Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Athens Aglow

The Greeks love the nightlife. Any day of the week, they can be seen strolling the streets, stopping in clubs, sipping drinks at sidewalk cafes, and heading out for dinner as late as midnight, with the entire family in tow. And Athens, at least in October, is the center of it all. In the islands I felt languid in the evenings, happy to dawdle over a slow-paced meal at a local taverna. In Athens, I felt energized, surrounded by hundreds out for a Sunday night on the town.

Michael and I wound our way through the ancient streets of the Plaka as dusk settled over the city. Without even trying, we found ourselves on top of Mars Hill, a glorious view of the Acropolis and the incredible urban sprawl of Athens at our feet. It was almost enough to take one's breath away.

After drinking in the view, we set off for a three course dinner on the move. First stop: gyros on the go. On traditional and one pork, along with a Coke 0 for Michael, for less than five euros. If only cheap, fast food in the U.S. could be so delicious!

Next up: gelato in the Psyrri district. Disappointingly, the gelato was not up to Italian standards. Plus, it cost more than our gyros! But we strolled the streets nearby as we ate every last lick, peering into clubs blasting house music from what looked like an English pub on the outside, to restaurant floors carpeted in carnation petals while the staff tidied up for the night, to ultra mod night spots where it was evidently still far to early, even on a Sunday, for a crowd to have gathered.

Wandering the back streets, I let Michael take charge, but not without first speculating, "Where are we going?" Instead of streets lined with stings of twinkling lights and crowded cafe tables, we were surrounded by dilapidated buildings dark alleyways.

But then, rounding a corner, we saw the perfect little bar for our final course - ouzo for Michael, campari for me. With orange walls and crazy lamps strung together out of bits of glass, old silverware, and curling scrap metal, we took our seats on tall stools at the open window. In the corner, a jazz band set up to play, and Athenians in their thirties gradually packed in the tiny spot while the DJ spun a variety of songs. We were, in fact, the only non-Greeks there. As the band played, we nodded in time with the music, drinking in the scene. You never know what you might find around a dark street corner.

We got back to our hotel around 10:45 - very early for an Athenian, but just about right for us. Monday would be a long day, full of more discoveries in the incomparable Athens.

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