March 24, 2013
The Hunt in Plaka
Today I woke up earlier than normal so that I wouldn’t waste my day by getting up when it was already half over. When I got up, my dad and I could hear the distant sounds of large masses of people. After a few minutes of complete confusion of what was going on, we remembered that tomorrow was Independence Day for the Greeks. And today, the local schools celebrated with parades and activities. There is an elementary school about two blocks from our apartment and we could hear their festivities all day.
All the shops and markets were closed, as they usually are on Sundays, but they were also closed for the day before Independence Day. There was nothing in our neighborhood of Kolonaki to do or see, so we decided to walk down to the area around the Agora, the neighborhood of Plaka, and search for a few landmarks for possible class trips. We were looking for the Jewish Martyrs Square and a nearby playground, commemorating the death of 13,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust.
As we got closer and closer to Plaka, we realized there were so many more people, especially tourists, than we expected. The streets were crowded and bustling. Compared to the week before in Plaka, the amount of tourists had not doubled, not tripled, but was about four times as many. They packed the cobblestone streets and the many tables at the roadside cafes and tavernas. It was quite off putting after weeks of hearing mostly Greek to be bombarded with many languages, the most prominent being English. It was almost a relief to hear our own tongue; yet if felt strange to my ears, like it didn’t belong.
We walked around for quite a while, a few hours at least – looking for the two landmarks in the seas of people. We were completely unsuccessful at finding either place. The first one, the Jewish Square, we thought would be easiest to find since it was at the cross roads of two main streets. But when we arrived at the intersection, it proved to be a lot more difficult than we imagined. There were many different park-like areas that could have been it, but there were no signs, even if there were, they would have been in Greek.
We gave up the mission to find the Jewish Martyrs Square and began looking for the children’s playground instead. We strolled up the winding street that runs all along the Agora, searching for the playground. Both sides of the street were filled with little vendors selling handmade jewelry and souvenirs. We finally found a playground, tucked in next to the back entrance to the Agora. It was tiny and rundown, but full of smiling Greek children and their happy parents. There were a few signs erected near the path into the playground; unluckily, they were all in Greek.
After that, we gave up and headed home using the hidden pathway behind the Agora that runs along the bottom of the Acropolis. This time though, the “secret” road was quite busy and filled with locals and tourists using “our” shortcut. We came out of the path at the Roman Agora (a small grouping of ruins from the Roman Empire); there was a little taverna, called Taverna Acropolis, right there. Since we were hungry from all the walking we decided to eat there. The view of the Acropolis and Roman Agora, from the restaurant, was spectacular! We ordered a few mezedes (appetizers), tzatziki (cucumber yogurt dip), zucchini balls, and gigantes, (giant white beans in tomato sauce). The food was adequate, but not great, except the tzatziki – that was delicious! The yogurt was thick and creamy; the cucumber sweet and crunchy, and there was just a tiny hint of spicy garlic. It was the perfect combination of flavors.
When we arrived back at our apartment in the late afternoon, our attention turned to siesta (nap) time. We were extremely exhausted from our long walk. We both took long restful naps. It was wonderful! After we woke up, it was time to work on school things. For the next day’s class I had to read a few short stories, and some chapters from the book, Twice a Stranger. The book is about the Greco-Turk population exchange, in the early 20th century. It is filled with historical facts and information; but it is also full of personal accounts and photographs of the mass expulsions. My dad and I settled into a night of relaxation and reading, the best kind of evening, in my opinion.