Medea & Other Friends I Made in Athens (Part 2)

4 September 2022 (Continued).

When last I wrote, we had just walked around the perimeter of the Roman Forum. At this point, hunger and thirst were battling with exhaustion. I had brought a liter of water with me but had drained it fairly quickly in the heat. We ended up at the intersection of two alleys near “the Winds” where we found a small 90-year-old taverna called Platanos (or “Ο ΠΛΑΤΑΝΟΣ”), named after an ancient plane tree (aka, sycamore) that is next to the restaurant. The only large tree that I saw at that time was an 89-year-old Eucalyptus, but there is a large plane tree on the far side of the dining patio.

Our table was shady and comfortable, and the owner was quick to serve us. I had a Greek salad (Horiatiki) and beef & rice dolmades. Paul and Michael P. ordered two plates of horta (cooked wild greens), olives, and tzatziki. I can’t remember what Aaron had, but we all agreed that everything was just what the doctor ordered. Michael P. swears that it was the best meal he had on the trip.

We’re all jet-lagged. But look at that damn salad. Yum!
Taverna Platanos

We also plowed through several liters of ice-cold water, which was also just what the doctor ordered.

After our late lunch, I absolutely had to lay down for a few hours before I fell down. So back to the Airbnb we went, where the temperature was comfortably sub-Arctic by this time. I crashed and burned, and I think the boys went out exploring again. But I regret nothing in taking a mandatory nap. Paul woke me up a few hours later and said that we needed to get a move on if we wanted to make it to the Areopagus to watch the sunset (which is apparently a thing to do).

Paul and Michael P. walked across the Plaka, but I still wasn’t too steady, so Aaron and I took a taxi (which, because of the street layout took almost 10 minutes) to the bottom of the hill. If you climb up Theorias Street and go right just before the top of the hill, you head towards the sacred site of the Acropolis.

Entrance to the Areopagus. If you head to the right you’ll be on the path to the Acropolis.

If you head to the left at the top of the hill, the path takes you to the bare marble outcropping of the Areopagus, where the free Athenian men used to meet in council and adjudge murderers. So, in summary, the right-hand path takes you to the sanctuary of the Gods, while the left-hand path takes you to the folly of man. And isn’t that just a statement of our times?

The original steps to the top of the Areopagus. They’re roped off, and I sure wasn’t tempted to use them.

There is a nice series of metal steps with railings leading to the top of the Areopagus. The purists may not like it, but that’s a good thing for the rest of us (as illustrated by the state of the original access staircase shown to the left).

However, once on the Areopagus proper, it’s every person for themself. The hill is a solid outcropping of uneven marble that has been worn smooth by the passage of millions of feet over thousands of years. It’s said to be wicked slick when wet, and it’s pretty slippery even when dry.

I’m not kidding. You really do need to watch your step and mind the barrier ropes, because a fall from there can be fatal. In fact, a woman fell to her death from the Areopagus just weeks after our visit. While we were there, I witnessed one young couple step over the barrier ropes to take that “perfect” couple’s picture. That selfie just isn’t worth it, kids.

The top of the Areopagus. Graffiti. Shameful.

The view from the Areopagus is spectacular. And, as it turns out, we made it to the top just in time to witness the sunset over Athens. There was a smattering of applause from the onlookers. Well done, Ἠέλιος!

Sunset looking due west from the Areopagus.
Looking southeast from the Areopagus to the Acropolis. The Temple of the Goddess Νίκη is the structure on the right.

After spending about 40 minutes up there, we decided to climb down before it became too dark to safely extract ourselves from the site. The top of the Areopagus is a treacherous, beautiful broken-ankle-in-waiting.

A rear view of the Tower of the Winds showing the remnants of the cistern that was originally used for the water clock (or Κλεψύδρα).

We wandered down the hill past the Roman Forum again. The Tower of the Winds was lit up and it was simply gorgeous. We walked down sloping streets and staircases until we were just a bit above the Roman Forum. It was near there that I took the photo of the Medea poster seen in Part 1 of this post. At this point we were beginning to feel rather peckish again and started casting about for another estiatorio.

We settled on a place at the foot of the acropolis called Klepsýdra (Κλεψύδρα) Cafe, named for the street and the water clock that was part of the nearby Tower of the Winds.

The place was pretty busy, but the manager and our waiter placed us in a table off to the side out of the hustle & bustle, which suited us just fine. Everything on the menu looked good, and the place has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Trip Advisor. Unfortunately, we had yet to learn the cardinal rule of ordering at Greek restaurants – DON’T OVER ORDER FOOD. As the waiter wrote down our requests, he had a puzzled expression on his face and questioned if we really wanted all of the food we were ordering. We assured him that we were famished when, in hindsight, we should have taken heed. We realized our shameful error as the food kept arriving. And arriving. … And arriving.

The first of many bottles of retsina that Paul and I partook of on this trip.

According to Dr. Patrick McGovern, retsina production dates back at least to the Mycenaeans. It’s an acquired taste, but Paul and I like it.

We actually did put a good dent in what was placed before us but were unable to finish everything. It certainly wasn’t due to the quality, which was superb (as was the service). The only downside to the experience was listening to a drunken argument between two unseen people down the alleyway from our table. But that’s life in the big city. After this I went back to the Airbnb, took a much-needed shower, and went to bed. Next up – the Acropolis.

Looking south up Klepsidras Street towards Klepsýdra Cafe with the Acropolis and a near full moon looming over all.

— Να εχεις μια ωραια μερα. —

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