June 7, 2009
I had forgotten how much I love European cities. Granted, many big cities are the same - noise, smells, people, cars, over priced food, hawkers, sight seeing and crappy merchant-ware. You can find this any where - New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Cairo, Athens.... you name it, they've got it, and LOTS of it. However, there is something to be said about having a quiet up of cofffee (or decadent cappuccino) in a little cafe off the main-drag in a city like Athens. (Or sipping red Grecian wine out of plastic cups you bought at the nearest corner store, either one)
I arrived yesterday via plane (and metro) from the bustling metropolis of Cairo. My Austrian friend Gaby and I, whom I met and subsequently spent the week with in Dahab, took an all-day bus from the Red Sea Coast to Cairo for my last evening in Egypt
. On the bus, we met a Cairo local who had just spent the week diving and soaking up the sun and was on his way home. He was kind, and gentlemanly enough to show us the way to the metro station and where our pre-booked hostel was. Sometimes you can trust locals when you are traveling, but in Egypt these sparkling gems are few and far between. Eventually, you start to develop a sense for when someone is being genuine and when they offer help (free of charge) its best if you take advantage of it. Luckily for us, our new friend Ahmed was one of these genuine helpful-souls and within 30 minutes we had disembarked from our bus (and after an adventure on the Cairo metro) we were showered and ready for a quick local meal. We spent the night eating cheap local eats at a restaurant that serves one, and only one amazing dish. Koshery consists of pasta, rice, lentils, chic peas, tomato sauce and spices and is served in enormous proportions. When you walk into the restaurant, within 3 minutes they've got steaming bowls of this stuff set down at your table for you to douse in garlic or super-hot vinegrette dressing. After wards, our friend Ahmed took us down the street to the local bar for some beers. This place was amazing! It was a simple bar, tables and chairs strewn everywhere, filled with locals and travelers alike. When you walk in, the server pulls up chairs to the nearest half-empty table and pops the caps off of the only beer they serve there - Egyptian Stella (who knew?). Instead of peanuts to snack on, there are bowls of chic peas to graze on and the floor was covered in their outer casings. The bar was built in an old train station and the main floor was where the old ticketing office used to be. This ranks high in my books - along side a place in York, England which was built into an old church.
I just spent the day wandering around Athens
. I saw the Acropolis and wandered through the many winding streets of the Plaka area, where my hostel is conveniently located. There was a huge election in Europe today, so many shops and markets were closed, but it was kind of nice to wandering around in deserted, quiet streets (for once in my 8 weeks of travel so far). There was a serene vibe in the city today and I was happy to tote around my camera and practice my little heart out on churches and frescos tucked away in the little corners and cafes surrounding the Acropolis.
Immediately after arriving, I indulged in a generous portion of Grecian gelato and a little hunk of local cheese with delicious fresh bread. I ate cherries and pears from a fruit stall and enjoyed a nice evening in the garden hang out in the middle of our hostel. I met some Parisians and some New Zealanders who were happy to while away the evening over a cup of wine and some good conversation.
Tonight I haul out my tripod for some night shots of the Acropolis with another aspiring photographer (from Mississauga) whom I met yesterday.