Author: Annie Kruntcheva

A Botanical London Adventure

The end of August beckons the return of chilly, near Autumnal, mornings in the UK – yes, it’s still Summer, but the stereotype of unreliable weather here isn’t just a myth. Peeking out the blinds to check whether the weather might catch me out, I quickly staggered out of bed, got my gear together and jumped on a train to London’s famous Kew Gardens to enjoy what was left of the British Summer. London is truly massive, so it’s kind of a trek for a wee South-East gal like me to get to the far-West (thanks, TFL for your frequent services). Kew Gardens is pretty much right at the end of the District Tube line, right by the village-esque area of Richmond. So upon exiting the tube, one can find themselves almost in a whole other world; used to the concrete jungle of central London and the rough-around-the-edges nature of the South-East, it felt like I was in the countryside, surrounded by tiny garden shops, cafes and arty stores. From Kew Gardens station, it’s only …

Yamas!

My last day in Athens was sadly spent solo, and what remained was to hit up the rest of the tourist sights and do everything left on the list. First up, however, was to get a couple of boxes of that amazing baklava from our first full day. Gesturing again like a mad woman inside the pan-pastry bakery, speaking in English slowly but receiving only Greek replies, I left with about a kilogram of sugary treats in my bag and probably a couple of cavities in my teeth. I attempted to wait for the sun to creep our behind the thick white clouds, the weather having dramatically changed toward the end of the holiday, so I found a nearby cafe and sat outside with an iced coffee and a few pieces of ice-cream baklava. The Chelsea Hotel was the cafe I visited, located just opposite the bakery on a street corner. Inside, there’s a bar, serving up hot drinks in the day and cocktails in the evening, being clearly a great hit with local young …

Ancient History at Your Fingertips ~ Sunday

Nearby to the Ancient Greek Agora you can find Hadrian’s Library and The Roman Agora. The Roman Agora is far less impressive than the Greek version, but of course as a tourist, one must visit everything. This Agora was built in the 1st century by Julius Caesar and Augustus, and has a more spectacular building still intact; the Tower of Winds, the structure featuring a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane. And at the entrance of the Agora still stands The Gate of Athena Archegetis. After much sightseeing, we were starved, heading toward the neighbourhood of Plaka once again to visit another local-recommended cafe/restaurant “Yiasemi”. Located on the famous steps of Plaka, Yiasemi is tucked in at the side between some other restaurants in the area. Upon entry, there are narrow concrete steps that lead to ledges you can perch on to eat, or further bar stools and ledges or regular tables and chairs. The ceiling rose high above and the walls were covered in the most beautiful array of vibrant green plants. Through different …

First Aid Mondays

Monday became a day of recovery from a little too much wine at Cinque, slowly meandering through the centre of the city, having seen nearly all the ruins and now in need of souvenirs (and rest). To nurse our hangovers, we discovered Klimataria, a tiny tucked away authentic Greek restaurant, dishing up homey Greek dishes with generous portions. It’s located in a kind of random part of the city, not next to the usual tourist restaurants in Monastiraki. If you get lost, look for the shrubs and leaves sticking out of the building and the vibrant yellow interior glowing from the inside. On the menu for us was an uplifting and delicately delicious pan of scrambled eggs with mixed veggies, like tomatoes, peppers and even some shards of bacon (not a vegetable, I know). To follow, I had a dish with Aubergine “cream” (silky, creamy pureed aubergine) with tender chunks of beef in a rich tomato sauce. The view from our Airbnb. Fresh sesame bread popularly sold on the streets of Greece. For souvenirs the …

A Slice of Pie & History ~ Sunday

This morning we hit up a renown local cafe in the city, it having been around since 1931 as a family business. It began by distributing milk and later producing puddings, creams, yoghurts, butter honey and pan pastries, all made according to traditional recipes of course. They also make sure to carefully source their ingredients from select producers in Greece, making the food is more delicious than it already is. Hidden under vines and leaves that ripple across and over two buildings on wooden structures, cafe furniture is spread out in front of the cafe, illuminated by warm yellow lights inside and green neon in-front boasting its name “Stani”. We had to try multiple things, of course, ordering the famous traditional sheep milk yoghurt served with thick fresh honey and crunchy walnuts, a filo cream-pie and famous Greek cheese-pie, with hot coffee on the side to wash it all down with. The yoghurt was exquisite; delightfully creamy and sour with a traditional “crust” atop, the sweetness of the honey cutting through the sharpness of the …

An Athenian’s Agenda ~ Part 2

Filled with sustenance once more, we continued on, up countless stairs and roads in Anafiotika, toward the Acropolis. Briefly, we stopped at Philopappos hill, for a stunning panoramic view of the city, before downing several bottles of ice cold water and marching on. Mount Lycabettus. The sun beat down on our poor scalps and shoulders before sizzling the rest of our skin as we bore onward up Acropolis, frequently pausing to glug ice cold water. Athens’ famous Acropolis sits at the top of a hill in the centre of the city, so one has to muster up a fair amount of energy for 20 minutes or so to reach the ruins. Upon arrival, it’s well worth it: with a 360 view of the city, 150 meters up in the air and history at your fingertips, this is what you imagine when you think of Ancient Greece. This ancient citadel contains the remains of several of most ancient buildings in Greece, those of which holding great architectural and historic significance – the Parthenon being the most …

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. 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. No …

A Greek Adventure

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 …

A Home Away From Home

Although not as eventful as my first trip to Budapest, this holiday definitely was more relaxing without the burden of having to see everything in only a short period of time. It makes a change to spend more time in a place and get to know the city and culture in a unique way, one that resonates more than if you were to rush around in only 48 hours. On my last day we took one last wander through the city, stopping at Baotiful a very non-Hungarian restaurant serving the most amazing street-food style bao and pho. The sun began to set across the river, on the side of Buda and over the peaks of Fisherman’s Bastion and we walked up to see the Shoes on the Danube Bank by Hungarian Parliament, honouring the memorial and watching the sun turn from a warm amber and pink to a cold blue.

Everything Else in Beauty-Pest

Once familiarised with a city, the pressure is off to cram in all the tourist hotspots. Two and a half weeks (after already being previously here for another two in Winter) seems like the sweet spot to feel like a local. Spending my days freelancing obviously leaves less time for one to experience the city but alas, work-life calls. If I had finished my work or fancied a walk around midday, I strolled with my camera to the centre, closer to the Danube, stopping at my now favourite coffee place Espresso Embassy, and seeing the usual sights; St Peter’s Basilica, Hungarian Parliament, etc. I found Lumas Art Gallery on one street corner, a tiny shop with contemporary art and photography which is worth a look if you’re in the area. Rather randomly, I also somehow managed to become the temporary owner of a dog – another way to feel like a local: own a (temporary) pet. Amy, a golden retriever mix, became homeless after her owner died and lives in a dog shelter awaiting adoption …