Athens Captured: Spirit & Food. Friends & Mood.

 

Temperatures are soaring here in Athens. Still, I climb the stairs to my third-floor apartment here in Marina Zeas rather than use the elevator. After just three days in the city, I shower several times a day for relief from the heat and to rinse the sweat.

George at Vagianelis BMW tells me my bike will be ready on Monday and that he has addressed and fixed everything on my punch list:

  • Diagnose and solve overheating problem
  • Straighten or source new bracket so that the bent right side footpeg is straight—a casualty from the vineyard crash in September
  • Replace right side mirror, also casualty from vineyard crash that Roc welded for me, but not adjustable.
  • Oil and filter change
  • Repair the Nemo2 Cobrra chain oiler that broke in same vineyard crash
  • Check cables, hoses, brakes, and test ride

Saturday night I meet Dimitris at Hams & Clams, the sister restaurant to Corks & Forks. It has more energy because of its large outdoor patio overlooking the marina. Dimitris spent the entire night Doing an eclectic mix of music. I sat at the bar, devoured oysters, prosciutto, and a few glasses of Greek wine. It was 3 AM by the time we exchanged goodbyes. Even with that late night, I woke up at six. Unable to go back to sleep, I captured a time-lapse ‘movie’ of the sunrise over the marina.


The vibe and scene at Hams & Clams in Marina Zea in Athens, Greece


The scope my journey ahead and the list of things I need to tend to hangs heavy and this combined with the jet lag, I figure, is keeping me up. I must coordinate my route with meetings and connections I must also schedule. As I’ve noted so many times before, I travel with no itinerary. Yet, that lack of itinerary flows and with each ebb it builds. I reach out to people who have been referred me to, or I uncovered in my research. As the wind blows, I try to coordinate a time convenient with these contacts and a time I can realistically meet. I also need to leave space for spontaneity.

As much as I let this weigh on me, I remind myself I’ve done this before—many times.

Looking down on Athens and Mount Lycabettus from the Acropolis.

I’ve also been to Athens many times. I’ve warmed up to this city. As much as it’s been a crossroads for my journeys over the past two years, it also feels like home. It’s undoubtedly home for my bike, Doc; I go home each year while the bike stays here. Though this time I’m saddened that my friends and owners of the Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro, Panos and Iža, are out of town. They closed Vintage for two weeks while traveling to Jordan and Cyprus. Plus, my friend and jewelry designer Maria is in Italy. I’m sorry I will miss them this time in Athens.

I enjoyed an excellent lunch and more spirited conversation with my friend Michael on Sunday. After, he suggested I return to my apartment via the tram and metro—something I must admit I haven’t experienced in Athens in the many times I’ve explored the city. So I took him up on the suggestion. Though I could have chosen a cooler day, it was a great experience. Every city I explore I try to attempt to use mass transit, it’s a sure way to feel local and experience the energy and movement of a city.

The end of the line; Athens Metro stops in Pireaus Port.

Sunday was also election day, so the city seemed more tranquil and quiet than I expected. The conservative right-wing party ousted the liberal left. Most people I talked to agreed it’s time for a change and something new. Yet they admit the party that won is not new, but they have hope, and that’s the best bet.

On Monday, I explored the number one attraction in Athens, the Acropolis, and its iconic Parthenon. The thick selfie-obsessed and self-stick wilding crowds still don’t detract from the magnitude of the history of that giant rock in the center of this grand city. I’ve been before. And I’ll go again. I stayed until the whistle-toting and blowing security attendants walked everyone off the hill. Then a small group of the Greek Army shows up and marches up the rock, ensures it is secure and marches back down. Not quite as impressive as the changing of the Presidential Guard outside the Hellenic Parliament to honor the tomb of an unknown soldier who represents all unknown soldiers killed at war, the display of military is pointed and on purpose.

High season in Athens. Selfie-obsessed tourists cram the Acropolis.

Late on Monday, I checked in on Doc and George at Vagianelis. It’s refreshing to find a motorcycle dealer service department open on Mondays—a day most in the States are closed. As in most businesses and social circles, there are several George’s working at BMW. George, the service manager, and George, the technician. Both Georges greet me with warm smiles, and hearty belly laughs as I share stories of the vineyard crash and my wandering through the Peloponnese last year.

Turns out that because of the cracked radiator, and likely the air gap in my cooling system from before, my water pump impeller worked overtime and a notch or groove wore into the shaft. This breached the seal and caused it to drip fluid. So by the time I returned to Athens, after replacing the radiator a month earlier in Zagreb, I lost enough fluid to overheat the engine.

They sourced used parts for both my mirror and the footpeg bracket to save me money. And George replaced the oil sump drain plug bolt—all these years and miles had stripped it. With more to do in Athens before I embark north and east, I leave the bike with the Vagianelis legends and will return Wednesday to take the bike to my apartment.

 

After wandering around the Acropolis for a couple of hours, I hiked the neighborhoods on and around its slopes before settling at a table with a view for dinner at The Zillers—starting with this dish of “Giant Beans with Botaga.”

The view from my table at Zillers in Athens.

I return to Corks & Forks on Tuesday evening with Stratos and Nafsika, two of the employees of my friend Michael who looked after my bike since I left it in the basement of their office building in October last year. I wanted to treat them to a good meal, wine, and enjoy conversation and connection. Though Stratos doesn’t speak English, Nafsika served as a very competent translator.

I picked up the motorcycle Wednesday morning and spent the day tweaking my packing strategy and sorting through my things. I try to balance things so that there is an even amount of weight on both sides of the bike. After I had to follow up on a dozen email messages and organize the photos and video I’ve shot in Athens to date. Many of those images appear on this page. I hope you get a good sense of Athens and my time here. Crosseyed and tired, I searched for a surrogate Vintage Wine Bar and found Paleo near the port. The passionate owner, Gianni took care of me as I was spent from working all day and had no desire to make decisions. Paleo is housed in an over hundred-year-old warehouse. His attention to detail and the tucked down an alley location provided the perfect atmosphere to wind down my day and contemplate the road ahead.

Before leaving Athens, I’ll join Michael for one last meal, dinner on Thursday night. Then I’ll pack up and get an early start Friday morning for Larisa, Thessaloniki, and cross the border into Bulgaria on Saturday afternoon.

Stay tuned.

 


Mentioned In This Post

Corks & Forks
Pargas 1 & Akti Themistokleous
Piraeus, Greece
+30 21 5515 9792

Hams & Clams
Marina Zeas
Piraeus 185 36
+30 21 0418 6683

Paleo Wine Bar
Polidefkous 39
Pireas 185 45
+30 21 0412 5204

The Zillers
Mitropoleos 54
Athens 105 63
+30 21 0322 2277

BMW Motorrad Vagianelis SA
Par. Leof. Vouliagmenis 339
Ilioupoli 163 46
+30 21 0921 3092

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