To Piraeus and Back | Day Three in Athens, Greece
After two full days in Athens, we had covered pretty much everything we set out to see. This was a good thing, allowing us to approach the third day with a super relaxed agenda. We felt like exploring a new area, so we decided to take the metro out to Piraeus. Piraeus is a thirty minute ride from Athens; it's on the coast and is generally known by those visiting Athens on a cruise, as this is where the ships dock.
For breakfast, we grabbed a koulouria from a man on the corner near the metro station. These sesame seed bread rings can be found all over the streets of Athens. Since we were heading to the station in Syntagma Square, we timed our arrival to allow us to see the changing of the guard ceremony.
A few groups of school kids were also gathered in front, waiting for the procession to take place. A member of the Greek military made sure everyone stood back a certain distance while the ceremony took place. While the men are standing guard at their posts, he told us we could go stand next to them and pose for photos — but absolutely no saluting is allowed. Easy enough.
After a quick train ride, we got off the metro and hopped on a bus to take us closer to the water — we were on a mission to eat at one of the seafood restaurants along the coast. The area was a little hectic, with lots of activity and people filling the streets and sidewalks. After a couple of miles on the bus, we reached the water and things were much quieter.
It was around 11 a.m., so the restaurants were not even open for lunch yet. We walked along the water, watching the restaurant owners unload fresh sea creatures from trucks. It was nice to see our future lunch in transit. Old men were sitting on the rocky coast, participating in what seemed like a regularly-scheudled game of cards.
Life seemed a lot slower out here. Also worth noting that we were visiting during winter, so the crowds this area usually has from cruise ships were non-existent. Perfect for us. While waiting for the restaurants to open, we sat and admired the clear ocean water.
We were set on eating at the restaurant that had the fresh octopus hanging out front — these were the guys we saw unloading all of the fresh seafood. After wasting some time, we tried walking in again and found the owner sitting with some friends at a table. I asked if they were open, and he had to think long and hard before responding.
He answered in a tone that seemed more like a spur-of-the-moment decision and told me to come back in about 30 minutes. The fun, entertaining thing about this is that he just made that decision based on how he was feeling. This place had no official ties to posted restaurant hours, they just do what they want and start serving food whenever they feel like it. Potentially inconvenient for some, but I admire the lifestyle.
We went for another we-need-to-waste-time walk and were invited in to a tiny restaurant — only about four tables — by an elderly couple. The couple spoke no English, so we communicated through body language, hand gestures and smiles. The man and woman owned this small, corner cafe.
We couldn't read any menus, so I did my best to tell the cute old man, "We will eat anything that you bring us." Somehow, this was successfully understood by both parties and he soon filled our table with goodies. We were fed cheese, olives, clams, bread and had free-flowing Greek beer and ouzo. Accidental experiences like this one are the best part of traveling.
It was soon time to head back to our lunch destination, a place where we would inevitably order way too much food. Eating while traveling is such a gluttonous activity. What are we supposed to do, NOT try something that sounds amazing? I might never be here again. That's my train of thought, at least. Even though there were only two of us, we proceeded to order enough food to feed at least six people. And, of course, more ouzo.
Incredibly full of food and armed with a to-go bag of fried sardines, we head back to Athens on the metro. A walk around our hotel neighborhood was necessary, in hopes of burning off a fraction of the calories we just consumed. Aimless wandering soon led us back to the Plaka Hotel for a much needed afternoon siesta.