Christmas in Athens

I will explain why we went to Athens. Michael had to have a document notarised, and there was no one on Paros who would notarise a legal document written in English. We had to go to the American Embassy. Either Michael could go up on the early morning ferry, do his business and return again on the evening ferry (10 hours total ferry time – UGH!) OR we could go up on the morning ferry, spend the rest of the afternoon looking around Athens, stay the night, go to the Embassy early the next morning, and then return in the late afternoon (6:00 PM). Since we both thought experiencing Christmas in Athens would be good fun, we opted to do the overnighter. Also, I knew that Christmas was going to be very lonely for us…just us two and no one else, no parties, no nothing. This seemed to be a good idea; we could celebrate with lights, dinner, etc. So off we went.

Christmas lights

Athens was magic! Total magic. We went up to the Plaka (the old city under the Acropolis) which is a shopper’s paradise! Also old Venetian architecture mixed in with ruins, etc. It was warm enough to take coffee outside at the coffeehouses. Then when dusk came, the night became a fairyland with lights everywhere! It is hard to explain them; they are different than what we have in the USA and also in Ireland. No coloured ones, and the designs are different. Suffice it to say, it was awesome!

We walked through the Plaka up through the main shopping street (Ermou), for foot traffic only, to the National Palace where the changing of the guard takes place regularly on the hour. In front of this palace is the huge Syntagma Square. In it is the tallest Christmas tree in Europe!–they say. Every tree within the square was full of lights, but what was so exciting was Santa Clauses everywhere, holding small ponies for kids to have their pictures taken on. Balloon vendors galore with some of the most imaginable balloons I have ever seen!

Christmas balloons

Vendors selling cotton candy, roasted corn and chestnuts. Carts full of all kinds of nuts to buy. Merchants selling their wares reminiscent of a souk: sunglasses, shirts, rugs, scarves, hats, gloves, books, paintings, even canaries! Along the street were entertainers from Bolivia and Peru, playing their instruments in hopes of selling their CD’s. (They were selling like hotcakes!). Further along was a group from Jamaica playing steel drums and playing calypso. It was so much fun, everyone jiggling and wiggling! Even I could hardly manage to not make a complete fool of myself with the beat! I wanted SO MUCH to just shed my coat and wiggle all over with arms and legs going to the rhythm!!! But I held back…and it was hard to do that! I love music that makes me want to let go, so to speak. I dance much better in my mind, I might add!

Athens Christmas vendors

All I could do was just keep saying: My God, this is magic! This is thrilling! This is so much fun! Look at that! Look at this! Everyone is having such a good time! Absolutely beautiful little girls all dressed up like snow bunnies in furry coats and hats! Proud parents showing them off! Families everywhere! Little boys carrying balloons like treasures! Mom’s and Dad’s carefree and laughing…everyone in a wonderful spirit of Christmas! I was elated that we had decided to come to Athens instead of sitting in our cold rooms on Paros!

Dinner was nice in a cosy little restaurant with two men playing Greek instruments in the corner. I splurged and had rabbit stew (stifado). That is the restaurant we had the good wine in…so I wrote it down and then we found it in the market for our Christmas Day dinner. The hotel was comfortable, but not especially great. It was clean, on a nice street with trees, near the Acropolis…(you ask what is wrong with THAT?) Well, it was a grey inside lending to a sort of dismal atmosphere, and when we tried to go to sleep, the man next door did his dishes and we heard every little splash of water, never mind the noise of pots and pans! Then he proceeded to play computer games which we could hear the sounds of! I think when we got up in the early morning we got our revenge! Undoubtedly we made some noises he heard…talking, turning on and off the shower, etc.

Going to the Embassy was interesting. I have never been in an Embassy and frankly was nervous about going. I was sure they would pick that time to blow up a bomb! The building is not especially pretty (others are housed in wonderful period houses). This one was just a big grey non-descript concrete building with a huge American Flag on top! Lots of security going in. Of course, I did not have my passport! nor my American driver’s license! but did have my Irish one. So he let me in. However, he did take the camera out of my pocket! (I just don’t think of all this no-no stuff). It went fast inside…a long long long queue at the Visa room. We went into a room with no one in it, so were finished in 5 minutes. But long enough for me to hear the American accent, along with the American Flag and shed a few tears. Michael thought that was interesting: that it hits me so fast! Well, it just does.

Then for a couple hours we split up with each of us doing our own thing – to meet later at the ferry. I went shopping, and bought myself a nice Christmas gift. A jacket I saw the night before that said (no screamed!) “buy me”! It was a splurge, but it has been 1,000 years since I bought myself something nice. Only now, it looks too nice for my closet. Here it is late Christmas Day, and I am still in my robe! H–m-m-m? But, I will enjoy wearing it with my black trousers and/or black slim skirt! IF I EVER HAVE ANYWHERE TO GO!

I ate lunch on my own in an outside cafe…then took the Metro to the port. I was proud of myself that I could go shopping, catch the underground, and get to the port on my own. There in Piraeus I window-shopped some more. What was the most fun was a huge church that had a bazaar! I was the only woman in the bazaar…yet it was not time to close. It was interesting, and if I really thought I had the money and place to put it, could have found some pretty interesting stuff. Which reminds me, yesterday we went to the Monastiraki area where they have flea markets and bargains galore with real treasures, no joking. I found my daughter a great birthday gift from an old church. It is an antique paradise.

Found Michael on the ferry, and set out on our 5-hour trip home. A short taxi ride home, and the Athens adventure was over, but I will always remember Syntagma Square at Christmas and all the glitter, hoopla and lights! It was like a fairy tale with a happy ending.

by Karin

Christmas on Paros Here — More on Greek Christmas Here


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