New Year's Eve stroll in Athens center

Whenever I manage to get myself out of the treadmill of daily life and do something different, in the city center, there's always some kind of small reward for it. Even if it is for some last minute shopping for the New Year. [Greeks exchange gifts on New Year's Day, or at midnight, right when the old year gives way to the new one].

This afternoon, I left some digital photos for printing at a central photo store (at 57 Akadimias St.) and then headed to Miran (at 45 Evrypidou St.), near Monastiraki and Athens' Central Market. Miran, as I have recently discovered, is sort of a local culinary institution. A delicatessen that takes its job very seriously and shoppers seem to reward it for the variety and quality of goods offered. I'll have more details in the future, but for the moment let's just say that many others had the same idea with me and it was flooded with customers. So, what do they do to keep their customers happy while waiting? They offer bites of their self-produced, super-tasty, grilled-in-place beef sausages with oregano (loukaniko riganato). Which you then feel compelled to buy on top of everything else you had planned, as they're a truly mouth-watering delicacy!

Armed with my fair share of cheeses and meats I headed back to the photo store and picked up my prints (hadn't printed photos for quite a long time...) and decided to take a peak at Syntagma Square. I had heard the Christmas / New Year's decorations where quite poor, in every sense of the word, this year and can confirm this is true. Yet, many children and their parents were waiting to be seated for a show at the temporarily constructed ice-ring and seemed to be content enough.

On the way to Syntagma I came across Paul, a well-known French boulangerie-patisserie at 10 Panepistimiou St. and saw another loooong line of customers waiting to be served! Quite a different type of queue from the ones we're used to seeing these days... It was a welcome change however, just like the smiling faces of people who had just gotten off work for the last day of the year.

And, guess what! A patch of the sky was getting sunny and blue again, after 3 full days of non-stop rain, and a rainbow was clearly apparent towards the East...
Happy New Year from Athens everyone!

Horrific cell-phone camera picture of a wonderful rainbow in central Athens... Reminder / Resolution for the New Year: Take your real camera with you every time you get out!

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Music venues and concert spaces in Athens

I just wrote up a major update on the "upcoming cultural events" in Athens (see tab above) and it dawned on me (what a genius!) that a map featuring all the major music venues in Athens ("concert spaces", "concert halls", "live music spaces", arenas, or whatever they may be called) would be a useful feature to have in this blog. So, here it is: a map of music spaces in Athens (for all kinds of music and types of concerts) and a list of them with a few words about each space. 

An Club

Description: A historic rock'n'roll music "joint" or "dive" or something of that sort, depending on what variation of English you speak. Almost exclusively hosting alternative, indie rock / punk names. For this simple reason, the financial crisis seems to have not touched it, as it features a full schedule of acts for the coming months whereas other music spaces struggle to stay afloat.Address: 13-15 Solomou St., [Exarchia district], Athens

Access: Right next to the rather infamous Exarchia Square, 10 minutes walk from Panepistimio and Omonia Metro Stations.
Website: http://www.anclub.gr/

Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Moussikis) 

Description: Athens' major concert hall, the Megaro Moussikis (which stands for "Music's Mansion"), has been hosting classical music concerts and an expanding array of shows, performances and events for 20+ years now. A rich, deep schedule of events and performances runs all the way from September till May of each year. The Concert Hall's creation was pushed through by late media mogul Dimitris Lambrakis and the" Friends of Music Association, finally to become reality in 1991. Located near Athens city center, at the museum avenue Vassilissis Sophias, in a large, marble mansion, with a Metro Station bearing its name and a newly inaugurated urban park as its garden, this is the major cultural space in Greece. [Update: As of 2014-15 its future is in peril due to serious accumulated debts from past years and the State's inability/unwillingness to fund the arts]
Address: Vassilissis Sophias & Petrou Kokkali St., Athens
Access: Megaro Moussikis Metro Station (Line 3). More info here.

Badminton Theatre 

Description: Built as a temporary construction for the 2004 Olympics to host badminton and other "exotic" sports, it was later converted to an indoor theatre, where one can usually watch traveling musicals and other relevant performances.
Address: Goudi Olympic Properties / Alsos Stratou park [Goudi area], Athens  
Access: 10min walk from Katechaki Metro Station (Line 3)

Fuzz Club 

Description: An urban, live-music space hosting interesting international acts of mostly rock and world music. Occasionally big names. 
Address: 209 Pireos St. & 1 Patriarchou Ioakeim St., Tavros [Greater Athens area]
Access: 15min walk from Tavros - Eleftherios Venizelos Metro Station (Line 1)

Gagarin 205

Description: An urban space hosting, mostly, rock concerts. Greek and international bands, occasionally big names.
Address: 205 Liossion St., [Odos Liossion / Plateia Attikis area], Athens
Access: 6min walk from Attiki Metro Station (Line 1) 


Description: A multi-faceted culture centre / club / bar hosting world music, jazz, blues, sould and funk acts in the noisy, night-life neighborhood of Gazi. You need to make a reservation. Prices can be fairly high.
Address: 32-34 Voutadon St. [Gazi area], Athens
Access: Right outside Kerameikos Metro Station (Line 3)

Half Note Jazz Club

Description: The name (almost) says it all. A jazz club hosting big names from the international jazz and blues scene as well as up and coming Greek musicians (and established ones - yes, they do exist!). It occasionaly ventures to neighbourhing music genres (ethnic, flamenco, traditional, etc.). It's been in operation since 1979, thus being a virtual staple of Athens night-life. Very reasonable prices.>
Address:17 Trivonianou St., [Mets neighbourhood], Athens. 
Access: 10min. walk from Acropolis Metro Station (Line 2) 

Kyttaro Live

Description: Another historic rock club in operation since for ever (1970 to be exact); it has recently been restored and refurbished trying to make a comeback in the city's rock scene. It's usually punk, rock, garage and other "similar", "underground" types of bands that play here (both Greek and international) but mostly no "big names".
Address: 48 Ipeirou St. & Acharnon St., [Plateia Victorias area], Athens 
Access: 7min walk from Victoria Metro Station (Line 1) or 10min walk from Larissis (a.k.a. Larissa) Metro Station (Line 2)

OAKA Olympic Stadium 

Description: Normally not associated with cultural events (unless you count soccer matches as such) but occasionally hosting big name concerts (of the U2, Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers variety). 
Address:OAKA Olympic Complex, Municipality of Maroussi [Greater Athens]
Access: Irini Metro Station (Line 1)

Onassis Cultural Centre

Description: A recent arrival (Dec. 2010) in Athens' cultural scene, it has quickly become the number two cultural center in the city after the Athens Concert Hall with which it seems to be forming a complementary and co-operative relationship. More geared (but not constrained) to modern art (dance, theatre, exhibitions and music) with major European, Greek and international productions as part of its wide-ranging schedule of events that runs throughout the winter season. The Michelin-star crowned Hytra restaurant has recently opened shop (if I may use the expression) at the roof of the Onassis Cultural Centre.
Address:107-109 Syngrou Avenue, Athens 
Access:Syngrou-Fix Metro Station (Line 3) See here for more info. 

PassPort Culture Space

Description: A recently opened music space hosting mostly modern Greek music shows.
Address: 119 Karaiskou St., Piraeus [Greater Athens Area]
Access: By Bus 040(Syntagma Sq.-Piraeus), Bus 500 (Kifissia-Piraeus) and many others (049, 130, 904, 906, A1, B1, E90, X96) at the Dimotiko Theatro (Municipal Theatre) bus stops
Websitehttp://www.pass-port.com.gr/ Also, see their facebook page.

View Music venues and Concert spaces in Athens, Greece in a larger map

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Freezing your butt off in sunny Athens...

The vast majority of Athens residents live in blocks of flats (a.k.a. 'apartment blocks') regardless of economic or social status. The domestic migration to urban centers, and mainly Athens, that took place from the 1950's to about 1980 has resulted in a scarcity of land. Most single houses have been torn down and sold to developers, to make room for apartment blocks. So, when winter comes and you want to warm yourself, you need to work out a deal with the other tenants (or owners) of your apartment block as there's a central heating system, pumping hot water through pipes running all over the building.

Heating body / Radiator in Athens apartment

The law sure has provisions on the subject, but in the middle of a deep economic crisis, with incomes severly diminished (or entirely cut off) for almost everyone, and with a wave of taxes on heating oil and hikes (lesser ones) in the price of electricity, things get complicated. People will prefer to forego their heating (and bill) as it is no longer considered a bare necessity in these circumstances. I have heard of many apartment blocks where tenants have collectively agreed to not buy heating oil this winter. And I'm talking about "middle-class" neighborhoods. They will, instead, rely on using their electric heating appliances, when absolutely necessary. I have my doubts about how efficient this will turn out to be, heating-wise, but it gives you a clear sign of the challenges people face these days.

Temperature control for individually heated apartment
Newer buildings give each apartment the option to be heated individually (which is fine in theory but innefficient heating-wise if each apartment warms and cools at different hours of the day). Yet, even in that case, all residents have to pay a minimum percentage (e.g. 25%) of the collective heating bill (the cost of oil purchased by the block) as they benefit from the heat transfered by neighboring apartments and that can also be a cause of friction (different kind of heat here...) between dwellers. It's been a very mild autumn thus far -a virtual windfall for all of us- but the 3 months from mid-December to mid-March are always the coldest ones in the calendar.  By March we'll know if the title of this post has become reality or not...

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Athens Photo Festival 2012, pt.2

Find below some long overdue pictures, along with my impressions,  from Technopolis-Gazi, the main exhibition space for the Athens Photo Festival which I visited last week. For more details on the photo festival see part 1.

The main square at Technopolis-Gazi, Athens
The first exhibition to your right, as you enter, is the annual Young Greek Photographers (no need to explain...). Curiously, the two Greek photographers I was mostly impressed with this year, are taking photographs that are far away from my style and that I wouldn't bother to shoot even if I could. Highly set up and stylized ones; giving you the impression that the photograph itself is only the end result of a long, copious artistic process. The first one is Constantinos Taliotis with his detailed, precisely choreographed "stills" of imaginary cop- and crime-films.
The second one is Penelope Koliopoulou, with her double exposed self-portraits of imaginary couples in the grey tones of their daily life. I felt that somehow this was the type of project, and photographs, that can leave a lasting aesthetic mark on you, which they certainly did on me.

Further on, there was, it seemed to me, a whole "Italian invasion" of photographers but in retrospect I realized that it was the fact that all three (that's how many they were) Italian photographers' projects greatly impressed me with their socially and emotionally affecting themes such as the documenting of the blind, socially excluded Cameroonese dwarfs and unusual portraits of city animals. The photographers names were, respectively, Stefano De Luigi, Nicola Lo Calzo and Giacomo Brunelli.

Stefano de Luigi - Blanco. Vision of blindness, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Nicola Lo Calzo - Morgante, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Among the other exhibitions, I mostly remember the ones with the photographs of Stephen Dupont (Raskols-The Gangs of Papua-New Guinea), Jan Banning's Bureaucratics with images of the desks of civil servants from around the world, and Anders Petersen's City Diary
Exhibition of Stephen Dupont: Raskols-The Gangs of Papua-New Guinea, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Exhibition of Jan Banning: Bureaucratics, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens 

Exhibition of Anders Petersen: City Diary, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

The Technopolis site itself and the light of dusk also provided some good opportunities for photo shooting on my behalf...

Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Οld, restored chimney at Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

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Pictures and dates of Athens

Athens is a hidden city. It really is! Besides all the monuments, ancient history, loaded politics and endless newsbytes I often think that this is a city hidden from its visitors, or even us locals. (Does it give me the right to call myself a "local" as I haven't been born here?)

Places, sites (besides the famous ones) and attitudes are often hard to discover and discern here, besides the seemingly open character of Greeks and the sunlight the whole country is bathed in. It's like this is a city of a million little secrets, that nobody will ever find the time to unwrap. I am often reminded of this on this day.

October 28 is a national holiday here in Greece; one of the three official ones. It marks the entry of Greece into WWII, on 28 October 1940, when Italy under its then fascist leader Mussolini, invaded Greece [it was a brief victory for Greece, but still one worth celebrating as Greeks were fighting a much larger army]. The peculiar connection with this blog comes through an email I received some 2 years ago. An Italian reader was intrigued by my writing on Patission Street and decided to share his story with me. Somehow I have misplaced the emails we exchanged but this is what I remember in brief: 

My reader had spent part of his life (his first years) in Athens, in a small house on Patission St., which was demolished at about the time he sent me the email. The only connection of the house to the street was through a small, incospicuous door which, through a narrow corridor led to a nice, internal yard, tacked in the center of a block with various houses using it as a common area. This yard had an active social life, still hidden behind the building facades  and away from the street. My reader's father had been kept at the army headquarters at Goudi during WWII. He didn't say so, but I inferred he was a war prisoner. I thought it improper to ask as it might have been a delicate subject for my interlocutor.

Afterwards, the Italian prisoner was released and he met his future wife here in Athens; they married and stayed here for several years - perhaps until the 1960's or '70s. And my reader -their son- had lived for several years in that small, enclosed house and yard in a central Athens street. No sign of the house, the yard or its inhabitants for the casual passer-by of the street. You might say this is typical of every big city. People living "in isolation" from their wider neighborhood and yet strongly connected to their small circle; strangers among strangers, networks of people interracting and helping each other (when "social network" was a word only sociologists might use) each one with their own particular story, slices of life carved out from the big city. However, I see this as a metaphor for Athens especially, as it is a city different than any other in Europe (for better or worse) that will not reveal its secrets easily to the casual tourist or sight-seer who comes here just for a couple of nights before heading out to the islands.

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Athens Photo Festival 2012

The annual and nearly two-month long “Athens Photo Festival” has now entered its main phase in full force. The opening of the main exhibition venue, at Technopolis-Gazi, hosting 22 different photographic exhibitions till November 4, took place last Friday.

Technopolis - Gazi, from the exit of Kerameikos Metro Station
I’ve always found it ironic that the Photo Festival is hosted at Technopolis, which welcomes you with a totally, photographically-unfriendly sign by the entrance ("No photography without license allowed" or something of that short) but it was coverd during the Photo Festival this year! Another 13 photography exhibitions are taking place in various galleries throughout the city, till mid-December. These form the so-called "satellite programme". The festival’s organizers have spared me the trouble and have put together themselves a handy map with all locations for your easy reference. You may find it here.

Opening hours and ticket prices for Technopolis [Kerameikos Metro Station] are:
Mon-Fri: 5:00pm -10:00pm, Sat-Sun: 12:00-10:00pm. Admission : 5 Euros
For all other participating galleries check out opening hours at the festival's official website.

On the final day of the main exhibition, Sunday, November 4, the annual “Athens Photo Inspiration” photographic marathon will take place. This is the 5th year in a row for the -open to everyone- photo marathon which has its own, separate website at www.photoinspiration.gr The deadline for registration is Friday, 2 November, although there will be a small window of opportunity for a few lucky people to register on the spot, on Sunday at 11:00am at Technopolis. Just to be clear, you do not need to be Greek to register, nor is there a fee, so you may want to try your luck if you'll be in Athens and have a day to spare at that time. I'll have more from the Technopolis photo exhibitions in a few days (Update: see here).

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18th Athens International Film Festival

It is time for the annual pilgrimage to the Athens International Film Festival and this short post is a brief description of the films one has the chance to watch this week in the 5 movie-theaters hosting the festival's projections. For a complete guide to the festival visit the official site and  also check out the Festival's Facebook page.

Official poster of the 18th Athens International Film Festival

The popular "Music & Film" segment will give you the chance to watch films on Bob Marley, Neil Young, Andrew Bird, 1970's disco, former French pop idol Claude François, hip-hop's L.A. scene and more.

There are 9 movie premieres (at least for the Greek market), including Walter Salles' "On the Road" (based on Jack Kerouac's novel),  David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis starring Robert Pattinson and 4 films, from various countries, that touch on the Greek economic crisis. 
There are short films (Greek and international), and a Panorama of films from seemingly all over the world.

Another popular part is the Midnight segment, featuring all kinds of horror movies with sleepwalking cannibals, undead vermin, invading aliens, terrorizing gangs and invisible spirits. Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Feature films in the Competition segment will present you with a Cuban trying to flee to the US, a Bulgarian trying to do the inverse and go back to her native Bulgaria, the real-life story of an Asian-American being held hostage by a sex-trafficking gang and a humongous body-builder in a surprisingly similar situation, being manipulated by his mom.

Tickets are priced at 6€ and you should buy them beforehand since they tend to go out very fast and many projections are sold-out. A good idea, if you can make it fit with the rest of your schedule, is to go to one of the morning screenings "for the press". The ticket is cheaper (at 4€) and you don't have to worry about the screening being sold-out. Just try to arrive 15-20 minutes before the start. It always makes my day when I attend one of these morning screenings as it makes me feel like part of a select group. You know... the kind who can watch movies at 11:00am or 1:00pm on a weekday and be masters of their own time!

The festival runs till September 30, 2012. The 5 movie-theaters hosting the festival's screening are Odeon Opera 1, Odeon Opera 2, and Ideal (at Athens city center) and Danaos 1, Danaos 2 (at the Ambelokipoi neighbourhood). You can see a map with their locations below.

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A Beer Festival in Athens

I often wish I could write with a constant enthusiastic tone about places and events in this city. Most travel bloggers and writers seem to feel it’s their duty to be in a continuous state of admiration no matter what they write about. However I’ve made a very simple pledge for this blog, and that is to represent reality as faithfully as possible and to help separate the sheep from the goats. So, in this respect, this is post on the annual beer fest of Faliro is as much about …goats, as it is about beer!
"Giorti Biras" (Beer Fest) at the Athens suburb of Faliro

There is only one beer festival in the Athens area that has been running for 11 years now and that is the Beer Fest (Giorti Biras) taking place next to the “Peace and Friendship Stadium” at the coast of Faliro. The “Beer Fest” is nothing like what a beer enthusiast, used to attending beer festivals, might expect. No brewery stands, no tasting sessions, no industry news, events or discussions. In other words, no respect for beer!

The space itself used for the festival is an area very close to the coast (but with no view to the sea), full of sand, dust and cement and surrounded by rubble and a major artery leading to the coast. You pay around 8-10€ (depending on day and year) for admission to the grounds.

What you get is a number of tents rented mostly by local beer restaurants and beer distributors / importers, food stalls, with their characteristic smell of grilled meat, serving the beer restaurants’ usual fare (fries, sauerkraut, onion rings, sausages and other meat cuts) and a music stage with various local musicians (each day different names; different styles of music are mixed within the same day). In between them, there’s a large area of tables, chairs and benches where you can take your food and listen to the music. Beer is served in plastic cups…
Greek Dance troop at the annual beer fest, 2012

Greek band on the stage

People start rolling in at around 8 in the evening and the whole thing lasts till about 1:00 to 2:00am each night.

So, why would a foreign visitor go to this Athens Beer Fest? Simply, for an easy-going, beer-themed, night out, which would be somewhat different from going to a restaurant. Also, for the opportunity to try out a few of the Greek beers currently in the market as well as some other (mostly European: German, Russian, Belgian, British) beers available in the Greek market that may not be available where you live.
Pork bits cooked in a large frying-pan

Baltika (Russian beer) bottles
Fridges with Greek beer brands (Ionian, Piraiki and Volkan)

Grilled meat and tents
Sausages, fries, sauerkraut, mustard and onion rings...

An Athens' beer restaurant's stand

People sitting on the benches and drinking beer 

People sitting on the benches and drinking beer , with highway in the backgroun.

Prices: Beers cost 1.60€ / 330ml or more (that was the lowest price I noticed this year) – mostly 3€ and up
Time / Duration: Approximately first two weeks of September. From 7:00pm to 1:30am (in 2012, it lasted from Aug.31 to Sep.12).
Location: See map below. Almost(?) everybody goes there by car as the space is not easily accessible. If you insist on public transit go to the "Faliro"/"Peace and Friendship Stadium" Metro station (Line 1) and from there carefully cross the underground pass to go towards the Stadium and then to the left where you'll spot the festival's tents.

View Faliro - Annual Beer Fest map in a larger map

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Day trip (from Athens) to Vravrona (updated: 2014-12-10)

If you're looking for ideas for day-trips from Athens, and you are not eager to get on a boat, this  is worth you consideration. Vravrona is nowadays a small settlement of country houses, in the east coast of Attika (east of Athens),  where some Athenians spend their summers, close to the city. You may also see it referred as "Brauron" by scholars of ancient Greek. The place stands out from all other settlements in east Attica due to the presence of a significant, two and a half thousand years old ancient Greek sanctuary, dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and a small but interesting archaeological museum with findings from this area. You may combine your visit here with swimming at the sea (or a  nearby hotel's pool) and a lunch or dinner in a seaside taverna. Depending on how you get here you may need to do some walking (see detailed directions on how to go to Vravrona at the bottom of this post).

Vravrona Archaeological Site - View from the fence
The site is nestled between a rocky hill, a small stream which in ancient times created a verdant wood –suitable for the goddess of hunting– and the seaside where the stream ends up. Archaeologists believe the cult of Artemis and this particular temple to have been really important in ancient times. A sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia (Artemis of Vravrona) had been erected on the Athens Acropolis and every 5 years a large procession from Athens to Vravrona took place in honor of the goddess The archaeological site had been closed to the public for conservation work for a number of years but it is now (12/2014) back open (Winter Hours: Tue-Sun: 08:00am-2:45pm, Tel: +30-22990-27020). In the pictures below you may catch a glimpse of the overall site and the arcade (stoa), which is the most significant remainining edifice, the way they looked from the surrounding fence when I visited in 2012. The museum does a good job presenting the site, the excavations and various findings and it'll take you 40-60 mins to tour (Tue-Sun: 09:00-16:00 from June 8 till Oct.31; call for winter hours as they may change. Ticket price: 3€, 2€ reduced for EU seniors, free for all under 18, Tel: +30-22990-27020).
Artemis herself (Diana was her Roman equivalent) was not only the goddess of hunting but also of nature, children and especially girls, and nursing and you can see signs of all this from the findings displayed in the museum. As for the stream, it is still present but the area is now a "wetland", not a "hunting ground" :) Follow the path that starts beyond the entrance of the museum to reach the site's rear side and the stream / wetland.
Vravrona Archaeological Museum entrance
Bronze cauldron - Vravrona Archaeological Museum
Duck-shaped vessel - Vravrona Archaeological Museum

Statue of Goddess Artemis - Vravrona Archaeological Museum

Votive relief picturing goddess Artemis - Vravrona Archeological Museum

Ancient Greek babies statues! (Artemis was the protectress of children) - Vravrona Archeological Museum

Feeding bottles for ancient Greek babies - Vravrona Archeological Museum 

Vravrona Archaeological Site - under works...

The Stoa (arcade) of the temple at Vravrona Archaeological Site - View from the rear fence / access from the path behind the museum

Now that you're done with the educational part of your day trip it's time to hit the beach! There are 2 options nearby: Either continue south (from the road that took you to the museum) to what I call "Beach No.2" in the map below (also referred to as Chamolia) or go back north, to the beach in front of the "Mare Nostrum Hotel" ("Beach No.1"). Both offer shallow and usually calm  and clean waters that will allow you to relax and enjoy your time here. The above said hotel also has a pool that can be accessed by non-guests for a small fee.
Vravrona Bay - View from the road near Mare Nostrum Hotel
Finally, there are various options for lunch or dinner in the area but the best value seems to be offered by a small seaside restaurant called "Artemis", which you'll find if you deviate from the main road, just before you get to the Mare Nostrum Hotel, to the right (towards the sea). They have a reputation, which we were happy to confirm, for some very tender, well-fried calamari rings (probably as good as you can get in a fish-tavern). We also got an excellent, succulent boiled octopus appetizer and a, rather boring, Greek salad. Together with 2 portions of squid rings and a bottle of beer, a dinner for two here cost us 36.5€. A fresh, fried cod fish cost us 23 Euros on a separate occasion (in 2014).

Tip: Make sure you carry a mosquito repellent with you if you stay in the area for dinner

View Vravrona (Brauron) day trip map in a larger map

Getting to Vravrona from Athens

Vravrona is around 40kms away from Athens. There are various options for getting here and I present them all below but you should plan for more than an hour (or even two!) of travel if you don't use a car. So, the best option (45minutes travel) is to either hire a car or get a taxi if you can split the cost.

Public transit: Starting from Nomismatokopeio Metro Station (Line 3) you may catch urban Bus 304. Terminal stop is in front of Mare Nostrum Hotel. Buses leave from 5:35 and approximately every half an hour till 21:15. Return buses from Vravrona to Halandri (Nomismatokopeio Metro Station) from 05:00 till 22:15.

Bus 316 (same starting and terminal stop) has very few routes but the last one is at 23:15. You will need to walk to the archaeological site (almost 2kms if you choose this option). The urban bus is the cheapest option but you should plan for 1.5hour of travel overall.

-A slightly faster option, but considerably more expensive (around 20€)  would be to get to the airport with one of the (more expensive) Express Buses (X93, X95) from Athens to the airport, or go to the airport via Metro Line 3 and catch a taxi to Vravrona from there.

-Similarly, KTEL (intercity) buses with their starting point at Mavromataion St. & Alexandras Avenue (Plateia Egyptou) in Athens (see here) leave every 30min or so for Markopoulo (2012 ticket price: 2.70€). From there, you can get a taxi-cab to the archaeological museum (11km / 15min. away). You will need to walk from the museum to the beach, about 2kms, if you choose this option.

By car: Follow Attiki Odos (Athens' Ring Road) all the way to Markopoulo. About 2kms after the end of Attiki Odos (see map above from this point on), you will see a sign pointing left and a traffic light where you turn left to Markopoulo. If you miss this there’s another one after 300 m (300yards) where you may also turn left. You will stay on the road that has most of the traffic, following signs to Mare Nostrum Hotel and then (left turn) on the road to Porto Rafti. 2kms on the road to Porto Rafti and after having passed some big box shops to your right (the last one being “Caldera” swimsuit factory to your right), the road has a median lane with a sign for a left turn. Stop and carefully turn left here, following the road (Leoforos Vravronos) to Vravrona. After 6kms, and having passed several road-side carts selling fruit and vegetables, the road splits. The left branch will get you in front of Mare Nostrum Hotel after 1.7km. The right one gets you to the archaeological museum and site (1km) and then to the 2nd beach of Vravrona (2kms more).

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To Kafeneio: Another Plaka restaurant presentation

To Kafeneio

Address-Area: 1 Epiharmou St. [Plaka neighbourhood], Athens
Tel: 210-32.46.916
Last Visit: 2012-03-24
Cuisine: Greek, traditional with a twist
Overall opinion: Positive / neutral
Methods of payment: cash / credit; Visa, AmEx, Mastercard, Diners
Working hours: Open from 09:30 for coffee. Restaurant hours: 11:30am - 01:00am (call for reservation, esp. for Friday night or Saturday)
Website: www.tokafeneio.gr
Accessibility: Only the outdoor tables on the pedestrian street (it has a slight downward slope); WC only accessible by walking downstairs

Indicative order:
Eggplant rolls (bourekia melitzanas)
Grilled feta cheese (saganaki) sprinkled with honey
Mushrooms (manitaria tou oneirou)
Kavourmas (meat dish w/ tomato sauce)
Meatballs with red curry sauce (Keftedakia tou Nikou)
Chocolate Fruit Passion w/ strawberry 
Kormos sokolatas (chocolate with biscuit "mosaic")
1/2 litre of aged Agiorgitiko wine
Bread for 2
Price: 40.10Euros (around 20€/person, incl. dessert)

Presentation / Ambience: Housed in an old coffee-shop (hence the name “kafeneio”) built of stone and wood, with tables laid out at levels, in one small hall, indoors. Old wooden furniture and decorations create a folkloric atmosphere. Some extra lighting inside would have been welcome. There are about 6 tables outdoors, in the calm, sloping, pedestrian street. They don’t have much of a view, except for a peek-through at the Scholarhio tavern across the corner on the busy, pedestrian, Tripodon St.  
Overall it is an interesting case of a restaurant, not only for the architecture of the building and for serving as a coffee place in the mornings but also for its efforts in the food and wine department.
Beautiful table-top tile decoration, Kafeneio restaurant - Athens

Food / Drinks: Overall food quality is very good here and the chef does not seem to be afraid to stray a little from the standard Greek fare, although the restaurant is located in the heart of the country’s tourist zone. We love the Indian-influenced, red curry-sauce meatballs and the armyrikia greens which are really hard to find. We also liked the kavourmas dish which is a traditional combination of “cheap” cuts from (mainly) beef and lamb, made extra tasty by cooking in a red tomato sauce, sprinkled with grated feta cheese, parsley and spices. The chocolate fruit passion dessert was excellent (and I don’t even like strawberry!) but the “kormos sokolatas” and a cappuccino coffee (we’ve had it on a separate occasion) are the only unremarkable items we’ve come across here, in the otherwise excellent diners we’ve had.
The owners make an effort to incorporate organic ingredients in their kitchen.
Wine-wise, this is one of the few tavern-restaurants that seem to actually care about wine, offering several options of wine in the carafe, with the name of each chateau / variety displayed in the menu, instead of the generic “house wine” label found elsewhere. They also age some barrels of wine in their own cellar and there’s a small number of interesting, Greek wine bottles.
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to hold the same high regard for beer.

Service: We haven't encountered any problems here nor have we noticed anything we didn't like.

Location / Getting there: In the middle of the Plaka neighborhood, across the street from the perennial “Scholarchio” which I have also presented in the past. Syntagma, Monastiraki and Acropolis Metro stations are at about equal distance. You pick a map and you walk, trying to find the corner of Tripodon St. and Epicharmou St.. To Kafeneio is the only establishment at the small, pedestrian Epiharmou St.

To Kafeneio business card
The comparison with the nearby Scholarchio tavern is inevitable, so there you have it in brief: To Kafeneio is a bit more expensive (but not too much), and its food is generally more imaginative while it has a good wine selection. Ambience-wise, it is more quiet and the service seems to be more up to today’s standards. On the other hand, Scholarchio has a slightly better view, and looks busier (it has more tables). The food is more “traditional”, typical Greek; it's OK but not to get wild about. Its small menus give you the chance to sample various Greek dishes for a low price.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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Greek Salad Alert!

We interrupt this staycation / vacation to bring you a special food bulletin! As I've told you before, I never write a restaurant presentation if I haven't visited a place at least twice. However, some small exceptions may be in line, and this is one of them. I know that the so-called "Greek salad" -we call it horiatiki (village salad)- is at the top of many people's gastronomic checklist when visiting Greece. However, as it's something of a summer staple many restaurant owners don't pay much attention to it and finding a Greek salad that goes above average is a real challenge. 

Well, to make a long story short, last night we just had the best Greek salad we've ever had in Athens and one of the top three ever. The people responsible for this can be found at Melilotos restaurant, in the heart of Athens, not far from the Monastiraki area. The salad we had is a rather bold variation of the typical Greek salad but it stays clearly within the range of what one might expect of it. Its ingredients were tomatos, cucumbers, small black olives (but not Kalamata olives), a very discreet amount of spring onions, a sweetened balsamic vinegar from the area of Zitsa / Ioannina (mostly known for its white sparkling wine), some crunchy lasagna leaves(!) from the island of Chios, xinomyzithra cheese (instead of the typical feta) and (another surprise) fresh spearmint leaves that blend surprisingly well and add an extra flavor to the mix!

Melilotos is located at 19 Kalamiotou St., Athens. It's very close to Kapnikarea church at Ermou St. and not far from Monastiraki (and Syntagma) Metro Stations. I'll make a fuller presentation in the future (after a second visit) but for the moment I think I've given you enough of a motive to visit it.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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