Return to Athens (with some juicy burgers...)

As much as we like traveling, it is often a joy to return home after a long time (or seemingly long time) away from the simple comforts we are used to. We just came back from our annual, summer pilgrimage to the islands. We stayed for about 1 week in the island of Sikinos where we came across what seemed as one of the largest concentrations of rude, inhospitable and greedy people. We had a really fine time but it had nothing to do with most business owners on that island.

Coming back home to an empty fridge, we decided to have an informal dinner some place outside and picked our local 'Simply Burgers' restaurant. This is a restaurant chain (in-place, take-out and delivery) that has been in operation since 2003 but has really taken off in the last couple of  years in the metro Athens area specializing in affordable, good-quality burgers. It was created by two Greek-Americans who have left California to find their luck in Greece and seem to be doing just fine as of now.
Well, let's just say that the simple (!), yet impeccable, service we received felt like a cultural shock as compared to what we had experienced in Sikinos for the past week. And yet, our waiter was a young guy, college student age,  just as Greek as the rude business owners of Sikinos or their occasionaly polite but typically untrained staff. So, a business franchise run by two Californian Greeks shows respect for their customers and teaches its staff how to do the same while similar, smaller businesses in a remote island (which should feel neighbourly, friendly and welcoming) treat you like a walking-talking wallet...
I am not a big tipper but I left one of the biggest tips I've had in a long time to the guy who waited our table at 'Simply Burgers' and I almost felt guilty for not leaving more.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

And, by the way, here are some tips on tipping in Greece.

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"Parko Illission", aka "Illisia Park", aka "Illissia Wood"

The Wood of Illissia ('Alsos Illission') is one of the largest urban parks in Athens and, I would say, one of the least known as well, at least for those who don't live around this area. It is located in the eastern part of the City of Athens and continues further east to the municipalities of Kaisariani and Zografou. The "University of Athens" and the "National Technical University of Athens" have moved their campuses here, in the easternmost part of the park. The campuses are not open to the public for most of the day (not that there is really anything interesting to see there). Further east they connect with the Ymittos Mountain which enjoys a protected area status.

We decided to take a walk in the main part of Illissia Wood, the one closest to the center of Athens, a few Sundays back, in the midst of the July heat. The park has many entrances, one of which is at the NorthWest edge, right next to the church of Agios Charalambos and Agia Varvara, at the corner of Ionos Dragoumi & Iridanou Streets.
Agios Charalambos and Agia Varvara churches, Illissia Park, Athens, Greece

Illissia Park, Athens, Greece
This is clearly a wood, more than a typical urban park, although you will see some attempts at landscaping part of the area, with paved corridors, built benches or water faucets, most of which are functioning (although we chose not  to drink from there and instead had some bottled water with us). It is mostly pine, cypress and carob trees that you'll see; typical Mediterranean vegetation.
The wood seems to be frequented by many dog owners and their four-legged friends. I have noticed this both times I've been here: On a weekday morning and during this Sunday afternoon.
There are uphill paths that take you to several clearings in the wood, which provide interesting views to the hills of Athens and the mountains surrounding it.
View towards Ymittos Mountain, east of Athens,  Illissia Park, Athens, Greece
View towards Lykavittos Hill (Athens center)
A couple of playgrounds can be found on the northern border of the wood.
There is no cafeteria or other attraction here, other than the wood itself. It does provice a much welcome relief in the sweltering summer heat but you won't regret having a bottle of water with you in either case. There are two playgrounds at the northern edge: one at the border with Ymittou & Alkaiou Street and another one to the west, inside the park. Even if it looks kind of rough and unwelcoming, the wood seems to be safe and with at least a minimum level of upkeep by the city's services.

View Larger Map

People who stay at one of the nearby hotels (Athens Hilton, Divani Caravel, Best Western Illissia Hotel) might want to take a walk here, if they're longing for a touch of nature in the middle of metro Athens but shouldn't expect to be blown off by the beauty of the place (unless you feel inspired by the photos above!)

It took us about 1 hour to walk around the eastern part of the wood (the one circumscribed by Ionos Dragoumi, Diocharous, Efroniou and Ymittou streets).
Closest Metro Stations: Megaro Moussikis Station (Athens Concert Hall) and Evangelismos Metro Station.

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