I had to walk a little slow at first. I found it slippery walking on the marble streets of Plaka, the oldest section of Athens and known as the neighborhood of the Gods probably because of its close proximity to the Acropolis. So close, it’s just right below it.
Athens was our stopover between trips to the islands and with very limited time of three days, Plaka made for the perfect base to visit the city’s known sites. Right after my friends and I checked in at our hotel and after a quick lunch of moussaka, we went on our separate ways to explore the neighborhood.
I didn’t know where to start. Each corner looked attractive with colorful neoclassical mansions left behind by affluent Athenian families in the 19th century. Some were restored and converted into restaurants, museums, specialty and souvenir shops vying for visitors’ attention.
A map is useful when you walk around and while I had one, I decided to keep it in my bag and allowed myself to get lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways that lead me uphill.
Distracted by the fantastic elevated view of Athens and Plaka, I hardly noticed that I had reached a quiet and quaint whitewashed neighborhood in the slopes of the Acropolis rock. There were signs along the way leading to the Acropolis which I followed thinking I was near its entrance only to find a locked gate. Its probably opened only in the summer when there are more tourists.
Back down, I continued to survey Plaka and chanced upon more interesting sections of the neighborhood. Its got a quiet side and a lively one with a bohemian feel.
I enjoyed my time checking out the rows of shops selling anything from sponges to a variety of local leather goods and others selling more special things like books, Byzantine jewelry and a liquor store that is one, if not the oldest distillery in Athens.
A short walk along more shops took me to Monastiraki where the ruins of the ancient Agora of Athens and Hadrian’s library are.
I took another direction and I was in Syntagma square, the heart of modern day Athens.
Plaka was the City of Athens. It is said that its main street, Adrianou is the oldest in Athens and uses exactly the same layout since antiquity. Thanks to strict zoning and conservation regulations, electrical and utility lines are kept underground and its streets are closed to motorized vehicles.
I wouldn’t mind another stopover someday.