to enjoy her summer and the other an English teacher in her mid fifties. She has been a dear friend and my only friend when I moved first to Czech Republic. Anyway, the room I found through airbnb had a fantastic authentic Greek feel to it and I loved it. 

The owner being a Greek was pleasant, sweet,and an highly educated woman in her late fourties! She in fact did an fabulous arrangement for her guests to have an comfortable and extravagant stay in the heart of the city of Athens. I must say I was very much pleased and contented. 

When I met my friends the day next day, they were really happy that I arranged such a wonderful stay for them. And like a holiday planned, we set out today to do some heavy sightseeing in almost thirty eight degrees Athens. We had a heart warming breakfast and set out our day by foot to Acropolis! The one monument you cannot miss whilst your stay at Athens.

So now they are out there doing all the study and enjoying the historical monument while I wait at the foothills of the Mighty Acropolis, having the oppurtunity to write a post and share my final week events with my dear friends in Athens. But unfortunately to my awe, I forgot to put in the micro card to my camera hence I promise to share you some pics along with my journey. 

So stay tuned, though the days are few, the journey is long! 🙂 

Grisis – the Moment of Truth

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A Greek women shows NO vote in referendum

The clock is ticking it’s hour as Greece arrives to the make or break point.  I am not much of a politics lover. Since the time I have moved to the Athens in January, I have seen elections, protests, crisis, you name it. The Greece Crisis is now been the hot topic through the world. When the new anti austere party ‘Syriza’ came to power in January this year, there has been some serious discussion going on at the European Commission at Brussels for the last six months to put an end to the crisis and negotiate deals in withdrawing the debt. and today Greece has reached its height of decision making as today is the day the Greece has to return 1.6 billion to the IMF otherwise it would become default. a Yes or a No to the European central bank for accepting the lender proposals has been drawn out. Many leaflets are printed across the city of Athens and distributed to the common man with the reasons why they should say a NO rather than an YES.

As a expat, for me it is not a big of a deal. ultimately its the Greek common man that suffers the most of out of this crisis. Tomorrow being their usual pay day, half of the workers do not believe they would receive their income for the month they have worked for. of course, that makes a lot of sense why? the banks are shut down for a week. not one transaction has been made since Monday morning. The Greek government is in such a bad shape and fear. but what can you expect from a government that has gone under a crisis four times since three decades. That explains a lot of the existing crisis.

Though the tourist areas seem to be unaffected by the situation going around Athens, the common man feels the Greece’s heat under his head. Mr. Tspiras, the Greek PM has failed in taking correct decisions to save this country from the problems it’s facing today. though a majority of Greeks are not loosing their hopes and holding on to the decisions made by the current PM. They still have hope that life in Greece will all remain the same and the downfall economy will raise in spite the decision to make on the Grexit (Greece’s Exit from the Euro). and a majority Greeks are aiming to provide a NO to the Creditors proposal.

Tourists, visiting Athens or any other part of Greece, I strongly suggest you carry enough cash to survive the holiday that you are going to make on the  land of crisis as there has been a implementation by the Banks, of Greece to protect the deflation and the bankruptcy hence capped to a 60per day withdrawals from the ATM’s. since then there has been long awaiting queues formed all around the cities ATM’s everyday. As it is, in the past few days more than 3 billion euros have been withdrawn out of the cash machines leaving a whooping 40% machines without cash. so, you better watch out where you would make your withdrawal. the gas stations have stopped accepting cards and there is a 20 euro limit for the petrol. I hope the petrol does not run out as there are no transactions made. I suggest you have a full tank of petrol and an extra can of petrol at your car trunk.

with such limits imposed on the daily life, it has made it really hard for the common man to survive these difficult times. However, as the Greeks still hope, we really wish and hope that a deal will strike between the creditors and the Greece to make a common decision for the benefit of the people and its country of Greece. They need it and the entire world waits in anticipation of what would happen tomorrow. We can only have our hopes high and fingers crossed.

Living in Athens – Part 2

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[Baby products in Greece you might as well consider]

This is for the moms out there, if you have babies and you do not cook at home, the supermarkets offer 3 varieties of baby food from the brand Nestlé which is highly expensive and comes at a whopping 2.60-2.80 euros per bottle. So I suggest all those lazy moms out there to start investing time and effort in your precious angel’s food intake by making home cooked meals unless you could afford the prices I just gasped about. There are also nappies that you might consider to look up on. I would say, consider throwing away those ‘Pampers’ and buy the ‘Babylino’. The brand that offers no spill and no hassle, the best diapers in town.  And for the baby range of toiletries there is huge amount of choices you get in the supermarkets. And nothing will disappoint you.

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[left to right: Ermou street,Traditional Greek sandals, Plaka]

The shops in the city have funny timings; they close in the afternoons on some days and open until 9 pm on the others. Shops like hairdressers don’t open on Mondays and Tuesdays and you might have to make appointments following those two days. Not to forget the shopping, Athens is a shopper’s paradise as the sales for some of the branded exclusive collections drop by more than 80% during the month of February every year. So if you want to shop till you drop, don’t forget to book your flights during this period for a promising load of clothes and range of shoes, bags and whatever you crave in fashion. The Ermou street is where all things fashion happens, the busiest street until the end of business hours and even on Sundays when there are no shops opened, is the street you never want to miss the chance to walk once. The street leads you to the squares of Monastiraki and Omonia where all the street shopping happens. And there is a flea market where you can buy awesome junk collections be it art, jewelry and antiques for really good bargains. And there is plaka, the tourists souvenir paradise. You can get all the souvenirs you want to take home. My personal choice ranges from anything to do with authentic Greek like the mastic oils, olive soaps, the greek spices, the Peloponnese wines, clothes, greek shoes with the funny wool like balls for decoration, the fridge magnets, awesome leather items, art pieces and so on. My list can go on and on.

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[Left to right: Traditional Greek tavern, Pita Gyros, Souvlaki, Moussaka, Shrimp Saganaki]

 

Alright, I would like to come back to the food just for you not get confused what to order when you get here. Like I mentioned in the previous post, Greek cuisine is one of the oldest in tradition. It has mostly Mediterranean produce. As a visitor or a person living here you would be tempted to eat (at least) a meal outside once a day. So what you would have to look for are Tavernas if you do not want to end up getting served western food. The Greeks like to eat their meals quite late and they eat huge breakfasts and tiny portions of afternoon meals and then a heavy mid evening meal and a heavy late dinner followed by wine, with lots of music. These dinners usually wind down only in the early morning hours, usually at 4 am. When you get here, do not forget to order Souvlaki which comes in two versions, one where you can have it wrapped with a pita bread and they call it Pita Gyros with everything in it, like a simple salad consisting of tomatoes and onions and then a sauce called Tzatziki which is a yoghurt based sauce with cucumbers and some fresh dill which makes a perfect dipping sauce. The pita can come as gyros which is basically meat off the roasting spit and then there is Souvlaki which is meat on kebab sticks and wrapped in pita and salad or can come with the sticks and served with pita separately. There is Moussaka, the Greek national dish made of layered beef mince and eggplant with tomato sauce, perfect for an afternoon lunch! Do not forget to try the feta salad with some pita bread and house wine. There is also, Saganaki, cooked seafood in tomato sauce and fresh feta. Trust me Greek food can never disappoint anyone. There are a lot of other varieties but I urge you to explore.

For me, the most fascinating time has been the weekends so far, once the summer hits Greece there is so much on the table to do. You can just soak in the sun on the beach, as you all know, the Greek sea is a 1000 shades of blue to the eyes with beautiful sand filled shore perfect for a sunny day. There is so much to do, I tried fishing, getting to hire a boat and go around the coast to see the beautiful landscape Greece has to offer. The roadways leading to the south of the Attica towards a place called Suonio is an amazing ride for bike lovers and equally perfect for a car if you love long drives with picturesque sceneries. Starting from the Athens coastline Glyfada to the Tip of Attica the midway has beautiful beaches to suit your preferences or you could also explore each beach as you go. For me it was a kind of addiction. The coast line was love at first sight for me. The drop down cliffs touching the sea are a beautiful sight for one’s eye. Once again, there is nothing in Greece that will disappoint, as everything is to fall in love with. I hope I was able to keep you my reader entertained, about visiting Athens.

In my next post I would talk about the places you must visit as a visitor in Greece and what you would find fascinating there. So, hold on to your horses and stay put for my yet another interesting and fun filled adventure in another part of this fascinating Historical Greece. Stay Tuned.

Living in Athens – Part 1

If you’re considering living in Athens, you might find this post interesting and helpful. I will share my experiences and my personal thoughts to make your stay worthwhile even if you’re just visiting, planning to work here, or living here as a stay at home mom like me. Athens, is the 5th most populous city in the EU zone, with two UNESCO world heritage sites; one being the mighty Acropolis and the other the Daphni Monastery. It is one of the biggest economic centers in the southeastern European continent with tremendous historical importance.

I moved to Athens with my family which includes my husband, my 18 month old daughter and my chocolate-brown Labrador in the beginning of this year. I knew very little about the place I would be calling my home for the next few years. My husband was offered a job here despite the financial crisis the city has been facing the past few years. But politics aside, let me talk about how wonderful and overwhelming this wide spread city is. So make yourself comfortable, get yourself a coffee and join me in my Greek Athens experience. And mind you, this is going to be one interesting (but slightly long) post. Grabbed that coffee yet?

The day I arrived, my husband took me to a restaurant whose name I could hardly pronounce until a few subsequent visits later. Now I have learnt that restaurants are called Local Greek Tavernas. If you go to any of these, you will never leave disappointed with the food that they serve. I’m sure many of you reading this already know how delicious Greek food is; mouthwatering and just yum! Our first week in Athens was spent exploring the neighborhood. I got lucky when I got here, I immediately made friends with a Greek woman who lives one floor below our apartment. When I say I got lucky, I mean it; it’s never a bad idea to make friends with people you are going to live with and see every day.

Our apartment is situated downtown of the city, 5 minutes from the heart of the city by car and 15 minutes by Metro. The Greek apartments stunned me, they are fabulous inside and out. The kitchen and the bathroom came decorated with colorful tiles and each room came ventilated with large double doors, with clear see through glass and a door with shade so you do not have to invest in curtains. And each room had its own balcony with large canopies to provide shade as the Greek sun can get tremendously hot during the summer. Overall, the apartments come spacious and the rents are pretty affordable due to the crisis they have currently. Once, we got settled in and made the house more of a home, it was time to explore where everything was and what to buy. We had to shop a bit at IKEA as newcomers we were aware of the ‘better safe than sorry’ saying. We also had some existing furniture in the house that we arranged to our will. And now, as in most of the European countries having their own language, Greece has Greek – and everything – whatever it may be, is written in Greek. But the other side to the drawback is that most Greeks speak English which makes it easier for you to find what you need.

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             [typical Greek farmer market called as Laiki]

Like I already mentioned, the Greek love their food, and I found out during my first week of stay that a few streets across where I live, there is a Farmers’ Market which takes place every Friday and another one every Tuesday a few blocks further. So the Farmers’ Market is called a Laiki (pronounced Lai-aa-kee). You get the freshest produce, everything from fresh vegetables, greens, fresh eggs in various sizes, and sometimes if you get lucky, you could get fresh fish and fresh seafood. The laiki happens in one long street with stalls on both the sides with vendors selling all the stuff you might want to enhance your cooking skills. Not to forget, the vendors sell some amazing local wine for 1 Euro (!) or sometimes 2. So, this Laiki is area specific; you might want to check with your neighbourhood friends on which days these markets take place. But don’t be disappointed if you cannot find one as there is an all week Farmers market which happens every day except Sunday at the Monastiraki – Omonia Streets in the Center, where there is a huge farmers market and super huge fresh seafood market with meat market. A small tip, you might want to think of waking up early to hit these markets as it can get utterly crowded after 11am. Here you can find the spices, the famous Greek Kalamata olives, fresh Greek Feta and the Greek yogurt, Greek olive oil, the Greek Mastic spirits and wines – some really robust colorful things. I would say you would never be tired of shopping here.

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[supermarkets of Greece – left to right: Sklavenitis, Carrefour, AB City]

For the supermarket purchases, a Greek local suggested I shop only at a supermarket called Sklavenitis, Greek owned with a wide range of items available for affordable prices compared to the other markets I did research on. Trust me when I say this as I learnt from my mother in law to start saving on household purchases so I do all my research perfectly. But that’s another story, and then, apart from the supermarket I mentioned there is AB city, again Greek owned, which I would pick after Sklavenitis. Also, there is the French owned supermarket Carrefour, highly expensive and not at all recommended as for weekend shopping I would spend 50 euros at the Sklavenitis and 40% more at Carrefour, thus not my personal favorite.