Get ready for part 2 of our experience where we discovered things to do in Athens. You can read the first part here.
Our last stop with LivinLovin was at Plaka where we learned how to sing Greek Folk Songs. After having that joyful experience we moved at a higher ground, closer to Acropolis.
This area is -naturally- full of ancient ruins. Both visible but also uncovered when someone tries to renovate his house or plant some flowers. Check this house entrance.
We passed through the first University of Athens, which nowadays is used for cultural seminars and events. It also has a shady backyard and different levels where people can sit and discuss in quietness.
It was time to go up in order to go down again but through an island! Keep on reading.
Enjoying views like this one is one of the best things to do in Athens. Make sure you get to high ground. Below you can see a part of old Athens up to the point where modern Athens starts.
The tale of Anafiotika area, under Acropolis
We promised that you will see an island at the hill of Acropolis, right? Well, here is the story first as it was carried along the years.
How to build an island village under Acropolis: Athens at first was occupying the space around Acropolis and just that (more or less). At some point the ruler of Greece asked his advisers on who were the best builders of Greece. He wanted to bring them in and build more houses since Athens was expanding. His advisers replied: the builders of Anafi (small island of Greece).
So, he called for them. When they came they agreed and asked where they would live as the task would take years. He pointed at the area under Acropolis. There, the builders constructed their houses in the form of their island houses and brought their families too. Thus, the Area of Anafiotika (meaning: “of residents of Anafi”) resembles an island.
Another tale says that again the ruler called for them and when they asked on where they will stay, he said: “I do not care”. Thus, they build that area.
OK, you can choose your version.
We started going down and look how this area looks like.
And just when we said that island houses were finishing, we turned right at some corner and we bumped on this graffiti art!
Hours passed fast and now we were moving towards Monastiraki area (remember that we started from Acropolis station, Plaka). After Anafiotika the first thing we saw was the ancient Roman market.
At the same area you will find the old building of Aerides (winds) which has an octagonal shape and each side is dedicated to one of the winds. As you go around the fence you will see labels that explain which wind is depicted and why.
We kept walking and we passed outside this gate below. Actually, the only thing there is that gate, without any building behind it. It used to be different things.
Historical tip: The (now not existing) building behind the gate was a prison at some point. Inside that prison a huge sycamore tree is still growing. Convicted prisoners were hanged on its branches. When prisoners were released free, they said the phrase: Chairetah mou ton Platano (in english: Farewell to the Sycamore tree). That phrase that origins a few hundred years ago is still used in Greece, meaning “that case is lost, I do not care, I do not bother”.
Monastiraki square & the mystery tiles
The name of this area comes from… a Monastery that was housed here. As time passed the Monastery reduced in power and size. Ergo, the name Monastiraki, which in Greek means “small Monastery”. The part remaining is the small church of Virgin Mary (Panagia) you see at the far end.
We have walked on the Monastiraki square quite a few times, however we have never noticed some strange tiles on the pavement, which seem to be placed there (but not everywhere) without some particular reason.
Here is another view of Monastiraki square from its other side. There is a huge flea market hosted there and many street artists who make very interesting artifacts.
It was late afternoon and we were extremely hungry. Aris and Katerina, our guides from LivinLovin had an idea to have a lunch with mezedes at Avli.
Avli is an open space lunch place housed in a… courtyard of old houses of the area. It has some very tasty snacks among which are the fried liver, sausage and tomato-balls (like meatballs but with tomato and herbs).
However, we think that beer was the thing needed after a big walk under the Athenian sun, thus we happily had some cold ones.
If you have already read the part one of this story about things to do in Athens then you have understood that Aris and Katerina know a lot about Athens and its history. We strongly suggest them. You will learn a lot and experience a lot.
Have fun in Athens!