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Thursday, September 16, 2010

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

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View of Lykebetos across the Agora

It's my last day here in Athens.  I am anxious to get on the way home but at the same time will feel deep regret leaving.  That's always the way it is. I am torn between here and home (both being 'home' to me).
If I could, I'd stay much longer like I used to during the 90's when I stayed six months at a time while working on my novel.  But this time I didn't do much writing and I realize now that I must get myself a notebook computer so I can be writing more on the road.  (I did make notes but because of the intense heat of August didn't feel too inspired!)

It's been wonderful seeing all my old friends and wandering my old haunts.  I've missed the absent ones and sometimes felt very nostalgic on this visit, as we always feel their presence.  I love Greece and all the opportunities it offers to me for exploring and creating new stories, whether historical or travel.  And although I have been many places in this country there are still so many others to explore. So I know I'll always come back here.  I couldn't bear to never see my Athens family and friends again.

So, til the next time,  Kalo taxidi and goodbye to Athens.  Don't worry, I'll probably be back next year!

Sunset from Dinaz's rooftop apartment

A SALAMINA ADVENTURE

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View from Christina's house, Salamina


My friend Christina has bought property on the island of Salamina (Salamis) just off the west coast of Attika.  I have only visited there (briefly) one afternoon long ago and had no idea what to expect.  It isn't an island that tourists head for and even many Greeks don't bother.  I was happily surprised by what I discovered there.

Salamina is off the coast near Pireaus in the Saronic Gulf.  The Straight of Salamis ws the scee of the famous naval battle between Greeks and Persians, about Sept 22, 480 BC.  Salamis was a key point In Themestocles plan of defense again the Persians and this was a decisive battle.  The battle wasn't as legendary as the one at Marathon, but it is still considered as one of the most decisive naval battles in history.  There is a monumet to the battle near the ancient port of Salamis.  Currently, the Greeks keep the most important naval station in Greece at Salamina and you can see the naval ships when you come into the port.
The Beach

Salamina is much larger than I'd expected with many coastal and mountain villages and high mountains.  Chris's house and studios is in one of the small village, up a very steep hill.  So every time we went to the beach, we walked down and had to hike up.  Believe me, that strenuous hike has now qualified me for the Grouse Grind!  I amazed myself at achieving this twice a day while I was there!


I stayed in Salamina for the weekend, then coming home Sunday was a bit of an adenture as the direct passenger ferry to Pireaus didn't show up, so after waiting more than an hour, I called Chris for instructions and caught the little Perama foot passenger boat which runs every 10 mins, and on the other side, at Perama, found the bus that takes you right to the Pireaus metro station.  I got home just in time to meet up with Dina, Andreas and a group of other friends (friends and relatives of our late friend Graham) for a little party at Mike's artist studio and then a wonderful late lunch at a rooftop taverna in Thission.

A DAY AT CORINTH (OLD AND NEW)

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Corinth with Acrocorinth in background

I hadn't visited Corinth (Korinthos) since 1996 and only once before that, during my early days in Greece, so I looked forward to going there again this week with my friends Andreas and Dina.  We headed off early Tuesday morning along with their friend, Lydia, and drove through some dense traffic where the oil trucks (striking) had parked all along the highway, blocking the lanes.  Eventually got there, across that famous old Corinth Canal that was dug centuries ago to make a shipping lane from the Aegean Sea to the Gulf of Corinth.  It's one of those engineering wonders but is rarely used these days.

The ancient city lies below the slopes of a mountain, Acrocorinth, a precipitous mountain that was the acropolis of the ancient city.  The city was in existence since the 5th millennium.  It was at one time known for its naval strength and ship building, and during the Persian Wars, served as a Greek headquarters. 

Temple of Hera

In 338 BC, Corinth shared the Greek's defeat of Chaironea and the Macedonians built a garrison there.  Following that, it was under the leadership of King Philip and later Alexander the Great, and flourished under a century of Macedonian rule.  The Cynic philosopher Diogenes (414 -323) ended his days in Corinth.

In future years, the city was besieged by the Romans and lay desolate until Julius Caesar Planted a colony of veterans on its site.  The Apostle Paul came here during that time and was said to have addressed the Corinthians from the Bema, which still stands among the ruins of the agora.  There are several notable, interesting remains in the ancient (Roman) city and a few of the old Greek city including a theatre and the Asklepeion, the Fountain of Lerna, the Roman baths and most notable, the Temple of Apollo (mid 6th C. BC) with its Doric columns.  There is also an interesting museum at the site.

Roman Baths

After touring the archaeological part of Corinth, we drove down the the Bay of Corinth, picked up Andreas' cousin (another Andreas) and went to a lovely seaside taverna where we had a refreshing swim and later enjoyed one of the best arrays of seafood I've tasted: oktopodi (marinated octopus), kalamarakia (tender, succulent calamaria), filleted sardines and two other types of small fishes cooked whole (maridakias and garides) plus a big plate of fresh horta (greens) and deep fried zucchini balls, all washed down by several jugs of white wine.

Later, Andreas' cousin took us to see where a spring of fresh water gushes and flows into the sea at a place where he said once the women of his village used to wash clothes.

In all, it was a remarkable day, one that will forever stick in my memory.

I've spent the week with my friends in their beautiful roof-top flat overlooking the city clear out to Pireaus where you can see the ships at sea.  We went one day to Flisvos Marina for icecream, the other days just sat around on the balcony enjoying the view and the sunsets and discussing my novel and other literature.  It was indeed a very special time spent with these special friends.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

MY ATHENS FAMILY

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I thought it was time I introduced my Athens family.  These are people I have known for many years and who I usually stay with when I am visiting here.  Without their kind hospitality I probably wouldn't be able to afford such long holidays in Athens and we have become extended families, always keeping in touch.
Christina, Carola and Kim
Many of the friends I first met when I started coming to Greece have left, passed away or moved on. When I went to find Ari, a waiter I've known since 1979, I found he had retired and moved to Patras.  My dear soul-brother friend Roberto, the Argentine artist who shared so much time with me, passed away from cancer 7 years ago. And another good friend, Graham, a retired British accountant, also died five years ago.  But these friends are linked to my other friends as we have all shared time together and were part of a large group who either hung out at the former "Dirty Corner" on Vironos St. or at the To Kati Allo Taverna in Makriagianni. 
My friend Christina is originally from Sweden but has lived in Athens for years, and used to work in the tourism industry.  She was a friend of Robbie's who informed me, back in 1995, that she needed a babysitter for her 1 year old daughter Daniella.  I accepted the job and we have been close friends ever since. Daniella is now a gorgeous 15 year old.  Christina now runs a little dress shop in Koukaki and has just bought property in Salamina where she will use part of her house there as guest studios.  Christina's friend Carola, originally from Germany, is also a long-time friend. She's married to a Greek.  She also works in tourism.

Dina and Andreas

I met Dina back in 1993 when she was working in a tourist office. She is my Persian Princess (because when I met her I realized she was the living example of Princess Drypetis in my novel Shadow of the Lion. She is,in fact, Parsi, from Mumbai and  is  married to another very nice Greek man, Andreas, who also works in tourism.  She has a son named Andreas who I have known since he was quite young. 

The folks who run the To Kati Allo are gypsies from near Sparta in the Peloponnese.  At first Anna's brother Babis used to run a sandwich shop on Hatzichristou St. where the gang gathered back in the '80's.  She then opened her taverna next door.  Her son Dino was a little boy then, running around the tables, and now he is married (to an American girl) had has two children of his own.  Her husband Leonidas drives a taxi.
Mike and Me

That's the taverna where I always hang out when I'm here.  It's right across from the new acropolis museum (south side) and the prices there are cheaper than the up-scale tavernas on Makgrianni St around the corner. Anna does the cooking, Dino is now taking over the shop.  It's always a fun place to hang out although without the daily attendance of Roberto and Graham it gets a bit lonely.  Ove, the Danish archaeologist, still goes there every day and sometimes Mike, the English artist also comes by (though he usually goes to a taverna in Thissio or Gazi).  There used to be apartments across the street where Graham lived but those were torn down to build the museum.  The Norwegian Institute is up the street so in the past there were usually classical scholars who stayed there such as my friend Anna Britt, who I also met at To Kati Allo.  The Finnish Institute is around the corner and I had friends from there too, including Vesa, an architect, who sometimes visits at the same time Anna Britt and I are here.  I also have a friend who is a very talented artist.  Mike has lived in Athens for many years and I met him through Roberto. He is part of the To Kati Allo group of friends.

Zoe

Two other friends are Zoe and Carol.  Zoe came to Greece to live about the same time I did, in 1983, and married a Greek bouzoukia player.  Carol lives in a house that was right across from where my friend Robbie lived. It also happens to be the house where Audrey Thomas stayed while she wrote her book "Latakia".  I met Zoe at the American Church where she and her two children attended back around 1995 and we've always kept in touch.  I met Carol a couple of  years ago when a friend stayed at her Villa Olympia.  But Carol knows all the people I do as she has lived in Athens for years, so we found much in common.  I thoroughly enjoyed staying at her old neo classical house and would recommend it as a residence for any writer who is coming to Athens. (Or traveler who wants a homey place to stay other than an expensive hotel). 

Over the years I've managed to keep in touch with these very special friends and they are all part of my Athens Family.

A STROLL ALONG THE AREOPAGITOU TO THISSIO

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Thission Taverna
Areopagitou is the long pedestrian mall that runs beside the Acropolis.  All along this walk you will see archaeological sites and  you'll get some wonderful views of the Parthenon and surrounding hillsides.
Keep walking, and you will reach the Thissio district, an area named after the nearby ancient temple in the Agora.  It's a traditional neighbourhood with charming neoclassical houses.  It's become very popular in recent years with many outdoor cafes located around Thissio Square. 

Kerameikos

Nearby is the Kerameikos, a part of ancient Athens located in the north west outskirts of the ancient city.  It was party enclosed and in the centre was an arch known as the Dipylon Gate where the Panathenaic processionals would start, and a Sacred Arch where the Sacred Way began leading to the Elefsinian Mysteries.

The district was named after the potters (Keramioi) who lived there on the banks of the River Iridanos.  However it is best known as an important burial site honoring citizens of Athens.  There are avenues lined with grave stele and a memorial where Athenians who died in the Battle of Charionea against the Macedonians are interred, as well as memorials to other Athenian heroes.  There is a museum on the site with some of the finds.

I passed by there yesterday while exploring Thission on my way to find the James Joyce Irish Pub which is located on a side street just between Thission and Monastiraki Metro Stations.  You can spot it right behind the fences that block off a new archaeological dig on the street running by the rail tracks.  Friends had told me about it and I can guarantee it's worth a visit.  I went inside the air conditioned bar which was stepping back into a real Irish pub.  Their menu is impressive and includes such dishes as Sausages and Mash and Dublin pasties. Of course there is Guiness on tap!

I ordered steamed mussels and a Guiness.  The mussels were stewed in white wine and lemon with bacon bits and were absolutely fabulous!  Some dark bread accompanied them to sop up the 'soup'  I'll write more about this pub later as it's unique to find such a place in the middle of the traditionally Greek market area. My meal and the relaxing stop in that friendly place topped off my afternoon wanderings.

My friends, Christina, Carola and Kim
I just had time to rush home, shower, change and hop a tram (they started running again at 4 pm) to meet Christina, Karola and Kim at the To Kati Allo for a fun evening of chats over white wine that only cost us 3.50 euro a half litre.  Talk about a cheap evening! And so much fun to be with the girlfriends.

WHAT TO SEE AROUND SYNTAGMA SQUARE

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Syntagma Square is Athens' central square. Its name means "Constitution Square" which is derived from an uprising on Sept 3, 1842 when the people demanded that King Otto, the first king of Greece, grant a Constitution.  This area, in front of what was the Royal Palace (now the Parliament) is well known today as the gathering place for protests and, unfortunately in recent times. riots.  Around the area are fashionable cafes and restaurants as well as some of Athens' most outstanding New Classical Buildings.

The Parliament Building dominates the square. It was constructed from 1836-42.  The kings used to reside here until a fire destroyed the building.  In 1924/23, the building was reconstructed and used as the Parliament.  Out in front is the Monument of the Unknown Soldier bearing an inscription with excerpts from Pericles' Epitaph.  It is  here that the select troop of the Evzones, wearing traditional uniforms, stand guard.  The changing of the guard ceremony takes place every hour and on Sunday mornings, it is accompanied by a military band and a large regiment of Evzones.
Across the Square is the Grand Bretagne Hotel, built in 1842 which was original built as a private residence.  It has been used for notables and celebrities visiting Athens and is now a luxury hotel.

Stairway and Courtyard of the Schlieman House

I took a stroll down one of the main roads leading from Syntagma to take photos of some of the neo-classical buildings.  Panepistemeion Ave. a  busy road linking Syntagma to Omonia Square.  Along here are some of Athens' unique landmarks including the Catholic Church of Agio Dioysios (1853-1865) and the former home of Heinrich Schlieman, the German archaeologist and philhelene who excavated Troy.  It now houses the Numismatic Museum.

"The Three Temples of Learning" (The Athenian Trilogy) are on are this street.  These are beautiful buildings that are prime examples of the Greek architectural style.  The Athens Academy is decorated with painted freizes.  Two high columns on either side support statues of Apollo and Athena.  t the front steps leading up to the building sit Plato and Socrates.

Athens Academy

The University building (1839-64) has a circular stairway and fountain court.  Next to it, the National Library is the largest in the country.  On the facade is a six columned portico in Doric style.  These buildings were designed by the Hansen brothers, two Danish architects who lived in Greece.

From Syntagma Square if you walk up Vassilis Sophia Ave. you will see exquisite buildings that house various embassies.  These neo-classical mansions were formerly owned by wealthy families.  There is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the French and Arab Embassies and others.  The Italian Embassy building was once the residence of Prince Nicholas before the royal family was expelled in 1917.  One of the most impressive of these buildings is the Beanaki Museum, one of the leading museums in Athens.  It displays more than 45,000 exhibits that belong to Ant. Benakis and other donors.

Across from the embassies you can enter the National gardens, an oasis in the centre of he city covering an area of 160,000 m.  Over 500 varieties of different plants, trees and bushes from around the world grow there.  It was formerly the palace garden but is now open dawn-dusk for the enjoyment of the Athenians.

The Zappeion

I love walking through the gardens and this day I walked right through to the Zappeion, an attractive building also designed by a Hansen brother (1874-1888). It's now used as an exhibit and conference hall.  Across from the Zappeion on Vassilios Olgas, you'll see the Olympic sized swimming pool, and tennis courts used for the first modern Olympics as well as he nearby Panathinaiko Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A VILLAGE WITHIN THE CITY: ANAFIOTIKA

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View of the Agora, from Anafiotika

The great city of Athens is made up of a lot of small villages that have melded together over the years.  Plaka is the original, oldest part of the city where most of the archaeological sites are located.  Just up on the hill in Plaka,  under the flank of the Acropolis ("the high city") there is a tiny village, unique because of how it came to be.

Some people came to Athens from the island of Anafi, after an earthquake destroyed some of their villages.  They came to Athens to find work, and decided to rebuild their village up on the edge of the hillside.  It is called Anafiotika.  The 'village' has houses built in the style of those that had been on Anafi island, with cobbled lanes no more than an arms width.  These little white-washed houses are one of the archaeological treasures of the Plaka and unfortunately a lot of tourists who visit here miss the experience of wending their way through the tiny lanes and enjoying the magnificent viewpoints across the red-tiled roofs of Plaka out to the vast expanse of what is greater Athens. 

Anafiotika house (George's house)

You can get to the Acropolis via Anafiotika. Just follow the signs as you climb up the hillside up from the Areopagitou behind Vironos Street, and make your way between the houses with their pot gardens blooming with red geraniums and bowers of magenta bougainvillea that spill over the stone fences.  A friend of mine had a house up there and when I first started visiting Greece I often stayed with him.  Unfortunately he was killed in a cycle accident several years ago, but his house is still there, without the brilliant display of marigolds and geraniums he used to keep on the porch.  I wonder if his Australian family ever come to stay there.  It seems sad that the house is deserted now.  Each time I come to Greece I pass by just to see if it's occupied or not.  Sometimes when these old Anafiotika houses are deserted they are taken over by the Archaeological society or National tourism. But George's house seems to be intact as it was before.


There are several very old Byzantine Churches in Anafiotika which are well worth a visit - some dating to the 1600's or even earlier.  And it is a quiet, mostly shaded walk up to the Peripatos walk along the base of the Acropolis hill.  From that walk you can go around to the Acropolis entrance, or keep going down to the Areopagitou pedestrian mall.  Or, as I often do, take the path down toward the ancient Agora along the Panatheanic Way, where there are still big marble paving stones along where the ancient Greeks used to walk in the processional up to the Acropolis to honor Athena.  All along this road are various digs including part of the East Stoa.  And I found an very interesting site the other day in a place where once it was unexcavated and I often would sit in the shade. I wrote a poem called "Under the Mulberry Tree" in that place. And now I have discovered it was a sanctuary to Hekate, queen of the night!  There is also the remains of a sanctuary to Demeter and Kore nearby.  At the foot of the roadway is the ancient agora. You have to pay to go into that part but the walk down the Panathianic Way is a free zone.  There is also a trail that goes along the fence of the Agora toward Thission and there you will find other partially excavated sites including the remains of one of the very first Christian churches and a stairway leading up to a treed area where I think the  Apostle Paul was supposed to have climbed.  (You can also visit the Aereopagus, the Hill at the top where he addressed the Athenians).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

GRAFFITI AND RUBBLE

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Graffiti on a Plaka street.


I've been shocked, on this visit to Athens, to see the excessive amount of graffiti and rubble around the city.  A small amount of the graffiti may be political slogans, but most of it is simply defacement of property -- and in this case, many of the buildings defaced are the lovely neo-classical buildings that ought to be declared protected as historical sites.  Yesterday I was aghast to see that the front of the Melina Mercouri museum in Plaka was marred by spray painting.  And on any blank wall or fence you see these ugly markings left by roving vandals.  It's time that strict laws were proclaimed (and obeyed!) here in regards to vandalism.  But, knowing the Greeks, it's hard to get them to abide by laws. Just look at what is happening on their fourth try to prohibit smoking inside restaurants.  Even the restaurant owners (who all smoke) are against it!



As for the rubble, a certain amount of it is the archaeological digs around town that are fenced off and usually labeled.  But there are a lot of old houses and buildings that have gone into decay and fallen into ruin.  Sometimes this is because of estate disputes and sometimes it is left over damage from the bad earthquake there was a few years back. 

Of course, the sidewalks are another story and most of them will remain that way forever.  (They've been like that for at least the last 30 odd years I've been frequenting the city).  So you learn to put up with it.  You just have to learn to watch your step.

And people!  Why do you insist on wearing improper footwear when climbing the slippery and uneven marble stairways in the archaeological sites? It never fails to amaze me to see the number of tourist women in inappropriate shoes trying to make their way up and down.  These pathways can be treacherous.  Hundreds of years of feet walking on the marble has made it slippery as ice.

I guess this is my 'rant' for today but after yesterday's walk-about and seeing all that ugly defacement of buildings and walls it made me angry and I'm just about ready to write a letter to Athens News, not that it would do much good.  But it is disappointing to see the beautiful buildings in this city so destroyed by idiots with spray-paint cans!

Monday, September 06, 2010

GAZI AND THE FLEA MARKET

The Gazi Gasworks, now a Cultural Centre

The former gas works, Gazi, has become a popular bohemian neighbourhood of Athens in the past few years, since the gas works buildings have been turned into an Arts Centre.  Here is where the annual (May) Jazz Festival is held, concerts, art exhibits etc.  I first visited Gazi a few years ago when they had a remarkable exhibition of paintings of Alexander the Great.  It was formerly called "Gazhori" (Gas Village) and is now the site of popular luxury restaurants, tavernas, and a trendy crowd. It's located near Thission, just behind Monastiraki districts.


On a hillside park right opposite the Gas Works buildings, every Sunday there is a Flea Market that is quite a contrast to Gazi's new artistic ambiance.  I went there Sunday with Carol. It's an experience you should try if you are visiting here -- a bit more crowded and noisy than the one in Monastiraki, with hawkers yelling out their wares, gypsies quarrelling, kids screaming, people jostling up the pathways between the stalls that are strewn with everything from junk to antiques.  You can find anything there: electronics, toys, clothes, old records, books and curios.  Among on the junk you might find some exceptional treasures.  All you have to do is bargain for them.  And Carol, who collects a lot of things from the flea markets, is an expert at that.

Greek Fast Food: Souvlakis
You better watch you purse or wallet in those crowds. There's a lot of seedy-looking characters as well as the local neighbourhood people who come out to buy and browse.  Quarrels break out among the gypsies. Today a gypsy lady with a cart heaped with green grapes approached the crowd of flea market merchants and was yelled at and chased away by another gypsy lady.  Territorial rights or something.  She had to park her cart farther along in the parking lot.  Carol says a few years ago there was  a shoot-out on the street, but now they are more regulated and pay a fee to use the spaces for their wares.  It's a lot different than flea markets or garage sales at home, with more aggressive selling and people crowded together.  There's souvlaki stands and cold drinks for sale if you get hungry or thirsty.  It's an interesting way to spend part of the day on a Sunday even if it's just to take a look at the goods that are on display for sale.  Yesterday I spotted several antique sewing machines, the kind with the little handle you used to turn the needle up and down.  And I've never seen so many old records.  I'm sure among those stacks were some real treasures!


Saturday, September 04, 2010

SOUNDS OF THE CITY

Street Musicians

One of the things I find interesting about Athens are the different sounds you hear around you.  It's not like any other place and these distinctive sounds are all part of what makes up the pulse of Athens.

I was sitting quietly in the patio garden yesterday and could hear a yiayia somewhere next door screeching like an old crone. The same experience happened when I was staying at Villa Olympia -- an old yiayia across the street sets up a howl every siesta time (or earlier).  It used to be that siesta time was reasonably quiet but not any more.  I remember when I was living in Plaka in the quiet of the afternoon hearing the moaning and crying out and screams of ecstasy coming from someone's apartment and echoing down the street.  Obviously 'nap time' was a time for other activities.  And there's the cheerful voices of people calling greetings to one another, "Kali mera! Yia Sou, ti kaneis?"  People here are much more vocal than in Canada.

A Cute Little Canary

Another pleasant sound you hear are the trilling of canaries from their balcony cages and the cooing of the ring doves.  And every afternoon without fail, there is the chirring of the cicadas, a sound that always takes me back to my mountain village. ( I miss the bleating of sheep and the jingle of sheep bells.  Also the roosters heralding the dawn along with the braying donkeys and barking dogs!)

Instead, there's a constant hum of traffic in the city: the buzz of motor cycles (those annoying little pakakias that zoom around endlessly as well as the roar of bigger bikes), and the steady whir of cars and trolleys passing.  It goes on without ceasing, all part of the city's living pulse.

Today when I was waiting for the trolley,  another familiar sounds; the raspy announcements from a loud speaker by a gypsy man driving slowly around the streets selling plants.  Or sometimes it's watermelons or lawn chairs.  And often it's political announcements being broadcast from passing cars.

I love the sounds of this city. It's alive, day and night.  Even when you climb up to the Acropolis hill you can hear the sounds way across the city, muted, but still audible.  It's Athen's pulse, indicating how 'alive' this city is.
Tourist trolley


Thursday, September 02, 2010

HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS

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Last night I moved from the Villa Olympia where I've been staying, over to Philoppapou to my friend Christina's house.  This is a new house and it seems strange to not be in her other one where I've stayed many times over the years. But this is quite a luxury house in comparison and last night it was lovely sitting in the patio garden chatting over a glass of krasi.  Her friend Margaret is also staying there. Margaret is Welsh, and used to work in tourism here so I've met her before.  It's so nice to be back with old friends again. And this weekend I'll be going to stay awhile with Dinaz, my lovely Persian Princess friend, then back again to Chris's for the last week here.

At the To Kati Allo Taverna with my friends Carola and Christina

Today I was browsing Plaka looking for a larger suitcase.  I have accumulated a few extra things, souvenirs and such, and don't want to pay another 40 euro for excess baggage when I go home.  So I need a larger suicase and that will solve the problem.  It has cooled off somewhat so it was very pleasant walking around today.  I just took my time, stopped for breakfast at the former Moroccan Chicken Corner (now the posh Grill restaurant) then meandered down to Monastiraki Flea Market.  While I was in that vicinity I went over to see Dimitri, the icon painter.  If  you look on TRAVEL THRU HISTORY http://www.travelthruhistory.com/ you will see (under Arts/Lit) a story my friend Anna Britt and I did about Dimitri and his wonderful icons.  He was so pleased to see me and told me that he knew about the story in the ezine because some people had read it and came to his shop. 

After browsing around Monastiraki awhile I went over to another old familiar haunt,  just between the Roman Agora and Hadrian's Library, to where the old Poulakis Taverna used to be (now replaced by something fancier). That was my very first hangout in Athens from 1979 until the early years of '83 when I discovered Plaka Square and the Dirty Corner.  I remember the old fellow Ioannis who used to run it and after he died, his wife, and my favorite waiter Aris.  Last year Aris was working next door at the Acropolis Taverna, another nice place we enjoy going to dine.  I asked if he was still working but his friend told me he has retired now and is living in Patras with his family.  I did see him last year and have a great photo of him and me. 

Then I went over to Adrianou and Aeolou St. to the corner taverna which was another old hangout in the early years.  I recall a flirtation I'd had with one of the waiters there, Vassilis, that managed to go on for a couple of visits to Greece.  I used to stay at the old Tempi Hotel just up the street on Aeolou for the first few years I visited Greece.  Of course, it's fancied up a bit now too.  I used to get a room for what amounted to $5 a night when Greece still had the drachmae and there are a lot of funny memories about that old place too.

During those years I wasn't even aware of Plaka Square.  It was at Poulakis that I met George Boutsinas who had a nice old house up in Anafiotika under the Acropolis. He has since passed away, as have so many of the others.  I also met Connie there, the African American gal who I ended up living with for a year in 1983 over in Koukaki.  The other day I located the tiny dead-end street where our apartment was on Iannatakis Street.  Lots of memories of those days,  and I am getting closer to starting those memoirs about it all.  I have a box full of journals to remind me.  And I was saying to Carol at the Villa Olympia, it would be a good place for me to stay and write the memoirs as if I have forgotten some details, she will be sure to remember.  She's been here a long, long time and knew a great many of the people I did.