Athens Staycation 2010 (pt.2)

Monday, 2010-04-19 (continued from pt.1)
It was movie night tonight. We went to the Trianon cinema, in the center of Athens, to watch "Greenberg", starring Ben Stiller. We both thought it was a rather boring film. Trying to be an alternative to typical Hollywood movies but rather ending up falling flat on its ...sleepy face.

By the way, the naming of movie theaters in Greece is an interesting reflection of the increasing or decreasing influence of foreign / dominant cultures. Many movie theaters used to have French or French-sounding names and many still do, mostly older and independent movie theaters, bearing names such as Etoile, Ideal, Palace, Philipe, (all three pronounced as in French), Petit-Palais, Ciné-…, Trianon, etc. These theaters were built when French cinema was at its prime and French was the language that all "good families" wanted their Greek daughters to learn. There was even an expression about good children been brought up learning "French and piano"! In recent years, English-sounding names have been the norm for new multiplexes like "Village Cinemas" (pronounced as in English) while a good number still bears Greek names, often with an archaic undertone. But mostly new movie theaters are no longer being built. On the contrary, many have been torn down and turned into e.g. supermarkets during the last 20 years.

Tuesday, 2010-04-20
Morning spent at the gym. Later on it was...
...movie night again! This time we went to the Nea Ionia municipal cinema, named Asteras, to watch "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire". Municipal cinemas are supposed to run non-commercial films (European, Greek and independent American films) but sometimes they also run Hollywood films, especially when these are not big hits in Greece or in the summertime, when a movie is no longer shown in commercial cinemas. Anyway, 'Precious' was a great film, much exceeding my expectations, not that I really had something concrete in mind as I prefer to know as little as possible about a film before watching it. And it was very interesting to see 3 first class singers starring in this movie and all of them doing a great job. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 2010-04-21
In the morning we went to the Psyrri' neighborhood, near the center of Athens and the Traditional Meat Market, at the "a.antonopoulou art" gallery to see a photo exhibition by photographer Yorgis Yerolympos called "Road Trip: USA. 16994.61". Great photographs (landscapes and cityscapes) from his 2-month long, coast-to-coast road trip across the USA.
Later on we tried to get into another photo exhibition but it was... hidden inside a restaurant and we didn't feel like walking around tables, with people having lunch, trying to spot out the hidden photographs :) So, we decided to go for lunch instead. The first restaurant we had in mind was not open at around 5.00pm (considered late noon / early afternoon for Greek standards), so instead, we went to a restaurant named "Fasoli" ("Bean"), in the center of Athens (at the corner of Ippokratous and Navarinou streets). The food (Greek cuisine with a mixture of modern and traditional touches) was very tasty (esp. the mushrooms filled with cheese mixture) but the portions were small and the tables were impressively badly designed! They only had 4-5 wines (the menu only listed their house wine) and a very basic selection of local beers.
So, we wouldn't have a problem recommending it for a short lunch if you're in the neighborhood but you don't need to go out of our way to dine here.

Thursday, 2010-04-22
We mostly stayed indoors. Staycation or no staycation, you do need a little rest from time to time. Nice to be able to wake up... hummm,....later than usual!

Friday, 2010-04-23
View to the West of Athens from Tourkovounia hills / Attiko Alsos park
Early in the morning, after finishing up with some household errands, we completed our walk up in the Tourkovounia hills (mentioned a couple of weeks ago), this time walking inside the "Attiko Alsos" park, the interior part of the top of the hills. The park was recently renovated and should be a welcome addition for the residents of Athens, Galatsi and Psychiko (although the latter ones already have their fair share of green and public spaces) even if most will come here by car (getting to... instructions have been provided in my previous post). Here are a few more photos from the park and from the wonderful views from it (even though it was a hazy day, totally unsuitable for photography).

View of some luxury apartments in the Psychiko suburb with the suburb of Maroussi and the Athens Olympic Stadium in the background (notice the Santiago Calatrava-designed roof)

Some luxury apartments in the Psychiko area, with the Athens Olympic Stadium and its Santiago Calatrava-designed roof in the background. Thinking of my co-workers being trapped inside an office somewhere down there, while I was under this beautiful tree's shadow made it all that more enjoyable  :)

Nice, safe-looking, newly built playground. Not your average Athens playground!

Turtle, marching at full-speed! There was a really big... colony of turtles in the park!

There's a... rudimentary 1982 Greek documentary on the settlement of Tourkovounia hills and its inhabitants. If it sounds interesting you may watch some excerpts (w/o subtitles) at the site of the Greek Film Center Digital Archive, here. Click on "Documentation" - top right - and explore the sub-sections.

We had long wanted to see live a Greek band called Himerinoi Kolimvites (meaning 'Winter Swimmers') mostly known for the distinctive voice of Argyris Bakirtzis and we finally made it tonight. The band has been around for decades and has had a relative share of success in Greece and, purportedly, the Far East (Korea and Japan)! Theirs is a really distinctive blend of music, easily hoping from oriental rebetika music to occidental choir music or from their idiosyncratically-themed songs about varied subjects such as a bicycle rider or insecticide spayers to a song version of a poem by Nobel Prize Laureate Odysseas Elytis. You can sample and buy some of their music at Amazon.com and also check out some of their songs on Youtube for free. Their live show was just beyond any expectations we might have had, although I suppose non-speakers of Greek would have missed a lot since Bakirtzis really shines on stage and could have easily been a stand-up comedian! Actually, he is an Architect as his main... day-time job. It's a pity that Greek radio and TV is mostly flooded with trash instead of music like this. But at least, these guys have managed to shine through, and become known to a good part of the public. The music hall where they played is called "Stavros Tou Notou", it's located fairly close to the Fix Metro Station.

Saturday, 2010-04-24
Waking up late, we went to the Benaki Museum (the Odos Pireos building) to see the Ansel Adams photography exhibition. The new building of the Benaki Museum at Odos Pireos 138 has been a cultural oasis ever since it opened a few years ago, providing a modern and elegant space to host all kinds of art exhibitions and cultural events that did not have the proper space to be hosted till recently. The Ansel Adams
exhibition consisted of 72 black & white photographs, selected by the artist himself during his last years and attended by his daughter, Anne Adams-Helms. A great occasion to see photograph prints that till now we could have only seen in magazines or books.


Right after that, full of art and beautiful landscapes, we got into the car and ventured to the Attica village of Kapandriti (25km north of Athens), with the equally enticing prospect of some finely grilled lamb chops (pa-i-da'kia). The tavern where we sat had been proposed by a friend and was certainly an interesting find for us food-wise but the service was a bit amateurish and annoying so we probably wouldn't propose it to someone visiting town (hard to get there and not worth your time with so many alternate choices in Metro Athens).

Sunday, 2010-04-25
Household errands, cleaning up my PC files and ...blogging! This stuff is not written on its own you know!

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