Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Athens in the Snow

Athens - known to be the home of the ancient Greeks, center of philosophy, and a warm city in the sun on the Mediterranean - the perfect escape from the 4pm sunsets of December London. A quick 3 hour flight out on a Friday night would put us in the sun, and give us a chance to enjoy the stunning Acropolis, and other noteworthy sites like ancient Agora. Unfortunately, those hopes were quickly dashed when the pilot came on to warn of a bumpy landing due to the snow storm in Greece.


In the car on the way to the hotel, with visibility limited to about two car lengths, the driver told us this was the first time in 5 years that it snowed, and that the day before it had been in the mid 60s. The snow was expected to continue falling well through Saturday, with temperatures not expected to reach the 40s. In other words - the outlook was bleak to soak in much sun.

On Saturday morning the Acropolis was the must see destination in spite of the elements. The quaint cafes, the secondary sites, and the markets could be missed, but the "highest city" could not. Weaving through the streets at the base of the hill, the wind started nipping at our underdressed hands and ear and the snow flakes kept getting bigger. Even the stray cats and dogs, which are otherwise omni-present, were no where to be seen.

Stumbling up the stone steps to the peak where the Parthenon was waiting, my fingers ached trying to grip the camera. Standing in front of the temples, it was hard to truly appreciate the magnificence of the buildings - both because the view was partially blocked by snow flurries and because the wind made every bit of exposed skin ache. Looking around the plato, I realized that only the Hells Angels of Sweden had also braved the weather to see the crumbling temples. Sprinting off the hill for fear of frostbite, we passed through Agora where ice was forming on the trees and the park guards were clearly as unprepared for the elements as we were. A couple small temples are somewhere in my memory, but really all I could think about was a hot cup of coffee and regaining the feeling in my fingers.

Saturday night Oikeio offered a chance to experience classical Greek cuisine, without have to stray too far from the hotel. A seat at the bar, a jug of house wine, and some fresh fish completed the day in on a wonderful note. The meal alone almost made the turbulence worth it.

Sunday morning dawned, and suddenly I remembered the idea behind heading to Greece - mid-50s, blue sky, and a strong shining sun. Over night the weather had turned, and it was time to explore the streets and cafes. This led us to a more traditional Athens experience, including a perfect gyros (can't beat street meat), and some quaint markets. Wonderfully, due to the weather the day before, it seemed many people had stayed home and what can only be presumed to be over-run streets in the peak travel season were largely ours alone.

- Hilton Hotel
- Parthenon
- Acropolis Museum
- Oikeio

Best time to go: any time it's not snowing

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