Three days in Athens-A heady mix of ancient and modern

Day 1

We had a great 4 nights 3 days stay at Athens and our experience was mixed; on one side you have the classical Athens, once the cradle of western civilisation and birthplace of democracy with impressive architecture, most of which are in ruins leaving it all to our imagination and on the other side the modern Athens – a  sprawling mega city teaming with people everywhere and nightmare traffic in narrow roads.

Day 1. Reached Acropolis entrance around 10 am. Not many visitors and the weather was pleasant. First stop was Theater of Dionysus and then walked up via the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre (much better preserved than Theater of Dionysus and reached the grand edifice The Parthenon grounds. The area around main Parthenon Temple is cordoned off due to renovation work so we had to just go around the temple amid ruins and renovation debris. You can also see the Lycabettus hill and the modern Athens city jungle from the Acropolis.  Spent little more than an hour and walked down to Roman Agora through winding lanes.

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Theater of Dionysus

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Passed the Athens University Museum and stopped at a cute little café Klepsydra(?) for some Baklawa and coffee. Reached Roman Agora and were put off by the aggressive hawkers (looked like Africans?) at the gate trying to sell some color threads. The Roman Agora was a disappointment as there was practically nothing except a few pillars.

TRG_7504aMoved on to Adrianou Street to reach Ancient Agora. We were hungry by now, partly due to the mixed aroma of food from the restaurants lining up the street.  Had a quick lunch at a corner restaurant with a local beer Mythos. Just realized that it was past 3 pm and the Ancient Agora was closed for the day.

Walked in to the by lanes visiting the several colourful shops selling souvenirs, knickknacks, clothes etc.  Bought ice cream at the Hans &Gretel themed confectionery shop and walked further to realize we were already into the thick of Monstiraki Flea Market! The market was teaming with people locals as wells tourists. Spent a couple of hours in the area and then took the metro from the Monastiraki Station and reached our accommodation close to Acropolis Museum station.

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Hans and Gretel!!!

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Delightful Dubrovnik! Part 3 of 3

Exploring the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, and beyond – Days 5 and 6

Day 5: Another day-out into Montenegro

Took a day-trip to Montenegro with a tour company with a small group of 12 people. After a scenic ride along the coast of Bay of Kotor for about an hour, our first stop was a small coastal town Perast, known mostly for the Roman Catholic Church Our Lady of the Rocks located in a small island in the Kotor bay. A 5-6 minutes boat ride took us to the island giving us a 3600 scenic vista from the middle of the bay. The church itself was impressive with its sky blue dome and bold and colourful paintings and sculptures inside. A small museum upstairs has on display some old weapons and antique items used/leftover by sailors. Retuned from the island and continued our journey to our next stop Kotor. Sitting in between a quiet side of the Bay Kotor and brooding mountains, Kotor took us back in time with its archway entrance to the old town with its cobblestoned narrow streets, medieval museums, churches, buildings and squares (now filled with cafes and souvenir shops). Outside, Kotor is very modern with all the trappings of tourist entertainment- buzzing with pubs, bars, cafes, nightclubs etc. Kotor is a delightful place where the past coexists with the present.

Our third stop was Budva, a seaside resort town more popular for nightlife and beach parties than its interesting old town quarter. We had a late lunch in one of the scenic waterfront restaurant

The food was not great but not bad either. The beach front literally packed with jet skis, speedboats and smaller ferries- all aimed at tourists. Surprisingly we saw number of Russians and many signboards and placards were in English and Russian languages! We were told that several Russians have invested in Budva’s tourism sector! Wandered in to the old town – very similar to Kotor with churches and historic residences and a few museums. Budva seems to be a money-churning hotspot for Montenegro’s tourism. Spent a couple of hours and then returned to Dubrovnik on a shortcut that included our bus being loaded on to a ferry to cross the Bay of Kotor.

Day 6:Exploring Lokrum Island

This was our last day in Dubrovnik and so we had a late start. Took the big passenger ferry (every 20 minutes) from the fort harbour for a 10-15 minute ride to Lokrum Island.

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Took a walk through the well-maintained botanical garden with lots of pine, cypress, olive and other leafy trees and bushes to reach the Benedictine Monastery at the other end of the island. Built during the medieval era, the monastery is still operational and recently it was one of the filming locations of the Game of Thrones.

There are several locations marked safe for swimming and we chose a convenient place and spend nearly three hours swimming (it was cold still) in total tranquillity and peace in the clear, blue water and relaxing in the shade! Took the 4 pm ferry back to the town and did some last minute souvenir and cheese shopping from the mega Konzum store near the bus station and returned to our place to pack and rest.

Day 7: Our return flight to Milan was at 12.30 pm via Zagreb so we had good time to enjoy a breakfast and reach the airport on time.

Delightful Dubrovnik! Part 1 of 3

Exploring the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Days 1 and 2

Day 1. Arrived Dubrovnik by Croatia Airlines from Zagreb by 4 pm. Checkout and baggage collection took around 30 minutes. Our pre-arranged mini-van with a driver was waiting for us. The airport itself is perched on a mountain top and our excitement started as exit the airport and drove to the city on the winding road along the cliff … the views are stunning!

Sitting majestically at the strategic edge of the Adriatic overlooking the calm blue waters on one side and protected by lofty mountains on the other side, Dubrovnik is justifiably one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities and you will only understand when you have been there yourself. Now a Unesco world heritage site, the city is also Croatia’s upmarket tourist destination as it offers best of the both worlds- a historic old, walled town with this well preserved massive long and winding walls as well as a modern city with all the paraphernalia of entertainment and refined luxury.

Checked into our apartment in the city’s leafy neighbourhood Lapad, rested a while and got out for a stroll along the harbour waterfront – a great place to people-watch as well as the many tiny boats and fancy yachts of all sizes pass by.DSC_6195a

Spotted Croatia’s popular supermarket Konzum- (its everywhere!), bought some food stuff and a Dubrovnik day pass that allows you limitless travel on buses and trams and returned to retire for the day.

Day 2: We began the day with a sumptuous breakfast at Peppers Eatery – one of the waterfront cafes we noticed the previous evening.DSC_6201a

Took a leisurely walk to the old town along the leafy streets, marvelling at old stone buildings and classic Croatian villas. (You can also take bus no 4).DSC_6192a

Our first stop was the Museum of Modern Art housed in an amazingly beautiful villa converted in to nice museum. Spread over three floors, this excellent gallery showcases Croatian artists’ works of art, paintings and sculptures. Its lunch time and you are literally spoiled for choice with eateries in the old town area serving Croatian, Mediterranean, Italian and many more. And …don’t forget to grab a chilled Croatian Karlovačko beer.IMG-5389

Our next stop was Srd Hill. Took the Swiss-built cable car to reach the top and… the views were stunning! This IS the place from where you can get the best views of the walled city, the vast and mighty Adriatic dotted with islands such as Lokrum and Elaphiti.

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There is an upmarket restaurant Panorama at the top. Menu is pricy but its worth the quality and the views you get! It was a bit cloudy, windy and cold. As we spent the time taking in the scenery around with snacks and coffee at the restaurant, the sun was slowly going down and we were treated to a dramatic sunset!

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(If you are an early diner, Panorama restaurant is also a good choice as you have a double whammy of watching Dubrovnik glowing at night against the backdrop of moonlit ocean! Or choose a restaurant by the cliff (yes there are a few like the Buza Bar or Restaurant Levanant) or one of the several eateries along the beach for an al fresco dining.)