Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Downtown Athens

Constitution Square
After lunch on Tuesday, we took the metro to Constitution Square, the site of the Greek Parliament building (formerly the royal residence).

the boys

On the other side of the square, I made a life-changing discovery: the frappé. Although I was a bit skeptical when I heard that it is made using instant coffee, this Greek specialty is unlike any coffee drink I had tried before (in a delicious way). A handheld blending stick* is used to create a rich, dense coffee foam, over which is poured cold water, ice, and milk.

liquid happiness

*Manolis’s mother very kindly located two new blending sticks for me to take back to America, so if you live in either Houston or New Haven, feel free to ask me anytime to make you a Greek-style frappé.

University of Athens
We then walked through the nearby campus of the University of Athens (where Manolis attended medical school for a year before deciding to transfer to Yale).

the main campus

the flag of Athens

One unhappy observation confirmed while walking through downtown Athens is that there is a lot of graffiti. Unlike many other cities I’ve visited, even those with self-identified graffiti problems, the vandalism in Athens is not restricted to rough neighborhoods or small back alleys; during my short stay in Athens, I saw gang signs, anarchist symbols, and political slogans on commuter trains, subway station walls, storefronts of upscale shops, and street corners along the city’s busiest boulevards.

Manolis and Alex explained that this phenomenon is an outgrowth of the sometimes violent tradition of public demonstrations and the (ab)use of democratic rights (as evidenced by the crippling riots of 2008), especially among Greek college students. Interestingly, because Greek universities were the sites of clashes between the government and students during Greece’s democratic movement only a few decades ago, police officers are still not allowed to enter college campuses.

National Archaeological Museum
Our next stop was the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, where we viewed the many Greek cultural treasures on display.

the Thessalonian points the way to his home

(We headed to Kifissia instead, where we had gyros delivered for dinner and battled four-on-one with a bat that somehow flew in, likely violating numerous PETA regulations in the process.)