Friday, July 19, 2013

Athens without the ruins!

We're still in Athens and it's still before lunch!  Moving along....

Next we wanted to be sure to catch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We arrived with a few minutes to spare, so Georgia suggested we check out the artifacts in the metro station at Syntagma Square. Sure – why not! What a gorgeous Metro Station! And yes, it was filled with artifacts on display. We spent about 10 minutes walking through, it was like a mini museum!

We came up, and got to the Parliament building just in time to see the Changing of the Guard ritual. Quite unusual. They do this either every 30 minutes or every hour – I can’t remember which.

It’s a very serious position. They can’t smile, or flinch or talk.

Georgia told us stories of when there were the riots in Syntagma Square a few years ago and one soldier was photographed with tears on his face from the tear gas being shot into the crowd – but he couldn’t leave his post or move until he was released from his duty by his superior. And even more amazing, another soldier who’s kilt was caught on fire by a pipe bomb who refused to leave his post until he was given the ok by his superior. He stood stoic at his post unflinching until given the ok to move, fire and all.

Luckily when we were there it was a calm day, all we saw were the thousands of pigeons and the people who seemed to think it was fun to buy pigeon food to have the birds sit all over them! Odd….

there was one lone protester on the corner across the street.

Next we drove to the Hill of Lycabettous and had a beautiful view. This is the highest point in Athens and is in mythology credited to being created by Athena.

On the way to the Plaka, which is the oldest section in Athens, we passed this super cool statue! It’s the Running Man!

What’s in the Plaka? Food! And many shops. It’s mainly closed to traffic. Here we left Georgia for maybe an hour or more? We were given time to eat and shop for a bit and then we’d meet here later. She gave us some suggestions on what to have for lunch and then we were on our own. Each of our own families split up and went our separate ways for this time.

I would imagine pretty much all of the restaurants in this area served basically the same things. Gyros! Of course other Greek specialties as well. We chose to sit down and eat as opposed to counter service. We all ordered gyros – they were served flat on the pita style bread instead of wrapped, which made them a bit challenging to eat. But we managed! Other than G-pop, we all enjoyed them. I’m not sure what he expected, but we soon started a running joke that he was looking for maybe a ham and cheese sandwich in Athens? Or wherever we were! The rest of us loved the authenticity of the food. The seasoning was phenomenal as well as the freshness!

The meats were hanging in the restaurants and you would see them shave the meat for each serving.

Our server noticed that G-pop didn’t really enjoy his meal and brought him something else. They didn’t speak much English at all, so trying to explain that he didn’t really want anything else didn’t go over well. I can’t remember what they brought my dad, but it was another full plate of something that he really only picked at. Turns out he really isn’t a fan of Authentic Greek Food! They also brought us a huge plate of lamb k-bobs, which we were told was “on the house” which was nice, but none of us are big lamb eaters. 

So, when it came time to pay, as best as we could tell, he wasn’t charged for the second meal and we weren’t charged for the lamb either. Then this older Greek man who spoke NO English came over and starts talking fast and waving his hands and has a 2nd bill. What we eventually figured out was that since my didn’t didn’t like his food, which he never complained about, just didn’t eat - now mind you, there was a TON of food, so none of us cleaned our plates, but anyway – the man brought us a second bill that was LESS – he deducted my dad’s meal because they couldn’t make him happy! This was totally unnecessary and unexpected! Definitely was a pleasant experience!

After lunch we had some time to shop, I got my magnet, the boys, their postcards and Megan got a nice leather backpack that she would later see in Italy for several Euros MORE! It was a good experience all around in the Plaka!

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