I have been in Greece for six months now and it has changed enormously since I left in 2008. I was only away for four years and naively expected change, but not as much as I found. There were strikes and demonstrations in Athens on virtually a daily basis this winter, but it seems to have calmed down a little, although there are still strikes and the occasional demonstrations which close off the centre of Athens around Syntagma Square where the parliament building is situated.
You can still negotiate your way around that area however, and it only adds about half an hour to your journey. If you are on holiday, then you probably have time to spare. Strikes are called and advertised in advance so if you check at your hotel or online you can find out where and when they are going to take place and avoid the affected area.
You will find bargains galore as the Greek business owners are keen to attract custom almost at any price. My travel agent friend, in Majestic Travel, http://wwwmajestictravel.gr is very friendly and always goes the extra mile to help, and more Greeks are behaving in a similar fashion these days.
What’s to see in Greece? Just about everything; it is an amazing blend of the ancient and modern. The islands are spectacular with Ikaria being the up-and-coming one, so you should go there before it is spoilt by having too many tourists.
If you avoid Athens and spend your time on an island you will have little to fear from protestors as the main events take place on the mainland. However, it would be a shame to miss seeing that rocky marvel – the Acropolis – and the Parthenon, which sits on top of it overlooking Athens. It is a feat of ancient engineering and gives many people shivers up their spine when they are in its vicinity.
I tend to get there by walking from Syntagm up Philellenon Street and taking a right opposite the Russian Church and walking down Kidathenaeion Street. Majestic travel is to be found there at number 3 just before you cross Nikis Street. The Byzantine Church is on your left and the Folk Art Museum on your left. Continue walking and cross the next small street with the Children’s museum on your right. Before you get there are some art galleries, one of which is down that side-street to your left. The Hotel Nefeli is situated on your right on the same small side street.
If you continue down the street you will come to Oiwvos café-bar on your left and the Taverna Plaka on your right. These are my favourite places to eat traditional food and to have refreshments. If you go past these, you come to a small square and in summer can sit in it and watch the traditional dancing which happens outside the Acropol restaurant. Surrounding the square are other eateries. Be careful walking down the street if it is raining as the ancient marble can be slippery!
Walk further down the street and you are on Adrianou Street; take a left and you will see some Roman ruins or left and walk up the street towards Monastiraki. This is the street where you will find souvenirs to take home to your friends. At the end of the street you come to the ancient Roman baths where there are more cafés and also seats for weary tourists and Athenians to sit on. You may see a stray dog or cat, but they are friendly and like people. All the stray dogs in Athens have names, which is one of the reasons it is unlike any other city!
Above you will be the Acropolis and you can get to it by walking up a winding street, but it is steep and you need water if it is hot.
Hopefully this article has given you a taste of what to expect in Athens. Come to Greece for your holiday this year!, but make sure to plan your holiday before coming, you can use one of the online hotel search engines to collect more information about your accommodation and activities in Athens.