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Entries : Category [ athens ]
The city itself, big, fat, loud, stinking, sitting in the middle of Attica and growing. Athens, Greece, to be sure.
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15 September 2006

My Notebook

Tough little black book

A few days ago, Eleni's father came through Athens, and in the few hours he was in town we went to eat and walked to Syntagma for coffee. Somewhere around Evripidou street he said he'd want a notebook for a journal and asked me where to get a good notebook in Athens. I pull out the little black notebook I use and recommend it. As it seems he was looking for something cheaper... which is ironic, since we went to Syntagma square for coffee, another term for throwing money out of the window.

The brand of my notebook is in fashion, it's a Moleskine. There is a big marketing hype around these notebooks (that BBC article gives a good roundup of some of the ambivalences about these things). So much hype indeed, that I at times felt an urge to look out for something else. They are quite expensive too. But I didn't buy mine, both the small, plain one and the bigger one have been presents. I keep and use them for some simple reasons: They are very useful and tough enough for me. I carry the small notebook with me every day since more than two years now, traveling all around Greece and Athens. I did not expect it to survive that long, even given that I don't carry it in my trousers pockets. But so far it has kept up and with no prospect of failure apparent either. The binding is enduring, the outer cover is absent of cracks. Apart from that it's a functional notebook.

notebook page with drawing from Palaiokastro, Limnos

With these notebooks it has become a fashion to publish pages from it. Especially the painters and sketchers love it and I enjoyed some good examples online. To show you what I do with mine, I've put the picture online. Mostly I scribble down thoughts and ideas, small things I try to remember, to-do lists, anything. Sometimes I can get enough spirit up to do a little drawing. I like drawing with a normal pen. It is very hard, every little mistake shows up, but when I like the result it is a good reward. The picture show's the cape of "Palaiokastro" near Plaka on the island of Limnos. Of course as I'm not an artist, these pages are very rare. (Click on the image for a bigger view.)

When I went to the bookshop on Wednesday I turned the marketing hype upside down. Instead of buying a moleskine because of the famed reputation Bruce Chatwin gave them (via the marketing hype), I went and bought the book in which Chatwin mentions the notebook.

Posted by betabug at 22:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
16 September 2006

A Garden Full of Stones


My beloved archeological site in Athens is Κεραμεικος (Keramikos). Today I went here to spend some time in this green island. Κεραμεικος is almost like a garden, lots of green with little paths. In ancient times it was partly a cemetary, but there are also pieces of the city wall here.

So far I have taken four sketches. Now my hand got tired and the pen started to lazily smear around. I don't think I went so well.

Now I'm sitting in the shade of a tree. Watching a cat in the shade under a small palmtree and a turtle who roams around a hillside. The turtle just walked by me keeping a distance of about 1.5m. Life could be more often like this.

Small update: There is a site with wonderful QTVR panorama shots from Kerameikos.

Posted by betabug at 15:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 September 2006

First September Rain

More than one month without now...

Just seen the first little bit of rain after more than a month. I think the last time I saw a bit of rain was in early August on Limnos, on a stray rainy day. But it is such a faint memory that I might be messing it up with another year's summer. Right now there was a little downpour, after the day having been gray and cloudy all along. This is so totally unimportant, but it feels strange after the long summer :-)

Posted by betabug at 19:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 September 2006

Besuch auf dem Lycabettos

Stadt von oben
Aussicht von halber Hoehe des Lycabettos, Athen

Montag abends war ich noch ordentlich nervös, wegen dem Server-Umzug, der mit einer defekten HD etwas unschön verlaufen war. Das heisst, Montags wusste ich ja noch nicht so genau, was schief gelaufen war. Ich wartete darauf, dass am Dienstag Peter von den Ulmern eine Tastatur anhängen könnte und das wir dann mehr wüssten was abging. Bei so viel Zitterpartie ist ein Ausflug oft das beste, da denkt man mal an was anderes. Was schon länger auf dem Programm stand, war der Besuch auf dem Lycabettos, dem höchsten Hügel in der Athener Innenstadt...

Glockenturm und Aussichtsterasse auf dem Lycabettos

Das Praktische am Lycabettos ist, dass er ganz in der Nähe ist, von mir zu Hause aus mit dem Bus in 10 Minuten zu erreichen. Nicht eingerechnet natürlich der Aufstieg. Auf den "Berg" fährt eine Drahtseilbahn (2.50 Euro pro Fahrt kostet der Ausflug). Viel schöner ist es natürlich raufzulaufen. Die frische Luft, die Bewegung, der Ausblick... und so weiter, das kennt man ja. Der Weg ist breit, einfach zu gehen und nicht zu steil. Das erste Bild zeigt den Ausblick etwa von halber Höhe, draufklicken für eine grössere Ansicht.

Oben angekommen ist der Ausblick natürlich noch viel bombastischer. Stadt soweit man sehen kann. Es gibt zentral eine kleine Kirche, einen Olivenbaum, ein ober-edel-schweineteuer Restaurant und neuerdings scheints sogar ein Café das etwas günstiger sein könnte - wir habens nicht probiert. Einfach nur sitzen und schauen war genug. Was es auch gibt ist einen Ikonen- und Souvenirverkäufer in Begleitung seines Hundes. Er hat uns viel von seinem Hund erzählt, während sein Freund - der Polaroidfotos an die Touristen verkauft - nichts von dem Hund wissen will.

Besonders das Einnachten ist schön von da oben. So langsam gehen in der Stadt die Lichter an und ein Teppich von Lämpchen breitet sich aus, während sich der Himmel langsam verdunkelt. Zurück gings dann mit der Bahn, denn runterlaufen geht ja bekanntlich in die Beine.

Korrektur 30.9.2006: Das Ticket kostet blos 2.50 statt 5 Euro. Mein Gedächtnis hatte mir einen Streich gespielt, weil wir ja 2 Tickets brauchten.

Posted by betabug at 16:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 September 2006

See Athens, Take the Bus!

Trying out the Athens Sightseeing Bus Line 400

Update 2010: The sightseeing busline 400 was stopped on 2010-06-01, due to "lack of demand". Sorry to see it go.

Yesterday evening we had some spare hours between buying a new fill for my rotring pen and meeting with Lorena and Kostis for Ouzo and Meze. We were near the Athens Archeological Museum and trying out the sightseeing bus line 400 from OASA (the Athens public transport) was on our to do list for some time now. So we hopped in. It was an interesting experience, though we should have handled things a bit different...

First of all, even though it's public transport, the line 400 is very special. It's not just your average bus line. There is someone selling you your ticket right on the bus (can be bought only on the bus) and answering any questions you might have. She spoke English and had to adjust to speaking Greek with us every time she talked to us, as she was so used to speaking to foreigners. Most of the tour she was chatting with the driver, but that was fine. There are recorded messages announcing some of the sites you can see. Mind that the messages are not announcing everything you can see, that's not their point.

Stop and see

The sightseeing tour is not so much meant for you to see things from the bus (you can do that some of the times). Rather it's a means of transport to do your sightseeing. The ticket is valid for 24 for hours from your first start. So you prepare yourself with a good guide book for Athens and the map of where the 400 bus goes. Then you - more or less - plan which sites you want to see. The recorded voice warns you in advance when you should get down. That's its job, it announces stops, not the scenery. When you want to see for example the national gallery, you step down from the bus and take the next one, maybe half an hour later, maybe one or two hours later. Same thing you can do for Monastiraki or my beloved ancient site, the Kerameikos.

That way you can see all the modern or ancient sites of Athens in your own time schedule. You don't have to find out where to get from ancient point A to ancient point B with the public bus lines. But you are neither tugged to a classic sightseeing plan, where you might want to linger on at some place when the rest of the group has to move on. All in all a very good idea and - judging from our little test - well implemented. It might not be the right thing for you if you want everything to be well prepared and to be served to you in a professionally guided tour.

More information

Information is available online at the OASA site. The ticket is 5 Euro per person. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, for the bus 400 and for the other public transport lines in Athens. So you can take the metro back to your hotel after the sightseeing without having to buy another ticket.

Posted by betabug at 12:45 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
21 October 2006

Night Promenade

Walking from Floisvos to Kalamaki

Today I was in need of some fresh air. One of the best oxygen suppliers in Athens is the sea. So I took the bus to Faliro and walked along the promenade.

The sea is agitated and in some places illuminated. It's pretty warm so the experience is very agreeable.

I had stopped at the chess pavilion and watched two fast games. The spectators were shouting and commenting out loud. Not what they usually do in chess, but since they all knew each other it was good fun.

Posted by betabug at 20:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 October 2006

Places of Enjoyment in Athens

Marialena's list of 10+1 special places
Kafeneion in the National Garden, Athens

Marialena, in one of the blogs I follow regularly because I like their writing, has posted some weeks ago a post about 10+1 places of Enjoyment in Athens (where "places" could also be translated as "moments" - the article is in Greek).

At first I had thought about making my own list, possibly sharing some points with Marialena (the National Garden would be right there in my list too). But there is a special quality to her list, one that I can't try to answer or further: She doesn't just have a checklist of places ("go there, look at that"), but instead some of these places are situations or special occasions in the flow of the city.

So all I can do now is to tell you to go and read through that list (assuming you understand some Greek), maybe look at the few pictures, let yourself be inspired to look out for your own special moments and places here (and if you live somewhere else, in your own place). I'll go as far as to illustrate this post with a small drawing I did in the kafeneion of the National Garden. The sun was shining, autumn was almost there and we enjoyed a quiet, green moment almost out of town.

Posted by betabug at 23:16 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
04 April 2007

There Is Beauty Everywhere

Sometimes you just have to look out for it
Trees in a park in Athens suburbs

Let's talk about beauty. Nothing fancy, just some stuff you can see every day around you. Just have to look and be in the spirit to see, I guess...

A gnarly tree in the streets of some Athens suburb

Walking through this city and its traffic, one could sometimes forget that there is beauty everywhere. Sometimes it's a gnarly tree on a sidewalk on a sunny afternoon...

An old Jaguar in the center of Athens

Other times you just have to cross the street, and unexpectedly it sits there. We used to have even more nice old cars here. But some of them are still here. I wouldn't want to pay its bills, but I sure like to have a look when I pass it by.

Trees in a park in Athens suburbs

Then comes the weekend. Maybe you have time to go to a little park. When the sun shines through the trees, a moment of beauty appears. It's nice to walk on and it's nice to sit on a bench and read a few pages in a good book. Sweet doing nothing.


Posted by betabug at 09:18 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
06 April 2007

Ein Wald in der Stadt

Zum davonlaufen!

Zentrales Merkmal eines Waldes ist, dass man sich verlaufen kann. Dass es hier in Ilisia einen "Wald von Ilisia" gibt, hatte ich schon gewusst. War sogar schon ein paar Mal dort gewesen, schöne Spaziergänge. Doch anscheinend war die Ecke, die ich bisher besucht hatte, nur der kleinere Teil. Heute bin ich etwas weiter gegangen, dann rechts abgebogen... und dann stehe ich plötzlich im Wald.

Die Bäume stehen dort viel dichter. Obwohl es viele Wege und Pfade gibt, ja sogar Bänke, Mülleimer und gemauerte Wegesböschungen, wirkt alles viel waldiger, nicht mehr nur wie ein Park. Ich machte einen guten Spaziergang, bis ich ans andere Ende gekommen war. Zwischendurch fand ich einen Hügel, der mit gemauerten Bänken und Plätzen von weitem wie eine Burg wirkt.

Auf dem Rückweg musste ich aufpassen, dass ich tatsächlich noch dort rauskam, wo ich hergekommen war. Ich fand zwar eine Orientierungstafel, doch die war mit Plakaten zugeklebt. Ansonsten ist der Wald recht sauber, viele Plastiksäcke zeugen davon, dass das dem Einsatz der Gemeindearbeiter zu verdanken ist. Ich bin ihnen dankbar, denn der neu entdeckte Wald ist meiner Lebensqualität zuträglich.

Posted by betabug at 17:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 June 2007

European Music Festival

All over town

Looks like the European Music Festival is on again, with concerts all over Athens (and some other places too) every evening till Saturday. Here is a program of concerts in Athens. The weather is fine, so let's see how much fun we can scoop up!

Posted by betabug at 16:09 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
27 June 2007

Going Home is Hot

Moving without moving

Usually I take one bus and then walk 10-15 minutes to get home. Now with the heat wave in Athens I try to do without the walk. I take the bus, switch to the Metro, then take another bus. Takes longer, but less heat. Today I walked into the Metro station and they had no power. There was reduced light on and the passengers were informed that trains would be "a couple minutes late". The "end of time" athmosphere indeed lastet only a short time, then full lights came on again.

A minute or two more and the train came. It took me along, wondering what would happeen if power failed again with me in there.

Due to the heat wave electricity consumption is at a record high. We're half expecting a blackout. We're also being asked to save on energy to avoid that. Indeed at the office all unncessary lights are out and at home I follow the same line.

In other news, temperatures should start to drop any moment now. Fine with me, for now we've seen enough of those 44-47 degrees C.

Posted by betabug at 22:15 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
03 July 2007

Parnitha Forest Demonstration

We need our trees back

This Sunday, 8th of July, at 19:00 there will be a demonstration outside the parliament. The People are demanding that the forest of Parnitha will be replanted. We can't let our oxygen supply be burned down by negligence (or even malevolence). The "invitations" for the demonstration are making the rounds by SMS and email. So please all join in this Sunday!

Posted by betabug at 09:51 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 July 2007

Syntagma Demonstration

The people for the forrest

We are on Syntagma square, demonstrating for the reafforrestastion of mount Parnitha. There are a lot of people here. The place is packed from the parliament all over the square.

The demonstration is not organized, it's just the people who showed up. Everybody is shouting and cursing at the parliament and the politicians. Of course no politicians comes forth from the parliament (if there are any in there, they probably are in their villas).

Posted by betabug at 19:50 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
12 July 2007

Acropolis closed due to Strike

6 days in July

The news site reports (in Greek) that due to a strike of the archaeological guards the Acropolis will be closed on 6 days: July 14th and 15th, and then again from the 21st to the 24th of July. doesn't list up what the demands of the workers are. There should be a chance that the differences get sorted out and the strike canceled or postponed, but if you are planning a visit, you might want to investigate in alternative schedules.

Posted by betabug at 12:11 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
16 July 2007

...and now Ymittos is burning

More forest fires near Athens

A few weeks ago it was Parnitha, now the forest is burning on Ymitos. According to news reports (see in Greek) the fire is very close to buildings. Same source says that residents saw fires spring up in several places, so arson is suspected. Fire planes, helicopters, and firefighters are working hard, but the strong wind is making their job more difficult. The fire is on the Ymittos, near Vyronas and Kaisariani.

Residents are trying to fight the fire along Leoforos Kareas. The secretary for Civil Protection stated that 3 out of 4 fire zones are under control.

Posted by betabug at 16:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 July 2007

Το τάβλι του Όθωνα

Και άλλα ωραία στο μουσείο
The backgammon set of King Otto

Τελικά πήγα και εγώ το Σάββατο στο Μουσείο της Πόλεως των Αθηνών . Είναι καταπληκτικό - αν ενδιαφέρεσαι λίγο για το 19ο αιώνα. Το καλύτερο έκθεμα ήτανε το μοντέλο της Αθήνας του 1842 - να βλέπεις πως άλλαξε από τότε μέχρι σήμερα αυτή η πόλη, και ταυτόχρονα να δεις κάτι σημεία αναφοράς που μείνανε. Ο εθνικός κήπος τότε: ένα τετράγωνο πράσινο μέσα στα χωράφια, έξω από την πόλη. Εξαιρετικό.

Είδαμε και τον λόρδο Βύρων σε φιγούρα πορσελάνης, λες και κάνανε "action figures" της ελληνικής επανάστασης (τον είχαν και σε φώτο, σχέδια, πήνακες). Μετά, το τάβλι αυτό το όποιο μας έχουν πει από το μουσείο ότι ήτανε του Όθωνα (κλικ στην μικρή εικόνα για την επίσημη σελίδα του μουσείο).

Posted by betabug at 12:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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