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Taken with Athens


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I've recently spent a few days in the Greek capital, alone. One of us couldn't make the trip.

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First thing I wanted to eat on my first morning in Athens was yoghurt. Stani is a small dairy shop, one of the last dairy specialists in Athens, that has traditional, real Greek-style yoghurt with quality milk sourced from small producers not far away.

 

Small portion of cow's milk yoghurt
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Sheep's milk yoghurt. Rich and milky, and sheepy (tasting).
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I already had coffee before heading out but still wanted 2 cups of double Greek coffee. A "single" Greek coffee is tiny. 2 sips and it's done.
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The dairy shop is not easy to find as it's hidden in an alley.
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The central market is also in the area so of course I hit it next. The fish and meat sections are big, wet, and loud.
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Same snails I have eaten from northern to southern Greece, only what other things that go into the dishes are different.
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Interesting crab-like crustacean
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Shellfish specialist
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First lunch some time later.

 

Had to eat it at least once. I'm in Greece, after all.
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Souvlaki Leivadia is not in the city centre. It's popular with locals, and tourists who don't mind walking or taking the metro to reach it. It's an easy 15-20 minute walk from my hostel.
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Finally it cooled down just a little in the evening...

 

First visit to this small craft beer bar where I enjoyed a few nice beers.
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The moment my childhood dream came true... A sight to behold. The floodlit Acropolis (behind Erechtheion, parts of the Parthenon is visible from where I was standing).
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Such is the thrill of rediscovering ancient Greece in modern Athens. You'll be seeing photos of Acropolis again in the coming posts so be warned. Unfortunately for me, every waking moment was very stressful as silence simply does not exist in Athens. Massive crowds of tourists and Athenians pack the streets at all hours of the day and much of the night as well. I needed horse blinkers/blinders to limit the impact of distraction.


It's very hot already (25C/77F), can't imagine being here in high season/summer when temperatures hover round 35C/95F and the sheer volume of tourists, not to mention the higher prices. I'd go bonkers.

Edited by BonVivant (log)
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Looking forward to this.

I went to Athens Inter-Railing as a teenager lo, many moons ago. My budget was tiny, and there was a heatwave so it was 30C at dawn, but the souvlaki I had on the street has stayed with me as a highlight and reference point all these decades later.

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The only time I ever got sunburnt. I'm sure dehydration and salt depletion played a part in making those souvlaki and plastic bottles of water amongst the most beautiful things I've ever tasted!

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Posted (edited)

Here's one of the thrills of rediscovering ancient Greece in modern Athens... archaeology in metro stations. The construction of new metro system in the 90's unearthed new ancient treasures. Actually, it was Greece's biggest archaeological excavation project, the staggering depth of 50 thousand artefacts . I've only checked out 2 stations (on purpose), saving the rest for future returns.

 

The next station is Ancient Cemetery (Evangelismos station)
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There's a dairy shop in the same area where I wanted to eat something. Fresh goat's milk, sheep's/goat's yoghurt with quince spoon sweet and barrel-aged feta.
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It's a nice dairy shop where you can sit down and have a light meal that involves dairy products they sell, plus sandwiches etc. They also sell small-scale products from other places in Greece.
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Instead of taking the metro to my next point of interest I walked there, about 20 minutes. Only 1 metro station away to Syntagma where the parliament is located. The flag of Greece is actually not that old. Blue and white represent the colours of the sea and sky. Apparently, the horizontal blue and white lines are the numbers of syllables in the motto of Greece: "Victory or Death".  Anything red on a national flag is out of the question as it evokes painful memories of the Ottoman occupation.
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A war monument in front of the parliament, one of the top attractions in the capital. It depicts a naked warrior holding his shield and wearing an ancient Greek helmet, seemingly ready to arise again. This powerful sculpture commands and maintains the attention of every person who sees it. Here a tourist was making photos of the cenotaph.
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The changing of guards takes place every hour. A formal and elaborate version is at 11am on Sunday. The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier (this monument) is guarded 24/7. I thought the slow-motion choreographed moves with lots of high kicks were rather comical. Every spectator was mesmerised, me included! 2 people, brother and sister, asked me right after the guard change march, if they could see the photos on my IG/FB/etc. But I am not part of that culture. We exchanged emails. I have sent them a bunch of their brother's photos later. Their younger brother is a new guard. They seemed most proud of him.  
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Yes, that's a skirt, it has 400 plaits which represent the number of years under Ottoman occupation. I'm surprised the guards' caps are red. Pompom shoes with metal studs.
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At ease position. The guards are an elite unit of the Greek military.
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Meanwhile across the street from the parliament... we have learnt nothing from history. (I shall keep my critical opinion to myself)
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I spent a lot of time wandering round and round and finding many things interesting (to me). A leafy park next to the parliament where I ran into this turtle.There are no fences and no zoo in the park.
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Then I took another path...
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Ancient Greece in the city. A ruin near the park. Next year I will get a combo ticket to visit several sites, including this one.
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Golden hour meal at a nice restaurant known for their grilled lamb rib chops. They have 2 locations on the same street and both were full. Unfortunately, my table was in the shadow with strong spots of bright sun. Boiled greens (a lot like weeds in my garden when uncooked), aubergine dip/spread and portion of lamb rib chops. It was a Saturday afternoon, the place was full of Greeks who came with the whole family or group of friends. Even if there's just 2 Greek, they usually order a whole kilo. They take it home if there's leftovers, but I don't think so. Mostly bones and fat but it's so good.
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At home I use a Weber and cook the chops outside (smoke and fat spatter) like this...
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The views at night are just as nice. A row of beer taps (at another craft beer bar). Only metal music played here (metal music is fine but the volume though, it's senselessly loud).
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And the sight of my beer
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Unfortunately, the music level was too much (I wore earplugs) so I fled so fast to the safety of my hostel room.
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This is why it's near impossible to use the pavement or foot path in Athens. Meanwhile at home people walk on bike path. So why did I pay for the foot path then?!!!
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Seems if there's a suitable (or not) surface it'll be used to set up a table or splatter with graffiti. After weeks of feasting my eyes on empty streets and graffiti-free surfaces in Japan this is a sensory overload.
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I was this close to Acropolis today during my walk. Seen here is the back of the Parthenon. You know it because it's still under scaffolding. They say it probably takes 40 years till the work is done. I've read it was briefly scaffold-free only once, years ago.
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On 4/17/2024 at 8:47 PM, Kerala said:

went to Athens Inter-Railing as a teenager lo, many moons ago. My budget was tiny, and there was a heatwave so it was 30C at dawn

 

First time to Greece was Corfu in 1997 via Brindisi, also interailing. Money was still the Drachma.

The partner has been to many places in Greece interailing as a youth, when things were still free and so much cheaper. Greece is still cheaper than a lot of places in Europe. Besides, I just love visiting/being in Greece!

 

Edited by BonVivant (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

My "breakfast"
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I came back every morning just to get a different one of these (= loukouri is the name this bread, these days it can also be filled with chocolate, cheese and other things.)
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Before crossing the street to the other side, the parliament, to watch the changing of the guard I checked out the displays in the Syntagma metro station. There are a bunch of display cases with archaeological finds that were unearthed during the construction of the new metro line(s). I'm showing you only a couple of photos here but you get the idea. How nice that we can view these ancient items without visiting a museum. Thank you, Athens!
 

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Today was the day of a special edition of changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument. The entire unit of these guards came out in their spotless and eye-catching uniforms. There were so many spectators it was impossible to find a good viewing spot. The big, busy street in front of the parliament was blocked off for the duration of the event. The "performance"/procedure riveted and delighted the audience for sure. I saw a perfect spot but it was far away from where I was sitting/standing. Next time then!
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Enormous amounts of people everywhere.
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My snack after leaving the parliament
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I was sitting on a park bench eating my croissant and looking at this Citroën electric "car". It's called Ami and not quite a "car". Looks like the type of vehicle we have at home that specifically made for people with disabilities. These vehicles have a top speed of 45km/h, so only allowed to drive on city streets. Citroën Ami looks surprisingly roomy inside.
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I had wanted to do this and actually did it. A meal consisting of only dairy products. First photo is of custard semolina pie.
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A plate of cream! It's served with cinnamon sprinkled on it but I really dislike cinnamon.
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And goat's yoghurt
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I wandered round for hours in the afternoon, then realised Acropolis was nearby. I had planned to go there the following day but I thought after all why not today...
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If you take the metro this is the stop to alight from.
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The day I made my Acropolis dream come true.
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Unfortunately, it started to rain a little so I had to hurry back. There was nowhere to shelter from the rain and fierce wind here. My wide angle lens was not wide enough. Next time I'll bring my 15mm lens.


By the time I got back only had time to pick up some craft beer, yoghurt and a felafel roll and ran back to my lodging before the weather got worse. It was a long, productive day. Time to put my feet up. The only day of my week long in Athens that the weather was "bad", but at the end of the day.
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Posted (edited)

This is what I like to eat when in Greece, at any time, but usually in the morning or early evening, sometimes twice a day. I am particularly fond of goat's/sheep's yoghurt and milk in Greece. We have goat's yoghurt and milk at home but only in small portions as they are far less popular, unlike in Greece.
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It's allowed to block the footpath, scooters park on footpath and at street corner. Photo taken early in the morning. The neighbourhood is packed in the afternoon until as late as people can stay awake (near morning, really). The noise level is impressive. More impressive is how the people who actually live on these streets can get any sleep (soundproofing is not prevalent). It's quite infuriating as noise brings me enormous stress but thankfully the heavy duty earplugs help a lot. I still like Athens, though. This is in the immediately neighbourhood of my hostel.
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A tiny old chapel and a big hotel is built above it.
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I went to see the changing of the guards again but didn't stay for the next change.
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Why don't they just erect a barricade? Tourists keep trying to come closer and the guard has to tell them to back off. A dove enjoyed the guards performance along with the tourists.
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I'm a big supporter of this rule
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Visited a beautiful stadium today. The first stadium of modern Olympic games, the only one in the world that's made entirely of pure marble. It's in excellent condition, too.
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This living symbol of Olympic games is still being used to this day. Very impressive in person.
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The drain covers at the stadium are also marble...
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Speaking of marble, it's something Greece seems to have an endless supply of. Older pavements and streets in Athens are also marble.
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Acropolis/Parthenon is only a short distance away.
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I took the metro to a Cretan restaurant and saw this when I entered the metro. No time to look at the details today, saving it for next trip.
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A popular Cretan restaurant. All the tables in this section were reserved.
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My table. They let me sit here because it was around 5pm, not quite dinner time, which is hours later.
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Old copper pans as decoration.
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They had a few things available at this early hour. I chose green beans in tomato sauce and (tender, succulent) pork. Had wanted a plate of snails as well but owner said probably too much food for me. She was right.
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Checked out another beer bar. It has potential but needs at least one more staff member behind the taps, one with a higher level of craft beer knowledge.
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The bar used to be part of the pavement...
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Street is next to where those people sit outside
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The Rock (not some massive actor) was always there to guide me when I got lost in a maze of streets. This time, at sunset, it guided me back to my favourite pub in Athens. (HIgh above is the Parthenon brightly lit by the Athenian sunset.)
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Hey now. It's a pastry shop.
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Ate these in a shop earlier. Small shop with no space to make proper photos. Besides, I ate them standing, sticky syrup on my fingers, so not touching my camera.
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Edited by BonVivant (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Almost daily I had a look at the market and usually bought some fruits and nuts. Wanted to make some more photos in case I couldn't do it on my last day in Athens. I have to say this, though, the market in Thessalonini is much better and more atmospheric. Strange that I didn't see any cheese stall at this market. You would need to go to a dairy shop elsewhere to buy cheeses. Food tours make a long stop here. (I do my own food tours, alone.)


Offal specialist
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There are many butchers' shops
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Goats wrapped in caul fat
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There's this one "high-end" shop. They also have aged meats and such. Hmm, maybe next time I could get a cut for tartare.
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I looked at everyone's blocks and knifes. They all have this wide knife. Kind of like a cleaver. Hack or slice with it then use the blade to transfer the whole pile onto a tray, or another surface.
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Greeks like sardines/anchovies/small oily fish in various sizes.
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Eels. Even rare nowadays in eel-eating northern countries. The only way I like them is smoked.
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Far less popular than the big, long, dark purple tentacles. Regardless of sizes, octopus is expensive because half of it is water. Just cook it in a pan without any water and you'll see how much is released.
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Looks like parrotfish. Common in Canarian waters, but there they are more colourful, more neon blue and red. I think the sign reads parrotfish in Greek (scaros).
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Fishmongers' boards. Very worn on both sides.
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Edited by BonVivant (log)
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Visited the impressive Acropolis museum in the afternoon. Below is part of a settlement. Some of it can be seen through the glass floor both outside and inside the museum.
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Immediately after going through the turnstile. In the summer it'll be much busier. Already too busy for me.
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Acropolis is seen through the glass on a higher floor.
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Elgin and the French stole quite a lot of ancient stuff from the Acropolis/Greece. One of these caryatyds is in the British museum. Shameful!  Byron, who fought on Greek side against the Turks, was deeply ashamed of Elgin. Return every piece they have stolen to Greece!!! Empty all the museums round the world of stolen treasures and return them to where they came from!
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Greek coffee, cooked in sand. Food tours drop by at least a couple of times daily. Cafe is popular with local and tourists alike, located right next to the central market.
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This is a "double"
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Restaurant inside the market where I had a big lunch.


Snail stew in a tomato sauce. Very nice snail stew. Unfortunately, I was not careful and accidentally swallowed a small but sharp shard that was hidden in the tomato mess. Had a painful throat for a couple of days.
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A big meatball topped with a slice of tomato and cheese.
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The green flecks are dried mint, me thinks. (An idea for someone on here who is looking for ways to use dried mint. Look up Turkish/Greek/Cypriot recipes. Sprinkle on salads, cheese and manti (which lies under a layer of yoghurt), stir into yoghurt/tzatziki. Add to roasted meat dishes and meatballs. In soups. Note that dried mint in Turkey/Greece/Cyprus is probably not peppermint.)
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I put it on my food. Old sardine tin as a dish for chilli pepper flakes.
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Thanks for not having a tipping culture.
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The restaurant is quite well-known. At peak lunch time all the tables were occupied, mostly locals, some were tourists. I came a bit early on purpose to sit at my chosen table. Half an hour later I could see nothing but faces.
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The boss in the background. Friendly and kind, comes from Corfu, speaks English (!). Was delighted when I told her it was Corfu where I first visited Greece in 1997. I said I wouldn't mind going to Corfu again one of these days.
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I plan to go through every item on their menu, even the sheep offal soup, on future returns. Maybe she'll recognise me next time, I'll wear the same T-shirt ("Santorini"). She immediately asked about my travels when she looked at my shirt. We both like Crete.
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Even using the toilet at this restaurant made me smile...
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During golden hour I had a few beers (half litre each) on a "terrace" (actually the pavement) with views of Acropolis. It was a nice end to a beautiful day. Vergina lager is brewed in the north of Greece. It's available in Athens now, though not everywhere. Alpha and Mythos are most common in Athens.
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Souvlaki was my dinner
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Found a short cut to reach the big street from my lodging. This basket shop uses the pavement to display their products.
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The shop is behind the hanging baskets. The green arrows are the 2 entrances. Hard to spot if you don't know where they are.
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When I came back in the evening I thought I took the wrong road and got lost!
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I was not lost. The same spot simply turned into something completely different in the evening. I spoke with the young male employee in this photo and he confirmed the 2 businesses next to each other shared the same spot at different times of day. Look at this photo and one above with the same sign "The Alley".  Same kerb.
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I never get tired of seeing Acropolis! Maybe that's because it reminds me I made my childhood dream come true.
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Now seen from nearby Areoparus Hill
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