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An Athenian’s Agenda ~ Part 1

Awaking in our beautiful Airbnb was bliss, hazily pouring fresh filter coffee into mugs, sitting on the balcony and nibbling and orange-scented butter cookies (it was all we could find in the cupboards, but by God they were tasty). Rather last minute, we planned out our day, attempting to visit most of the historical sights in the city, but leisurely – we had four days in the city and so more than enough time to explore without excess stress.

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We stepped out, armed with sun cream and bug repellent (I had been bitten at least thrice since stepping out of the metro), into Kaisarini and walked through the streets lined with orange trees, up and down hills packed with tall apartment blocks, all quite uniform in style and colour. We were en-route to locate the Panathenaic Stadium when we stumbled across a baklava bakery – it could have been a scene from a movie; our heads turned in sync at the shop-front window, lined with shelves adorned with trays of oozing slices of baklava.

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No brain-waves were spent between the time of seeing and the time of buying, suddenly having two gift boxes of fresh pastries in our hands. Inside, half the shop was the kitchen area, with a surface covered in circular trays with fresh baklava, ready to replenish the shop-front window shelves. Next to the trays stood a gigantic vat of sugar syrup, ready to make new lashings of this delicious treat. The shop seemed to be owned by a middle-aged Greek couple, and without the bridge of the English language between us, there was a lot of finger pointing and gesturing to be done.

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One specific baklava which made me want to eat the entire freezer-full was one filled with ice cream; sweet, crunchy cones and tubes made with sugar syrup and layers of filo pastry (and in some cases, a coat of thick dark chocolate) were stuffed with a sensual vanilla ice cream. Others were just classics, some round with strand-like pieces of filo, others layered with various nuts. We perched 10 meters away from the shop on a brick wall by a grassy patch and scoffed the lot, admiring the dripping of the sugar syrup from the treats with every bite (and ignoring how it was dripping into our bloodstream).

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Recovered from our sensual sugar experience, we waddled, bellies full, to the Panathenaic Stadium, but deterred by the amount it cost to get in – sadly, tickets don’t come under the price of a ticket which admits you to all the historical sites. Saddened, we made our way to the Temple of Athenian Zeus instead, quickly visiting the National Garden (spraying multiple coatings of bug repellent on the way).

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Next on the agenda was, of course, the famous Acropolis, although of course, we had to stop for another bite to eat (it was lunchtime after all…) But first on the way we discovered the Temple of Olympian Zeus: when you think of seeing Athens, you imagine seeing a structure such as this. The half-ruined temple was dedicated to Zeus, the chief of the Olympian Gods, hence the name.

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After researching a few days before some local-highlights – recommended by locals – we had to visit the scenic tiny neighbourhood of Anafiotika, sitting on the north-eastern side of the Acropolis Hill. It’s idyllic, with cobbled roads with cute tiny houses on either side, often coloured and adorned with billowing trees, bushes and cascading branches rich with leaves and flowers.

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A local’s recommendation for food led us to a scenic corner in Anafiotika, with restaurant Kleyidra; upon even stepping anywhere near the premises you’re welcomed by the owner, a lovely Greek man who takes you to a table, offering suggestions for drinks and dishes. The menu hosts a delightful array of authentic dishes, from moussaka to tzatziki to gyros. To start, a traditional spinach cheese pie – Spanakopita. As for mains, for me, I ordered a whole freshly caught sea bass, grilled and deboned in front of me, served with tomatoey, slightly herby steamed potatoes. For Pedro, some exquisite macaroni-style pasta with fresh octopus which was so light yet so earthy in flavour I could’ve inhaled it in a blink. Sitting on cute patio-style furniture at the front of the restaurant, we looked out on to the beautiful neighbourhood as we ate, enjoying a gigantic fan wafting cold air toward our sweaty, warm faces.

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