It’s been a gift getting the chance to explore Athens over the past few months. Kypseli is near the centre of Athens, so we do most of it on foot, taking new routes to see if we encounter anything different along the way. In general, things look the same. Most of Athens is composed of block upon block of identical apartment buildings, the same garbage bins on the corner, the same rows of cars lining the streets, bumper to bumper and occasionally creeping up on the sidewalks. But we still look, and we still find things.
Athens has many open-air cinemas, and there’s something kind of quaint about watching a movie outside. It’s especially sweet when it’s been a hot day – by the time it gets dark, the air is refreshingly cool. There are plenty of cinemas in the centre of Athens (you can find schedules and addresses in English over here: http://www.xpatathens.com). If you’re not in the mood to watch a Hollywood blockbuster, the Riviera in Exarchia shows older films. A few days ago we saw Charade starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and it was lovely to see the two of them banter back and forth and run around Paris on a big screen. Occasionally we’d hear cars or boisterous groups of people passing by, but it wasn’t annoying, just part of the experience. Afterwards we bought gyros and ate them in the square, and it was a lovely (and cheap!) way to spend an evening.
We’d been saving the Pireos Street Annexe of the Benaki Museum, and finally checked it out last week. Unlike the main Benaki Museum, the Annexe features contemporary art. It’s carefully curated – there were 4 exhibits and you have the option to chose what you want to see. As much as I love big, splashy galleries, there’s something nice about a museum you can digest properly in one afternoon.
It was hot last week, so we decided to check out a beach close to the city. For 1 euro you can hop on the E22 bus downtown and about an hour later end up in Vouliagmeni. There’s a large sandy beach, but we were intrigued by Lake Vouliagmeni, with its striking greenish water, all surrounded in cliffs. It’s known for its healing properties and is supposedly good for various skin and joint ailments. I quote Matt Barrett*: The composition of the lake is brackish and full of such minerals as potassium, natrium, lithium, ammonium, calcium, ferrum, chloride, iodine and is slightly radioactive (the good kind, I guess). We weren’t suffering from any health problems, but were curious enough to go. The entrance fee is a bit steep (8 euros each), but the lake is peaceful and calm, especially compared to the bustle of the beach, and there were plenty of chairs to lounge on. It’s not the hippest place, I guess – we were the youngest people there and occasionally I got the impression I was at a sanitorium for a water cure – but I recommend visiting, wholeheartedly. The water, which is fed by hot springs, was sublime. Maybe it was because I haven’t really swam in brackish water before, but it was eerie to swim in it, which, even if isn’t healing anything, felt charged with something.
* If you’ve ever done any online research about Athens, I’m sure you’ve read Matt Barrett’s Athens Survival Guide. I hope he’s getting paid for the valuable information he provides. He’s also based in Kypseli, and we keep meaning to seek him out and buy him a drink for all useful tips we’ve picked up from his site.