2014-03-22

Gazi: an afternoon walk in Athens' entertainment district

The district of Gazi, about a mile west of Athens city center is nowadays one of the main entertainment / nightlife hubs of Athens. This was initially the site of a gasworks factory (hence the name), planned by a certain French businessman named Francis Feralde in 1857, outside of city borders of the time, and constructed in various phases. It remained in operation in various forms from 1860 till 1984. The area around the factory was a neighborhood of laborers employed in the factory as well as connected businesses, living, even till today, in small, one-floor houses, more reminiscent of a village than a city neighborhood. 
 
In the last 30 years, a number of events have transformed the area: the closing of the factory, its designation as an historic landmark and subsequent transformation into an exhibition / concert space operated by the City of Athens, the (initial) fall of property prices and subsequent opening of various bars, pubs, restaurants, etc. with various loft apartments and architectural offices joining the party in the last 10-15 years. A major boost was given in 2007 with the opening of the "Kerameikos" Metro Station in the center of the district. Connection with other major pedestrian streets further enhances the area's attractiveness.

Here, I present you some photographs from an afternoon walk a couple of years ago. This is the quiet time of the day at Gazi, before the throngs of party-goers and club-revelers start pouring in...

Persefonis St., Gazi, Athens

An old-time coffee shop at Orfeos St., Gazi, Athens

Tapas bar at Dekeleon St., Gazi, Athens

Lots of abandoned buildings and graffiti, Gazi, Athens

Graffiti for all..., Gazi, Athens

Even more abandoned buildings and graffiti, Gazi, Athens

Entrance of a modern apartment building, Gazi, Athens

Old-timers, chit-chatting and painting the house at the same time, Gazi, Athens

Old, one-store houses and DIY greenery, Gazi, Athens

Bright red house, Gazi, Athens

One of many bars, at Konstantinoupoleos St., Gazi, Athens

Even more space for street art and graffiti, Gazi, Athens

Old lady crossing the railroad tracks [currently not in use], parallel to Konstantinoupoleos St., Gazi, Athens

More bars, at Konstantinoupoleos St., Gazi, Athens

Harley-Davidson Greek Club, at Konstantinoupoleos St., Gazi, Athens

Crossing the railroad tracks [currently not in use], parallel to Konstantinoupoleos St., Gazi, Athens

Entrance of the Kerameikos Metro Station, Gazi/Kerameikos, Athens, Greece

View from inside Kerameikos Metro Station, through a glass roof, to the Athens sky, Gazi/Kerameikos, Athens, Greece

Bar at Sofroniou St., Gazi, Athens

One of the buildings of Technopolis-Gazi in the background, the entrance of the Metro Station in the foreground, Kerameikos-Gazi, Athens, Greece

Buildings of Technopolis-Gazi in the background, with the outer area of Kerameikos Metro Station in the foreground, Kerameikos-Gazi, Athens, Greece

A building of Technopolis-Gazi in the background, with the small square / meeting point at the entrance of Kerameikos Metro Station in the foreground, Kerameikos-Gazi, Athens, Greece

The entrance of Kerameikos Metro Station, on Gazi central square




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2014-02-23

Epigraphical Museum: A great museum not worth your time (and money)

The title of the post is not meant as a joke, but as a quick capturing of what you need to know about the Epigraphical Museum. It is a specialized museum, hosting exclusively epigrams, that is inscriptions written on marble and stone from all over ancient Greece. It is the largest museum of its kind in the world, although you wouldn't know it from the size of the building and the exhibition rooms. I guess most of the artifacts are kept in storage rooms. An archaeologist specialized in the study of ancient Greece would probably have a field-day in here, but for the rest 99.99% of the population this is probably not the most exciting place in the world. If you think of checking it out just out of curiosity -it is practically next door to the National Archeological Museum- the 3Euro ticket (reduced tickets: 2€) will probably deter you. Who knows! Maybe, it's even meant to deter you, so as to avoid any unwelcome breaking of inscriptions by careless visitors! Explanatory signs are written in Greek and English, but some larger, informative wall posters are only written in Greek.
 
Entrance of the Epigraphical Museum, 1 Tositsa St., Athens, Greece
Anyway, I did manage to find a handful of things that were of interest: 
  • First, an ancient voting machine, of the kind used by Athenians to count votes on specific proposals put forward by their fellow citizens, or to vote on ostracizing those deemed unwelcome. I think this is a major exhibit, at least from a political point of view, and I'm surprised that it's ended up in this no man's land of a museum. Its rightful place should probably be at one of the 2 major museums (the National Archaeological or the Acropolis).
  • Then, a couple of inscriptions written in the "boustrophedon" type of writing. The word, meaning "like the turn of the ox tail", describes a peculiar type of ancient writing, where the 1st row begins "normally", from left to right, but the 2nd row starts from the right and goes left, with letters also "looking" to the the left. Then, the 3rd row follows the direction of the the 1st and the 4th one the direction of the 2nd, etc... I did come across this type of writing a few years ago,  by cause of a book of modern Greek palindromes, written by my wife, if I may say so [I think I should add a link to the book for the speakers of Greek among you, now that I think of it!] So, these particular epigrams rang close to home.
  • Finally, the museum is interesting from an architectural point of view. Two of the rooms have large -protected- glass windows that look to the front yard, with natural light coming in from all over the place and there's a front yard and a back yard, the latter of which is practically connected to the National Archaeological Museum.
One of the halls of the National Epigraphical Museum in Athens, Greece

But I think, that sums it up pretty well, and most of you will likely find something else to spend your limited time in Athens!
 
The back yard of the National Epigraphical Museum, at 1 Tositsa St., Athens, Greece.

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2014-02-02

Oroscopo restaurant: Simple quality that pleases

Oroscopo

Address – Area: Antinoros 42-44, Kessariani, Athens, 210-72.38.567
Latest Visit: 2014-01-27
Cuisine: Italian / Greek, Pizza
Overall Opinion: Positive
Methods of payment: cash, Visa, MasterCard, Diners, AmericanExpress
Working hours: 12:00 – 01:30
Website: www.oroscopo.gr

Presentation / Ambience: Initially a classic Greek-style pizzeria that has expanded its menu in recent years and offers extremely good value for money. During spring / summer you may get an outdoor table facing the small square next to Divani Caravel Hotel. Indoors, a simple, square hall with about 20 tables (non-smoking) and another 7  tables at the patio upstairs. Thanks to the big glass fa├žade they all have view to the square outside. Very popular with people staying in nearby hotels (often for business) and with locals (I've been here on business lunches quite a few times). Simple, very well-cooked food. Somewhat austere, neutral, but also very clean, surroundings. It has something of the atmosphere of a Greek diner in the US. If I had to sum it all up in one phrase I'd say that it's a place which impresses with its simplicity and honesty. It's for places like this one that I continue writing this blog even when my mind is some place else...



Food / Drinks: I have dined here several times in the past 5 years and always left with good impressions. You may find pizzas, home-made pasta with a recently (2014) expanded menu of offerings, Greek / Italian appetizers (hot and cold), a Greek-type burger that is tasty, fresh and very filling, salads, risotto and, when available, fresh fish. The ravioli with porcini mushrooms and truffle paste we recently tried (a new dish) had a really exquisite taste while the cornetti filled with beef ragu and parmesan sauce were tasty and filling too. Among the appetizers we recently tasted we liked both the grilled pleurotus mushrooms and the grilled talagani cheese w/ tomato and pine nuts. If we had to change anything we would have liked some dishes to be a tad warmer but that didn't detract from our overall pleasure. We also liked both deserts (a chocolate tart and a tiramisu) but differed on which one was best!

They have a small selection of reasonably priced Greek wines and 4 "house wines" which are not some anonymous liquid, like in so many other places, but come from a known winery (Lafazanis) and are of specific varietals. The white house wines are Malagouzia and Moschofilero, two of the most popular and versatile Greek wine grapes.

Prices:
-Bread & dips for two, 2 hot appetizers, 2 pasta dishes and 1/2 litre of Malagouzia white wine, cost around 40€ in 2014 (sorry, I don't remember the exact prices). And we were offered leek soup, farewell drink (limoncello or mastich) and deserts, on the house!

Service: Fast, attentive and discreet at the same time. On our last visit we tried a special (a free offer) that they had in order to introduce their new pasta offerings. Not only were we treated with utmost respect but on top we were offered a leek-soup as a starter and a farewell drink and desert, all on the house! That alone says it all. They try to win their customers through their service and not just make a quick buck off of you. It's no accident they've been around since 1981!

Location / Getting there: Practically next-door to Caravel Hotel (at the square right before it) and less than 100 yards from the Athens Hilton.
If you take the Metro, get off at Evangelismos Station. Walk along Vas. Sofias Avenue towards the Hilton and turn right on Vas. Alexandrou St., right before the Hilton. 
Walk along Vas. Alexandrou St. towards Caravel Hotel and turn right on Antinoros St. You will see Oroscopo facing the small square. 


See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page. 


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