For the third time in five days I went in to the centre of Athens and there was a demonstration so that all the roads leading to Syntagma Square and the parliament building were blocked by police cordons. Today it was the turn of the workers in the Ministry of Culture, so there were no public museums or art galleries open. You could of course, still visit the Acropolis, and after all that’s the main attraction in Athens after all these centuries. As my taxi driver told me as we went passed it to get into Plaka (a circuitous, but very scenic route) “The steps might be new, but the rock is the same rock.”
Only a stray dog seemed to notice as we went down a one-way street the wrong way. He was slightly disgruntled when he heard the horn and had to move from his sleeping position in the middle of the street. I eventually got to my destination – Kidathenaeion Street and was glad we’d done the detour as I shall be leaving Athens in a few days time and I shall miss this area under the shadow of the Acropolis more than I can say.
If you start from Syntagma Square, and walk past Mitropoleus Street where the Cathedral stands in its ornate splendour you go straight up Philellenon Street and turn right opposite the Russian Church. This is the start of Kidathenaeion Street and Plaka. Plaka means “joke” and the area was noted for its bohemianism in 19th century Athens. Now you can still see the lovingly restored Neo-Classical buildings which thirty years ago were neglected and shabby. Over the years they have been restored to their former glory.
At the top of this marble street there is a small eatery where you can get good coffee and pastries – cheese or spinach pies – the traditional Greek snacks, and international roils, baguettes and wraps. There are beersand soft drinks too including fresh orange juice.
Walk a little further and on the corner of Kidathenaeion and Nikis Streets is Majestic Travel, an unprepossessing place but a tour agency that I have used frequently over the years and which has always given me value for money and friendly service. On the right is a small corner shop which sells just about everything.
Cross over Nikis Street and you are in the tourist area with souvenir shops ranging from the cheap to the expensive gold shops. There are traditional Greek tavernas, a couple of pizzerias the Folk Art Museum and opposite it a beautiful Byzantine church.
Cross the road and you come to the leather shop on your left and a bar on your right, and walk a little further until you find the Plaka Taverna and a cafe bar opposite it in front to a small square where you can bask in the sun or sit in the shade provided by the café-bar and the huge old trees. By this time you could probably do with some food and the Plaka Taverna has been my choice for more than thirty years now.
When you have eaten amble down to Adrianou Street and see the ruins of the agora, then go back walk past all the souvenir shops which line both sides of that street. If you walk all the way down that street you will come to the ruins of the Roman baths in Monastiraki area, where there are more cafe-bars and tavernas and where you have a clear view of the Acropolis.
Don’t let the demonstrations put you of spending time in Athens, the rest of the mainland, or the Greek islands. You can always find out about demos from hotel staff and from tour agency staff. I have been able to cross Athens without much trouble during street closures for demonstrations. Just be prepared for a small detour and paying about three Euros more if you are in a cab.
Come to see Athens and walk down my favourite street! The country needs you!