A Short Guide For the Gay Visitor to Athens on a Winter Weekend Break

Some suggestions of where to go and what to do during a short ‘city break’ in Athens.

 Part 3 – More eating out, yet another bar, and Kolonaki.

Continuing the saga of a four day ‘city break’ in Athens finds us in need of a little rest and as many of the gay bars/clubs are closed on Monday we can do this without feeling guilty!

After the customary early evening sleep I head off to Goody’s in the middle of the city. Goody’s is the Greeks answer to MacDonalds, the system of ordering at one desk and walking to another to collect your food is confusing, none of the staff speak English but you can always point can’t you? The food is good though and there is enough of it but it is not cheap. But if you want a good burger then you have to pay for it.

Monday is a much quieter night around Monastiraki and Psirri, I find the bar called Inoteka in the Platia Avisinias that houses the flea market. This bar is listed as ‘gay friendly’ but I cannot tell for sure as I am the only person in there. I can say that is interestingly decorated and warm and cosy, maybe if someone else goes there they can let me know. I can imagine spending the evening there though.

Moving on I find a seat in a bar restaurant in Miaouli Street near Platia Iroon, called Rebekka. Normally you cannot get into these places as they are packed but it is Monday. As I sit with a large bottle of beer (EUR3) and start to write up my notes there is the brightest flash of lightning I have ever seen, followed by a magnificent roll of thunder and torrential rain and hail stones for the next twenty minutes. Never mind it is warm and dry under this canvas awning.

Tomorrow is my last full day and I want to make the most of it, so I take an early night.

Tuesday comes and another bright sunny day, apart from the odd shower of rain I have had pleasant weather but I do need a coat and a sweater especially at night.

My plan is to visit Kerameikos, which is on Ermou Street near Thissio station. This area used to be very run down but is now a pleasant pedestrian area, but beware of scooters. The archaeological site is actually old graveyards where the good and the great of ancient Athens were buried. I expected it would only take me thirty minutes to go round the site, by the time I had been round the museum I had stayed three hours!

Grabbing a spinach pie on the way through Monastiraki, I head up Ermou towards Parliament House. The streets are packed with shoppers as the January sales started today. Reaching Syntagma Square I look in the post office to see if it is still as busy and chaotic as ever. It is. (There are other post offices less busy near Omonia Square and opposite the National Bank in the square off Athinas Street).

Pausing to take a picture of one of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier I carry on to Kolonaki, which is the most expensive area of Athens and is home to many of the foreign Embassies and Government Buildings. Here you will find all the well-known designer shops and most have sales on. There is also the usual number of street cafes where the rich, famous, beautiful and not so beautiful of Athens come to play.

It is the place to take a coffee and so I do. In my chosen cafe the menu is new and wonderfully produced on heavy glossy paper. The price of a cup of coffee is so close to EUR5 that it is not worth taking your change, and if you also have something to eat then the prices are cleverly worked out to be enough over EUR9 that it is not worth taking the change from a EUR10 note! My coffee is called something like a ‘espressocaccia’ and I choose it because it has more ingredients than anything else! When I leave I take the menu with me but leave it behind in my hotel.

Tonight is my last night and I am staying in the city at Hotel Euripides to reduce the travelling time to the airport the following day. I am intending to get another early night, without alcohol, as I don’t travel as well as I used to.

I am warned by the owner that they have the workman in doing some refurbishment but I don’t mind as I want to be up quite early.

For food I head to Monastiraki and the street by the railway line where a burly Greek ‘komaki’ has tried to get me in three times already, (sorry folks I lost the card and do not know the name!). Having ordered and got as far as the Greek salad I realize I have left my money in the hotel and take a fast walk back to get it. The Greek salad is big enough for three, there is half a loaf of bread, and when they arrive the meatballs are enormous with rice on the side. Another case of two eating as cheaply as one! I am serenaded by two Greek musicians as I am the only person in the place, I buy them a jug of raki and a bottle of beer. They ask me where I am from and laugh when I say ‘Krhth’ as I am obviously English. But of course they have relatives on Crete. I pay the bill EUR23 all up, a bargain considering I couldn’t finish all the food but did manage to drink the half litre of wine!

Strolling back to the hotel I pass Aleko’s hoping it would be open for a nightcap, it is closed so I determine to get back to the hotel for an early night.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I pass a bar that is playing Boney M which segues into Village People my interest is aroused. Well it is early still and one Metaxa and Cola will be OK. The bar is called Cosmopolis and it stand on the corner of Agatharchou and an un-named street quite close to the hotel. I enter and sit at the bar, it’s busy and the barman is in the middle of pouring a large round. For a Greek he appears to be tall and I think maybe the floor behind the bar is raised, standing up I check, but no he really is that tall, and he is an absolute dream, to watch working that is, what else did you think I could mean? He is now pouring a round of Tequila shots, I look around the bar while I wait, the barman taps me on the shoulder and pushes a shot towards me and then points to a crowd of late 20’s Greek males behind me. Obviously this is a celebration of some kind and being a person that never refuses I drink I clink glasses with them all before downing it in one.

I order my Metaxa and Coke, the barman looks slightly bemused and has to open three fridge doors before he finds the Coke, the Metaxa is enormous! I am handed the drink along with a large glass of water, strange? It is warm in here, the music and the mood of the place are infectious and one thing is for sure it is NOT a gay bar, but then I can drink anywhere.

As I sip my drink and enjoy the music I watch the barman and realize that none of the spirits, which seems to be the only thing they sell, has a mixer. Even the enormous glasses of gin go out straight! But why not? Everybody has a large glass of water which gets topped up frequently, no wonder the barman looked bemused when I asked for Coke, he couldn’t remember where it was! Of course after another drink the rot had set in and it was 3am before I got to bed, but with drinks that size and only EUR5 each who am I to complain? As ever, it is the unplanned events that are often the best!

I am woken the next day at 9am by the sound of hammering and drilling, it seems the workmen started at 7am and they are amazed that I could still manage to sleep.

Breakfast is included in the price of my room, 25 per night, and I am need of something solid. I make my way up to the 7th floor and the first thing I do is turn the thermostat up on the water boiler. (Remember I have stayed here before!). The breakfast here is a ‘Dutch’ breakfast with juice, cereal, cold meats, cheeses, croissants, dried and fresh fruit, jam and bread. A new addition is a toaster, which is very welcome as Greek bread is often very dry and toasting it makes it edible. While I am making toast, the water boiler is now up to speed and I can make a decent cup of tea, don’t even think of trying the coffee here!
 
I get back to my room, to find the builders have already removed the doors, lucky I packed my suitcase before I went out last night!

Manhandling my luggage back to Monastiraki Metro station about 600 meters away is a challenge with a thick head but I cope and am soon speeding on my way to the airport. Thirty-five minutes and EUR6 one-way fare gets me back to the airport in plenty of time for my homeward flight to Crete and as the aircraft takes off I ponder on whether I could actually live in Athens and remain sane.

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