Hello Fellow Travelers:
Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines. This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Athens.
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Recognition: We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides. In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.
Birding Opps: Info for our birding friends. In the Athens area look for yellow-browed warblers, raptors, marsh harriers, merlins and kestrels.
Greek Birding (http://greekbirding.blogspot.com/) – is a great place to start your Athens area birding adventure.
Your friends at Birding Pal (birdingpal.org/Greece.htm) are waiting for you in Athens.
If you’re looking for a Birding Tour, (greecebirdtours.com) this is our recommendation.
Another birding site that we like is (ecotourism-greece.com/tourism/activity/bird-watching-greece/athens-attica).
Botanically Yours – Don’t overlook the The Diomidous Botanical Garden (greeka.com/attica/athens/athens-hills-and-parks/athens-diomidis-botanical-garden.htm) – M-F: 8-2, Sa,Su: 10-3, Located 8 km from Omonoia Square, in the neighborhood of Haidari Source, at the end of Iera Odos St.
This Botanical Garden hosts over 2,500 different kinds of plants from all over the world.
Grape Experience – There is a strong feeling that in the modern era Greek wine has never achieved the place it deserves on the international market. Production levels are low and vintners have long been unsure of how to market abroad.
Outside Greece, one might at best find retsina, a sweet wine infused with pine resin that’s reminiscent of the wine used at Communion, or mavrodafni and a red varietal with an industrial flavor.
However, when in Greece there are many options. We like the Mikri Kivotos, a blend of agioygitiko grapes from the Nemea region of the Peloponnese and xinomavro grapes from Amyntaio in northern Greece.
Often characterized as Greece’s merlot, xinomavro is one of the most promising Greek varieties, at once dark (mavro means black), dry and rich in flavor.
If you are aiming for white, another interesting option is Magiko Vouno (“Magic Mountain”), made by Lazaridi Winery in Drama in Northern Greece. This is a popular sauvignon blanc in Greece and is an elegant, exuberant wine with fruity notes.
Transportation – This is a good site for public transportation (travelinfo.gr/athens/transportation.htm).
Shopping: When to shop is easy: Mon, Wed, Sat: 9-3. Tu, Th, F: 9-2:30 & 5-8:30.
Where to shop requires some local advice:
A visit to the charming Plaka district will reward you with traditional arts and crafts shops that are well worth a visit.
If it’s an all-encompassing shopping experience you’re after, a good bet is to head to Ermou Street (starting from Syntagma Square and culminating in Monastiraki).
This is a great shopping destination and offers a very wide selection of consumer goods such as: clothes, jewelry, shoes, cosmetics and gift shops.
The lower end of Ermou Street, towards the Monastiraki area, is a different story. Don’t miss out on a walk though the bristling Monastiraki Flea Market (great for collectors’ items, vintage records and other quirky items and memorabilia).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kolonaki caters to those after some sophisticated, up market chic.
Business Information: Here is help in regard to your business: (http://athens.usembassy.gov/key_business_links.html)
Exchange Rates (http://www.x-rates.com/)
Day One: Head for The Acropolis and the Parthenon via the Propylaia Gateway.
The Parthenon is regarded as the symbol of ancient Greece. Its construction began in 447 BC at the height of the Athenian empire replacing an older temple of Athena. Its decorative sculpture is the high point of Greek art.
The principal architect was Phidias who was hired by Pericles. The focal point of the Parthenon was the large statue of Athena, designed by Phidias, made out of ivory and gold.
Nearby is the Acropolis Museum – Nov-Mar: Tu,Th: 9-5, F: till 9, Sa,Su: 9-8, April-Oct: Tu-Su: 8-8, F: till 10, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens, 30 210 9000900
An ascending, wide glass-floored gallery houses artifacts mirroring the slopes of the Acropolis. The occasionally transparent floor provides a view of the archaeological excavation.
Exhibits feature objects that Athenians used in everyday life from ancient times to modern day.
Fragments of artwork from the Parthenon are scattered in museums through out Europe that include: The British Museum (the Elgin Marbles), Palermo, the Vatican, Wurzburg, Vienna, Munich and Copenhagen.
Don’t let that deter your visit here because there is a lot to see and learn.
Let’s break for lunch at the Museum Restaurant – L: Tu-Su
Specials include shrimps with ouzo, cherry tomatoes, orzo and red saffron, sautéed veal scaloppini with oregano, lime and seasonal vegetables, whole wheat pasta with mushrooms and Greek prosciutto.
The spectacular view is part of the package.
After a bit more poking around the museum, our cousin suggests a change of pace with an outing to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.
Cape Sounion is famous as the site of the ruins of an ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in mythology. The temple’s footprints are perched on the headland, surrounded on three sides by the sea presenting a spectacular setting.
Greek mythology and history collide here beginning in the 8th century B.C.
Cape Sounion is where Aegeus, king of Athens, leapt to his death giving his name to the Aegean Sea. Sounion is also featured in Homer’s poem “The Odyssey”. Poseidon, the god of the sea, was only outranked by Zeus.
The site is a popular day-excursion from Athens with a memorable view of the Aegean Sea. Sounion is an upscale summer home location for wealthy Athenians with the value of some homes exceeding twenty million euros.
Tonight let’s go to one of the best dining experiences in Athens – Spondi – D: Nightly, Pyrronos 5, 11638 Pagrati, Athens, 30 21 0756 4021
Here you’ll begin with The Crab served with turnips, Acacia honey, tarragon and passion fruit or the Frog Legs coated with a peanut sauce served with a celery-coconut mousse.
With this course your sommelier suggests the ‘06 Ktima Argyrou.
For your main go for the veal sweetbreads with an Arabica coffee sauce, Jerusalem artichokes and liquorices or the lamb in a candied lemon paste with eggplant-coriander polenta and smoked garlic.
With this course our wine suggestion is the ‘95 Naoussa, Grande Reserve, Boutaris. Dessert is the bourbon vanilla puff pastry with caramel.
Day Two: Breakfast is at the Hip Café – B,L,D: Daily, 26 Mitropoleos St, Sintagma, Athens, 30 21301 54698
Your breakfast suggestion is a departure from the traditional Athenian breakfast of a double espresso and a cigarette.
The health advisor suggests coffee and a choice of eggs, omelets, pancakes, sweet rolls, fruit and cereal.
This morning let’s continue our quest for how Greece has influence our lives by visitng the National Archaeological Museum – M: 1-10, Tu-Su: 9-4, 44 Patission Street, Athens , 30 213 214 4890
Here you will find five large permanent collections: The Collection of Prehistoric Antiquities which includes works of the great civilizations that developed in the Aegean from the sixth millennium BC to 1050 BC (Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean), and artifacts from the prehistoric settlement at Thera.
The Sculptures Collection, which shows the development of ancient Greek sculpture from the seventh to the fifth centuries BC with unique masterpieces.
The Vase and Minor Objects Collection, which contains representative works of ancient Greek pottery from the eleventh century BC to the Roman period and includes the Stathatos Collection, a selection of minor objects of all periods.
The Bronze Collection features many fundamental statues, figurines and minor objects.
And finally, the only Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities Collection in Greece, with works dating from the pre-dynastic period (5000 BC) to the Roman conquest.
Today you dine at Psarras – L & D: Daily, Erechtheos 16, Athina 105 56, 30 21 0321 8733
This is the Plaka’s oldest restaurant, and it provides you with some delicious Greek treats. For appetizers we like the stuffed grape leaves, zucchini croquettes, eggplant rolls and sausage or the fresh grilled sardines. Then just a small taste of the risotto with mushrooms.
For your entrée the sea bream with vegetables or the mixed grill with steak, chicken, lamb chops, sausage, grilled pita and French fries is very popular.
Your Greek wine education continues with the Vivlia Chora – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Agiorgitiko. Dessert is the heavenly baklava. Plus, live music daily except for Tuesdays.
Next visit the National Gallery – Alexander Soutos – M,W: 10-5, Th-Su: 9-4, King Constantine 50, Athens, 18.104.22.1687-8
The National Gallery includes more than 20,000 paintings, sculptures, engravings and other art forms.
It is a treasure of modern Greek artistic creation covering a period from the post-Byzantine period to the present day. It also features a remarkable collection of Western European painting.
Time for a walk about the Plaka aka “Neighborhood of the Gods”. Locals and tourists flood this area for the shops and tavernas.
On Adrianou St, the oldest street in Athens, we marvel at the Cycladic architecture.
You are in for a treat with dinner at Varoulka Seaside – D: Nighlty, 80 Pireaus Ave, Keramikos – 104 35 Athens, 104 35, 30 21 0522 8400
Your waiter will ask if you have dietary restrictions because Chef Lazarou doesn’t have a menu. Each meal is prepared individually.
Combinations include: octopus salad with celeriac, beetroot and radish, marinated salmon with fennel, white grouper with cherry tomatoes, sour apple and smoked mashed potatoes, sea bream with red bell pepper sauce and ratatouille.
For dessert you may have olive oil chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream. The view is as special as your dinner.
Day Three: Breakfast is at Byzantino – B,L,D: Daily, 46 Vassilissis Sofias Avenue Athens, Hilton Hotel, 0030 210 7281000
Byzantino is very comfortable and best of all it has free parking. Its buffet features local Greek specialties plus international favorites. Above the chef is preparing an omelet order.
Although Piraeus became a municipality in 517 BC with a high security port and strong commercial activity, after several wars Piraeus experienced a decline for 15 centuries.
It changed names a few times and started a come back in the 20th century. Today Piraeus is one of the largest ports in Europe.
To get a better understanding of what happened in Piraeus let’s visit the Archeological Museum – Tu-Su: 8:30-3, Xarilaou Trikoupi St 31, 45 21 598
The artistic detail achieved is seen in the Bronze statues that include a 6th century BC Apollo and a 4th century BC Athena.
Artifacts from the Attica coast give us a more complete picture. Additional exhibits represent the history, the prosperity and decline of the ancient city of Piraeus and its population.
Another important link for Piraeus and its history is the Nautical Museum of Greece – Tu-F: 9-2, Sa,Su: 9-1, Akti Themistokleous, Freattya 185 37, 4516822
Here we see models of ancient and modern ships, seascape paintings, guns, maps, flags, metals, nautical instruments, archival material and a photographic and film collection.
Dine at Strofi – L & D: Daily, Rovertou Galli,Athens, 30 21 0921 4130 for f its attention to Greek cuisine and the magnificent view.
Your first course is the Tzatziki yogurt with cucumber and garlic or the marinated fresh anchovies.
Then just a taste of the fried Feta cheese with honey and sesame before your main of the veal stew cooked in a clay pot in tomato sauce with potatoes and cheese or the kid goat in parchment paper with gruyere and tomato.
Your wine involves more research, your selection of the Ktima Gerovasiliou (Syrah, Merlot, Grenache rouge) will awaken your palate. Dessert is the yogurt with honey and walnuts.
One last lagniappe, just behind the Greek Parliament Building are the National Gardens (Royal Gardens) – Open Daily, Amalias 1, Athens, 0721 5019
King Othon decided to build an official park adjoining his just completed Royal Palace (1839-40).
Othon’s wife Queen Amalia (does this sound familiar?) took over the project and got it completed in 1852. It includes ancient ruins, tambours, Corinthian columns, and mosaics.
The gardens offer duck ponds, a small zoo, a botanical museum, a children’s library and a café. This is a very relaxing experience to let you meditate on this fabulous journey.
Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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