- by XpatAthens
- Thursday, 05 February 2015
With ‘kalo xeimona’ having re-evolved into ‘let’s go to the beach’, I am still very much in shorts & flip-flop mode. Even with a couple days of rain, the warm weather is not budging – a fact I love to share with my northern European friends and colleagues. This also means that I still have a trickle of visitors, thankfully not the kind that stay over ;) But certainly the kind who want to go to ‘the Plaka’ and takes some photos…
Everybody has been in Plaka, and everybody has their views – it’s beautiful; it’s touristic; the heart of Athens; the worst tavernas in Athens. I might agree with some or all of these views (and there are plenty more!), but I still love to spend an afternoon wandering, or sitting at a little table and watching the world go by… I like to imagine that Athenians have been doing exactly that – maybe even right where I was sitting – for countless centuries before… Someone once told me I’m just a ‘romantic xeno’! Perhaps.
My own favourite part of Plaka is the stairway of Mnisikleous Street. This is a magical place, crammed full of little chairs and tables, flowers overhanging all the way up, with the great energy of chattering voices. If you’re not sure which stairway I mean: it’s the one where the tourists stop to snap a photo as they walk by.
My favourite café on this little street is ‘Yasemi’. It’s the first one on the left as you go up the stairs. I’ve gotten to know the staff over the times I’ve been there, so it feels a little bit like hanging out at a friend’s place…
The other night, with visitors in tow, we walked by again and the whole scene was positively buzzing. I stopped to say hello to my ‘friends’ at Yasemi, and they told me that I must sit and eat at the little place on the opposite side of the stairs – ‘Apollonia Lyra’. This is parallel to the stairway, sort of the ‘back door’ of Yasemi. She told me ‘just trust me’. So I did.
As it turns out, we had what my friends called ‘the best Greek night ever’. Imagine a narrow alley with tables and chairs, surrounded by the painted walls of old homes, live (good) Greek music, food that was surprisingly better than a ‘Plaka taverna’, and a price that wasn’t so bad… The whole thing could have been a total kitschy disaster; instead, it was magical.
Some call Plaka authentic, some call it touristic. In a city like Athens, I’m not sure where that line gets drawn. For me, Mnisikleous Street is as authentic as it gets. Yes, tourists find their way here – but each time that I’ve been there, it is a decidedly Greek clientele sipping their freddo cappuccinos or their wine.
I often wander into Plaka, even on my own, especially early in the morning when I have the chance. Tourist shops aside, there is an undeniable magic in the air there – these centuries-old streets where, I imagine, not much has changed. The stairways, the alleys, the homes, the narrow streets; this is the Athens I imagined before moving here, and it has remained one of the parts of Athens that I love most.
Until next week,
Mnisikleous 23, Plaka
Lysiou 12, Plaka
In this weekly space, keep up with ‘Jack’ as he navigates daily life in Athens… Anecdotes, stories, hits & misses, the good, the bad and, well, the rest…