Classical Greece… far from the mold
4 days between Northern Greece and the Hellenic capital
THURSDAY? MAY 16
This year the choice of our? Holiday? had left for Amsterdam, but the orange capital? been dismissed a priori after seeing the crazy hotel prices is definitely out of reach for a weekend.
Where do we go? Where do we not go? The choice, thanks to my brother-in-law Tony (always him),? ended up on Meteora and Athens.
After a first selection of what to see, I entrusted Ryanair for flights and the rental of the 9-seater minibus.
Eccerto? Mica we move alone? In addition to me (Mauro) and my wife (Graziella), there are also my brother-in-law (Tony) and his wife (Renata) as well as our friends Massimo and Anna Maria and Gaetano and Maria Luisa ? .then 8 people.
Priority as I said for flights. Departure from Orio Al Serio (Bergamo) for Athens, Thursday? April 16 at 11,45 and return on Sunday 20 April with departure from Athens at 21,50 and arrival in Bergamo at 23,45. Flight price 115 euros per person, including priority boarding and second hand luggage. Attention, from this year Ryanair applies more restrictions. hard on hand luggage. Basically? It is possible to bring on board only one piece of luggage with the same size as a laptop bag. Do you understand that it was necessary to either buy a ticket for a hold luggage or buy the second hand luggage? We opted for this choice.
With Ryanair we also hired the 9-seater minivan at Athens airport. Cost 280 euros for 4 days with insurance included.
Well, meeting for departure at 8,15 on Thursday? in order to easily reach Bergamo. For the parking of the two cars we chose the Ciao through the MyParking site with which we have always enjoyed ourselves. The Ciao car park is located right next to the OrioCenter and? cost 15,30 euros per car for the 4 days. We arrive at about 9,15 am? We process the check-in and take a bus to the airport.
We take the opportunity to have breakfast and then go to the gate since I already had the check-in? done, for everyone, directly online several days before.
Time to go around the shops? Take a sandwich and a bottle of water (for the modest sum of 8 euros) and at 11 the boarding opens? .We are among the first to go up .. excellent?
Shall we take our seats? Arrange our luggage and behold we leave on time. By plane, we can also get some scratch cards made out of what point have we arrived at? And at 15 pm, ten minutes early, we land at the Eleftherios Venizelos international airport in Athens. Great temperature? It's great.
Time to stretch our legs for a moment and off we go in search of the Enterprise rent a car office. You will find it near the airport exit. Obviously they try to give us a new insurance that we obviously decline having it already? made via the Ryanair website with Axa. The depot where you can pick up the van is located on the right after about 300 meters. We arrive and immediately take possession of our Vivaro 1.6 turbo diesel. Obviously myself driving. I like to drive .. as long as it is during the day? .We start driving but we do not even do two km which is immediately the first surprise. The van had to be delivered with a full tank and instead? .. almost completely empty. We stop immediately at the distributor and we immediately leave 90 euros of diesel. I get the receipt with time and everything that at least, in case of dispute, we know what to do.
Navigators activated and off to Kalambaka or Kalamata? Which is located just under 400 km north of Athens. We take the E75 motorway to Lamia. Just before arriving at Lamia, which is about halfway up the road. of the route, we stop off the highway to see the monument to the battle of Thermopylae? .C ?? very little to see honestly and this immediately arouses the hilarity? of our friends ?.
The highway to Lumia? beautiful? at a certain point it runs along the entire Gulf of Maliaco. One important thing is the highway here? like in France? every 40/50 km? c ?? a toll booth and you pay an average of 3,5 euros each way. What is not usual? At the toll booth 90% are all girls? And also pretty? Which is good? .After Lamia we continue on the E65? a road that is also a bit winding that overcomes some rough edges? for about a 50 km?. after it becomes highway again?. and what highway?. Brand new? with very few cars in transit.
We arrive in Kalambaka at about 9? .. the chosen structure? the Pineas. Presented as a hotel on Booking, in reality? ? just a good B&B. Among other things, it is located outside the city center. ? and not a little. It has a huge swimming pool which, if you come in the summer, certainly doesn't hurt. The owner? a very nice lady who speaks very well in English and who tries to make us understand a few things. Our three bedrooms are located on the same floor. Ours also has a large balcony that looks directly onto the meteors. The price? 353 euros for a quadruple and two doubles. Honestly, given the schedule, we're also a little hungry. The owner shows us a couple of places to eat in the center of Kalambaka. We take the minibus and go downtown. Not ? a problem to park why? the central street offers many places. The choice for dinner falls on the Meteora
Staff ? very kind and we get advice from someone who speaks a little Italian. We opt for a mussaka each and then mixed grilled meat with a mountain of fries. We are served very quickly. The mussaka? a kind of parmigiana, very good. Grilled meat is also worth it. We spend about 23 euros each including dessert, water, wine and coffee. All very good. Grade 7.
Our first evening ends here? We are tired .. quite tired but this does not prohibit us from taking a few steps to digest a little bit. After that? To bed? Tomorrow morning I meet in the breakfast room at 8
FRIDAY? MAY 17
The Meteors open at 9 and so? we have plenty of time to have a quiet breakfast. But let's talk about the Meteors. There are 20 scattered throughout this territory but only 5 are open to the visit of strangers. The monasteries are closed one day a week alternately. So know that if you don't do at least two days. you won't be able to see them all. When you are below you will be amazed. One thing - here in Greece there are a lot of stray dogs and cats - they don't hurt anyone - if you're scared… just leave them alone. This rock completely smoothed by the wind and water on whose summit? these monasteries rise.
The entrance costs 3 euros to each monastery. Women, COMPULSORY, must wear a long skirt so, in case you don't have it on, you will come. provided directly at the entrance. Inside not? possible to take photos or videos in the chapels.
I beg you, are they very loyal to the rules and very religious? Particular ? the mode? to reach the top. The first monks arrived at the monasteries by means of scaffolding supported by beams fixed in the rock, of which traces still remain. This method was replaced with dizzying rope ladders and nets woven with hemp that formed kind of baskets that climbed thanks to a rudimentary winch. In 1922 the rope ladders were cut and replaced with ladders engraved in the rock. The nets still remain in use today for food supply.
Our first goal? the Roussanou Monastery: the construction dates back to 1388 on the initiative of the monks Nicodemo and Benedict even if some hypothesize the brothers Maximos and Ioasef di Giannina as founders.
Today the Monastery looks like a female convent and can be reached from the road after having climbed about 140 steps and crossed two stone bridges. Does each visit last from 30? minutes (of this) to over an hour of what we're going to do in the afternoon. After Roussanou we take our van back and walk a couple of km to get to the Monastery of Varlaam which unfortunately? closed on Friday? cos? like that of San Nicola.
We leave our vehicle right in the square next to the Varlaam and walk up the slope that takes us to the Monastery of Great Meteora. The Great Meteora Monastery? the pi? large and the most? ancient of all, and also the most? visited by tourists.
The monastery took the name of Meteora why? it looked like it was "suspended in the air". The monastic structure was in fact built on top of the gigantic sandstone rock, at a height of about 630 meters above sea level. The Gran Meteora Monastery was founded by San Atanasio. The main cathedral in the central courtyard? embellished with splendid th century frescoes and preserves some of the best examples of Greek Byzantine art.
Yes ? now done half-day and so? we take the opportunity to take focaccia and sandwiches, as well as a nice beer, right in the kiosk that c? on the square. A sandwich, two pieces of focaccia, a beer and a? Water? .8 euros?
After our lavish lunch we head to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity? ? the pi? difficult to reach why? it is perched on a very steep rock. But once you reach the top, will the breathtaking panoramic view pay off? of the effort made. Visitors must follow a path to the foot of the rock, before starting the ascent of approximately 140 steps. The main cathedral of the monastery was built in the 1741th century and was decorated with frescoes in . Part of the monastery? was used as the setting for the final scenes of the James Bond film titled? For Your Eyes Only ?.
The climb ? very steep but totally worth it. I forgot? The road that connects the various monasteries, and built a long time later for the sole purpose of tourism, has several panoramic points? Stop? Each one shows a different angle of these wonders.
The last monastery? the monastery of Santo Stefano is the most? accessible, what can you? reach it simply by crossing a small bridge. ? the ideal solution for visitors who cannot climb many steps, but who nevertheless want to have a real experience of a Meteora monastery. The beginning of monastic life on the rock dates back to the early 13,30th century. The monastery of Santo Stefano includes two cathedrals: the old 15,30th century chapel which was badly damaged during World War II, and the th century main cathedral dedicated to Saint Charalambos, which includes his sacred relics. It should be remembered that the monastery, unlike the others, closes from pm to pm?. What allows us to take a break?. Obliged to rest for a moment.
With this last visit we end the tour to the Meteora? To this huge spectacle that has become a UNESCO heritage site. Does it deserve?
Let's go back to our B&B to take a shower and rest before dinner. The idea would be to go back to the Meteors to see them at sunset.
After a shower and a moment of relaxation we take the van back and leave our friends in the center of Kalambaka for shopping and an aperitif. We instead go to the Meteors, but? still too early for sunset
and so? we decide to go back to our friends who we find in a bar to drink. We also take the opportunity to have a drink and in the meantime we discuss where to go for dinner. We want to change. Not that we didn't have a good time at Meteora Ristorante? But just for a change. In the end the choice falls on the Panellilion Tavern. IS? a restaurant, both outdoors and indoors, in a small square in Kalmaka, right in front of the Meteora Restaurant where we were last night. This time the choices are different. Does anyone take the roasted octopus, someone the cod? fried, someone grilled cuttlefish, and I instead the Greek meatballs with potatoes? plus Greek salad, wine, coffee? and? kills coffee ?. Final cost about 23 euros each?. But we are really full. Well, our visit to Meteora and its surroundings ends here. IS? a magical place?. which we absolutely recommend to anyone who wants to come to these parts. Spend at least 2 days. this ? our advice, plus comfortable shoes.
Saturday May 18
Meeting for breakfast at 8 am. We settle the bill with the lady, clean the windows of the van and go back to Athens.
The beauty of traveling with these vans? that you certainly do not get bored. Between a stupid and the other when you? in eight time passes really pleasantly. We go back along the way and we stop to get a box of cherries from a street vendor.
Shortly after a hundred km. A police patrol stops us on the highway. Of course? No one goes by?. Something they have to do. When do they understand that we are Italians and tourists? Do they let us go? Attention. Here there are speed cameras and not a few?. Respect the limits. There are also several patrols with the telelaser - so? Eyes open. The limits are almost? identical to ours in Italy.
Towards the middle? road we decide to take advantage of the public toilets that are on the side of the road and which are located every 30/40 km. Well? Beautiful public toilets? Brand new? Complete with a table indicating that they are cleaned and sanitized twice a day. In the face that Greece that in shambles ?.
Around 13 pm we stop in a service area to get something to eat. A couple of sandwiches? And cherries? WOW? ..
We arrive at our hotel around 14,30 pm. The choice ? relapse, through Booking, on the Hotel Katerina. We had chosen this hotel because of the price (136 euros for the family and 77 euros for the double), proximity to the subway (100 meters), staff who speak Italian (but there was no one) and a terrace at the top of the hotel. from which to take wonderful night photos of the Acropolis. Time to check-in is a quick freshen up and off to the track again.
Our first destination? Monastiraki Square and Hadrian's Library. We are moving towards the subway stop which? right across the square and? the Metaxourgio stop. We buy the ticket which is valid for 24 hours (4,50 euros) and take the subway towards Elliniko and get off immediately at the first stop, Omonia, to change and take the green line towards Pireus and get off immediately after one stop in Monastiraki.
The square ? the beating heart of the city. So much chaos? So many people? So many tourists? Beware of pickpockets. Here too, as in any part of the world, there are? So eyes open. Let's go straight to the entrance of Hadrian's Library. Today, May 18th, all the archaeological sites are free, so? as well as the first Sunday of the month (from September to March). Did we get the tickets? Skip the line? online. Cost 30 euros for all attractions.
We enter to visit the archaeological site. The Library building is located near the Agor. Built in the 100nd century by Hadrian, the building has had a very troubled history. Built in the 132nd century AD. C. a short distance from the Agor? from the emperor Hadrian from which it takes its name, the Athens Library contained a cloister surrounded by 267 Corinthian columns with a water mirror in the center. In addition to books, the Library housed reading rooms, music rooms and a theater. The structure has had a very troubled history: built in 412 BC. C., was destroyed by the Heruli in 8 d. C. to then be rebuilt in 15. In the fifth century AD. C. the courtyard housed a Christian basilica, which was destroyed and rebuilt in the th century. Finally, during the Turkish occupation the building was the seat of the governor of the city. Library today? accessible to the public that can? admire the niches in the stone, in which the parchment rolls were stored. The library ? open from to and access? included in the Acropolis ticket.
From here we head towards the Small and Large Mitropolis. We walk along Via Pandrossou, the street with the most? beautiful and the most? interesting and we arrive in Mitropoleos Square with the two cathedrals: on the right the Little Mitropoli (Mikri Mitropoli), a charming little church dedicated to Agios Elefterios, next to the Great Mitropoli (Megali Mitropoli), the cathedral of Athens.
The small one ? closed while the Grande? open and so? we enter to visit it. We then return to the hotel to pick up our van with which to go to the Lycabetto hill to admire the view at sunset. The hill, one of the three that overlooks Athens, is just under half an hour away by car. The navigator makes us do for? a road that with the van? somewhat? unlikely? .. Impossible slopes with traffic lights and stop? .Risk of doing the side to pi? of some cars but in the end we manage to get to the end? And not ? metaphor. The road in fact? full of cars and the only parking lot, which contains about twenty places,? overflowing?. forward always being careful not to hit the parked cars and? .the road ends?. And now? Of course I can not do all the way in reverse?. With the help of all the others I can turn the van with the fear of ending up underneath? And in the end we park as well and better. So, if you come here and can't find a place in the small parking lot, turn the car and park more. downstream.
We make the climb on foot and we get to the top where we understand why? of all the machines that c? were already ?? c ?? a wedding?.
Quass? in fact c ?? a small orthodox church from here you have a breathtaking view. The effort to climb is so? paid off. A view that leaves you breathless at every angle. We should come for the sunset but we are satisfied. On its summit? c ?? also a restaurant? quite expensive? you see ?.
We return to our Van but this time I send the navigator to the devil and do my own thing? L? Avr? even stretched but at least I didn't kill anyone. We take the van back to the hotel and take the subway back to Monastiraki square to see if we can eat something. C ?? just spoiled for choice given how many clubs there are. Our satisfaction is from
Kafeneio Oraia Ellas which is located in one of the squares behind Monastiraki. Let's start with a couple of Greek salads… then let's try this pastissio for everyone and a couple of plates of sardines… sweet, that never fails, and coffee. Excellent sardines and salad? Little to say about the pastissio that almost everyone did not go crazy. Is it baked macaroni with ragu and a finger of béchamel on top? .We do it much better? Okay? Was it right to try it? .C ?? live music that brightens up the evening. Total cost 18 euros each.
We take two steps to digest and then go back to the hotel.
Sunday May 19
IS? our last day on Greek soil. We settle the bill at the hotel, leave our luggage in custody and take the subway. The first idea was to go and see the Acropolis and then come back for 11 to see the changing of the guard but we decide to listen to Gaetano and reverse the two goals. Four stops on the red line and we get off in Syntagma Square where c ?? the parliament building and the changing of the guard. IS? for? still early and so? we go to see the Academy of Fine Arts in Athens. IS? a beautiful palace in the style of the 1700s.
Custom photo and then back to Syntagma square where practically? already? completely full. Only on Sundays at 11 c ?? in exchange for the guard in full regalia with full band and body of guards. The ceremony lasts half an hour in which practically the avenue in front of the Parliament is completely closed to urban traffic. Is the gang coming with all the guards ?? really beautiful and touching. If you are here on a Sunday don't miss it.
After the ceremony we take the subway again - one stop and we are at the Acropolis. Leaving the subway, follow the road to the right and then right again where you will find the entrance and the ticket office. If you have tickets done online, skip the line and enter immediately. The first thing you see? the Theater of Dionysus. The work of Lycurgus, located at the foot of the Acropolis of Athens, must absolutely be visited even just to understand the importance of theater in Ancient Greece: just think that the maximum capacity was 17 thousand spectators! An incredible thing.
Then continue until you reach the Theater of Herodes Atticus. This ? another gem-theater to be seen. Located just beyond the main entrance of the Acropolis, the Theater of Herodes Atticus? it was built by the rich Herod, who gave it its name, in memory of his wife Regilla. A suggestive place also because of the view over the city ?!
Then continue to the top where, be careful not to slip on the marble, you will reach the Propylaea.
This colonnade? the imposing monumental entrance of the Acropolis of Athens, made of Ionic and Doric arcades designed by the architect Mnesicle. From here opens the Via Panatenaica, and thus begins? our path through history. From the Propylaea at the top right you will see the Temple of Athena Nike designed by Callicrates and entirely built in Pentelic marble. In 2003 it underwent a complete disassembly due to an improper restoration: you will not struggle to notice the difference between the original elements and additions. And here we are now in front of the Parthenon. Finally we arrived in front of the symbol of the Acropolis as well as? of the Greek capital and of Athenian democracy, a Doric temple of perfect proportions, and the most? big ever built. This work by the architects Ictino, Kallikrates and Mnesicle, whose construction was supervised by Phidias, is located on the highest point. high, ? dedicated to Athena Parthenos and is perfect for simplicity? and harmony?
A real marvel of photography! Last thing to see, but not least for beauty,? the Erechtheion. Everyone knows the Parthenon, the largest temple. decorated and known of the Acropolis of Athens, yet? to the Erechtheion which is the most important role? important, namely that of a sanctuary. Located north of the site, it owes its name to the mythical Athenian king Erichthonius.
Equally mythical is its portico supported by five Caryatids, which are only plaster copies of the original statues of women kept inside the New Acropolis Museum; the sixth statue, on the other hand, is kept in the British Museum in London.
We go down and go to a panoramic point near the west entrance of the archaeological site and where can you? see the Acropolis from another angle.
Yes ? now it's time for lunch .. really yes? even exceeded since it is 14? and so? we enter the Plakiotissa Taverna Mezedopolio to eat. The choice falls on who on the chicken Gyros and who on the pork Gyros. Beer? Coffee? for 15 euros each. In short, the Gyros? a kind of flat kebab with chips.
While we eat Tony and I notice a photo in the Acropolis room seen from another angle? a hill on the opposite side of the Lycabetto and? thanks to Google we can understand that? the hill of the Monument to Filopappo. On the other hand we have to be at the airport by 19 pm? What do we do in the meantime ??? All to pick up our suitcases at the hotel? Van and off to Philopappos Hill. Before for? we have to stop and take a picture of the Runner, a sort of glass plate statue that portrays a runner. It is located right in front of the Hilton Hotel complex.
We get back in the car and head towards Filopappo that we reach in 15? about. We leave the van with Gaetano and Anna Maria who desist from this latest ascent and we set out. We follow Renata who leads the way but? After ap? we understand that it was better not to follow it. We are faced with a wall for mountaineers and the only one who tries his hand at the gesture and Tony. The rest of us are looking for alternative routes and after another good half hour we reunite with Tony on the top. of the hillock. From here you can see another spectacle of Athens and the Acropolis.
I think this is the best place to see the Acropolis at sunset but I have no idea what it would be like to go back downstairs. in the street. We arrive at the van that we are destroyed? A moment of relaxation and off we leave for the airport. At 19 we arrive at the airport .. we leave already? all and we go to bring the car back to the Enterprise? the employee goes around and gives us? the welcome. At the hotel ate something ... who a sandwich? Who some fruit? .And at 21,15pm they announce our plane for the return to Milan. We land in perfect time now