People told us before we moved to Jerusalem that it’s best to plan a getaway every six weeks, as the city can kind of get you down if you don’t leave every now and then. I was indeed feeling a little blah last week — but don’t I feel this way every February no matter where I am? — and we had a Monday off of work, so voila, we booked a long weekend trip to Athens, Greece. (Ah, the joys of spending $200 on a roundtrip plane ticket to a whole new country. It’s a luxury not afforded to most Americans, where you’ll spend triple that to get from one side of the United States to the other).
I’ve long wanted to do that whole wear all white, sip white wine, and island hop to the beautiful islands with the white cliffside buildings, but it’s still winter so this was not that trip. But it was great to get away to a large, pretty European city (reminded me of Madrid in a lot of ways). We stayed in a great Airbnb in the cool, historic Plaka neighborhood, with lots of strolling pedestrians and old buildings.
We did the Athenian things like visit the Acropolis museum, and the Acropolis, the latter of which was awe-inspiring (especially on a blue sky day). It was a bit of a struggle getting up and down hills because a few weeks ago, Mr. Em in Jerusalem and I collided knees on the tennis courts and I haven’t been able to walk right since. I was on crutches for a bit, but now I’m just walking slow with a stiff leg.
Another Athens must: Watching the changing of the guard outside the Greek parliament building. These guards – while themselves are super attractive- have what must be the most ridiculous military uniform in existence, from the jaunty fringed cap, to the puffy shirt tunic, to the cream-colored schoolgirl tights, the knee tassels, to the porcupine-topped shoes.
We enjoyed the Benaki Museum, housed in a mansion. (Old houses = my favorite locations for museums).
On Monday – Presidents’ Day for us and Clean Monday for the Greeks – some Foreign Service friends who are posted in Athens drove us to the ancient town of Corinth to ruin-peep. While the weather was turned chilly and dreary and my busted knee prevented a proper hike up a big gorgeous mountain (which may be the one Sisyphus perpetually pushed his rock up since he was the king of Corinth).
Still, it was still a fun and cozy day, especially when when the group tucked into a taverna for a shovel of gyro (for them) and fried cheese, Greek salad, and spinach cheese balls (my new favorite thing). Speaking of which, I ate that meal — salad, spinach ball, and fried cheese — several times in the course of the weekend, and it was delish. Especially at a Greek diner decorated with 1940s pinups, called Tzitzikas & Mermigas, where we ate twice. We ate at some fancier places too, but I think I decided when it comes to Greek food, I want it casual and hearty (like at all the great Greek-American diners around Metro Detroit).
We also drank some Greek beers in an outdoor taverna with other Foreign Service friends. (Sidenote: Awesome thing about the Foreign Service is the longer you’re in, the more you know people living in nearly all parts of the world). Also, we drank our share of Greek wine, which is surprisingly good, and almost jaw-droppingly cheap, especially compared to Israeli wines. A great place to try a lot of Greek wines, beers, and liquors, including the sweet pine-tasting liquor mastika, is Yoleni’s, a multi-level speciality market/wine cellar/restaurant/cooking class space. We had a blast meeting up with yet even more Foreign Service friends and trying lots of wines poured by a beautiful Greek wine expert.
It was a great first taste of Greece – both the food and the stunning archeology sites. I’ll definitely be back someday, hopefully for longer than a few days.
(Update from the future: I did return to Greece! Several times. (Escaping Lockdown in Crete; Naxos: A Hike a Day on Vacay; Chic, Romantic Santorini; Sifnos: The Greek Island of My Dreams; Return to Sifnos).
Em in Jerusalem