The second I clambered out of the aeroplane door the bright white sun and intense heat hit instantly; we had finally arrived in Athens. Forgetting that Athens was a busy and hectic city, and it being Summer and overflowing with fellow tourists, being squished in the corner of a metro en route to our Airbnb shouldn’t have come at any surprise. Consulting google maps on a regular basis, struggling to carry all our gear and wiping our brows in the blistering heat, our accommodation drew nearer, until we finally could plop on the sofa and breathe for just a few minutes – shortly, we left to explore.
It was a struggle to figure out the ticketing system for the public transport, of which seemed pointless as it seemed no one checks them anyway. To get a ticket we had to find a kiosk located randomly on any street, like an outdoor newsagent filled with magazines, candy and god knows what else. The rickety buses seemed also to be a bit precarious, arriving whenever and stopping in the middle of the road to pick and drop people off – reminiscent of my trip to Brazil to say the least.
We hopped on and off several metros to get to the centre of the city, our accommodation located in a quiet neighbourhood, Kaisarini, in the south-east of the city. It having taken longer than anticipated to leave the airport, we missed our chance to climb up Mount Lycabettus to see the sunset, but alas, we managed to sneak a peek of the glowing amber sun over the horizon on our way to find Avli; a hidden restaurant in the cracks of the bustling city centre.
If you’re trying to locate the restaurant, you may think you’re being lured into a weird basement on some Greek corner – don’t let the graffiti plastered walls and dark, quiet street put you off. Look for a tiny sign “Avli” and you will see a passage-way where music tinkles and the sound of hungry restaurant-goers clink plates and glasses. Tiny metal patio tables and chairs crowd a narrow patio-like area, that’s enveloped by high walls of the surrounding buildings. Plants flow from above and the white-painted walls have upon them blue panelled wooden doors and windows. Served are a bunch of small dishes that you can get together as a variety plate. A seemingly humble offering, don’t despair, the food is delicious.
The variety plate arrived on a large metal platter, overflowing with little burgers, grilled meats, hams, halloumi, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, olives and was served with fresh soft bread. On the side, we ordered tzatziki and the most exquisite courgette, mint and feta fritters. No first night in Greece can’t be accompanied by alcohol, and so local beer was sampled and ouzo slowly sipped – an anise-flavoured aperitif that, like most spirits, will raise the hairs on your arms. The Greek music ambiently played in the background as the sun finally set and the sky turned dark.
On the hunt for pudding, although extremely full, we walked through the city centre where it was jam-packed with tourist spots for food and drink. Although tourist-oriented however, one can find themselves to have a good time. We came across a desert-only restaurant where traditional Greek desserts were generously served: from cakes to pies to the classic baklava, any dessert is slathered with either cream or ice cream, and they don’t scrimp on it either. Almost too full to move, we waddled toward Monastiraki Square and admired the Acropolis illuminated by amber lights up in the sky before giving up on waiting for a bus and taking an uber home to call it a night.