Kolkata – A Walker’s View

After exploring Kolkata like a tourist, it was time to look a bit closer, get on my feet and see what the locals were busy with! So I booked a walking tour with a guide that promised a peek into the multi-cultural kaleidoscope of the city. Even though it was super early in the morning (6 AM), I found two enthusiasts to come with me – A and B (a coincidence with the names that I just realized)!

The Early Morning Birds (Pigeons, who else)

So, off we started from the part of Kolkata which had a Buddhist monastery. It was tranquil and had an early morning worshiper.

The Morning with the Buddha

Moved on from there to the next part which has a big part of the Christian populace of Kolkata.

Mother doesn’t need a huge Cathedral, she lives where the children are

Then we moved forward towards the place of worship that doesn’t have any religion – a place to get tea and fresh bread!

The Tea Ceremony (Indian style)
The Fresh Rotis (Indian Bread)

We had a few things there and then moved further.

Came across Ahura Mazda, far away from Persia, there in the Zoroastrian temple Kolkata! I only knew of the Parsis living in Mumbai. So it was a pleasant surprise to find out that a few lived in Kolkata too!

Ahura Mazda

Then we moved on towards China Town – probably the only place in India where we have one! The people here are descendants of the Chinese people who came here for trade in the 19th century and decided to settle here. Thus, came by the amalgamation of the Indian and Chinese cultures. Today we have a big cuisine that is loved across the length and breadth of India – the Indo-Chinese which you would find all over the country, that surely tastes very different from the original Chinese – but of course, we Indians call it “Chinese” :-).

The Chess Players in China Town

We saw some churches from the British times, from far away but the time for visiting them was already over, our tour having extended beyond the scheduled time. So finally, we ended it at a beautiful synagogue. There are probably 5 synagogues in Kolkata, but only 20 Jewish people! There were around 5000 of them before 1947 but then they left for Israel when it was formed. Today this synagogue is maintained by a Muslim family. We went inside this one, while having seen two others from outside.

The Maghen David Synagogue

And thus came an end to our walk which started when the city was just waking up and ended when the complete hustle and bustle had set in for the day! A few other pics that I took on the way, without which the story won’t be complete:

The Transaction
The Rickshaw Puller
The Bidi (Indian rustic cigarette) roller
The Goats ready to be milked, being taken to the milk buyer’s home!

With that I would end this post. Hope you enjoyed my walk through Kolkata through my pics as much as I did taking them!

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Kolkata – A Tourist’s View

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I have no idea why the city is known as the “City of Joy” (I haven’t read the book) and nobody cared to explain that to me either. But it is definitely a city of many colors. The people are lovely, the places are with so much history steeped into them and of course, it has its own cuisine!

I grew up reading books and stories from so many Bengali authors and Kolkata was often mentioned in them. I’d seen it in films and a few tv series. But I didn’t know when I would be visiting this city. My parents had gone there a long time ago and besides the details of Kolkata, one other thing I remember of that trip of theirs is the huge Tsunami that ravaged Orissa as they were on their way to Puri and due to complete failure of communication and transport, I couldn’t get in touch with them for around 2 days which was quite scary! Thankfully they came back home safely. Then I’ve had friends from Kolkata whom I used to implore to bring me interesting things from Kolkata. So all in all, even though I had never been there, it felt like a familiar city.

Coming back to the present. Last year when two of my friends D and S decided to get married in Kolkata in January this year and graciously invited me too, I decided to take this opportunity even though I had originally planned to come home sometime around Holi. And surprise surprise, I didn’t feel like a stranger there! So my feeling about knowing the city wasn’t wrong. What I didn’t know was the erstwhile divided portions of the city from the British times. As it so happened, during the British Raj, Kolkata was the capital city for some time. But of course, the ruling class usually doesn’t mingle with the ruled, hence the city was divided into White Town (for themselves) and Black Town (for the natives). The White town is centered around what is called Dalhousie Square. And during the city walk, I got to know that as people from other places like China etc. came for trading, they wanted to be closer to where the trade opportunity was – the White Town, but they weren’t allowed to settle there, they squeezed themselves between the White and Black towns. Today probably Kolkata is the only city in India with a China Town, with a daily newspaper in Chinese!

So first let me tell you about the wedding – the reason why I was there in the first place. It was a beautiful wedding with all the Bengali Hindu rituals. I’ve been to so many Indian weddings in my life but never had I seen a whole set of musicians sitting beside the stage where the rituals were being held, playing beautiful music to accompany the Vedic mantras being recited by the priest. Since many of us were friends of both the bride and the groom, I missed the customary banter of bride side and groom side that is an integral part of Indian weddings ;). And I’ve written this last bit because finding flaw in the minutest of things, in the wedding function despite the best made arrangements, is the task of the wedding guests (tic).  

Thankfully, the wedding ceremony was over in a reasonable time, unlike the weddings where the “muhurt” (auspicious time) for the ceremony is somewhere between midnight and early morning. This made it easy to get back to the guest house in time to catch up on some sleep. 

The next morning I was ready to see the city of Kolkata with three other enthusiasts. I’d booked a full day taxi. Without having a fixed plan, we just decided to immerse ourselves in the sights, sounds, smells of the city as it came. The driver was good and kept explaining what we were seeing on the way, which I dutifully translated for my friends. I don’t know if it’s always like that there but it was quite hazy. I think it was dust and exhaust fumes mingled together, making it very difficult to see the actual colors of the buildings! It’s sad that we have so much pollution in our cities, and we just learn to live with it.

The first stop was – surprise surprise – New Market, which is actually the oldest market of Kolkata.

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Municipal Office somewhere near the New Market

Talk about names that are opposite of the characteristic of the named! We had stopped there as two friends wanted to exchange some currency. There we were swarmed upon by the hawkers who wanted us to come to their shops for buying stuff. It’s quite funny, although was irritating at that time, that people just assumed I was some kind of tour guide, being the one Indian with 3 foreigners. So they kept imploring me to bring the foreigners to their shops, to which I had to keep saying “later later”. Before we could get the money exchanged, the eyes of one of the friends K, were caught by the sight of some lovely Indian kurta pyjamas and she wanted to try the outfits. I went and exchanged the currency while she found what she liked. We returned to the taxi but then we felt we needed the loo. This was then again an exercise, as anybody who knows India would know that unfortunately finding a clean toilet is the toughest thing to do in an Indian bazaar, unless you’re in a modern shopping mall! So, there we were, trying to find the toilets asking people where it was. Couldn’t find. So we were guided by a man through a maze, who decided to help us in the anticipation that we would buy something from the shop where he worked. Once relieved, we returned with that guy and then one of our group members, A, found a nice silk stole in his shop which she was looking for to wear with her outfit for the wedding reception the next day. As for me, well, I found and purchased a few things that Kolkata is quite famous for – choorans – which are very delicious sweet/sour digestives made with some spices. I am crazy about those and although one must take them sparingly, I just cannot stop at one! 

Then we moved on to be at the most famous icon of Kolkata – the Victoria Memorial. 

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Victoria Memorial

It is a beautiful ornate building made of marble, in memory of Queen Victoria upon her death in 1901. Since Kolkata was the capital of the British empire in India, it made sense to the viceroy to make the memorial there. However, during the long period of construction, the capital was moved to New Delhi in 1912, making Kolkata just a province. Nonetheless, the memorial was completed and opened to public in 1921. It is an impressive piece of architecture, befitting a monarch whose empire extended far and beyond her country, what one can call a small island in Europe. Today the memorial is home to a museum as well. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the museum, it being a Monday. So we just strolled through the beautiful gardens, which were in full bloom in end of January, with brightly colored chrysanthemums, dahlias and some others!

Then we moved on from there and as it was lunchtime, we asked the driver to take us to a South Indian restaurant. He brought us through the old British part of the city which had very impressive buildings from the 19th century, still being used today as government offices.

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A Victorian Era Building

After a nice lunch and having rested our feet, we were ready to go see some more of the city. We went towards the Howrah Bridge, which is a huge cantilever bridge on the river Hooghly and is an icon of Kolkata. Official name since 1965 is Rabindra Setu but hardly anyone uses that name.

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On the Howrah Bridge

Crossing that, we found ourselves around Howrah Junction, which is the largest railway complex in India. But we didn’t stop there and moved on towards the other bridge on the Hooghly river called, guess what, Hooghly Bridge!

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Kolkata Skyline from the other side of Hooghly River

The next stop was the Prinsep Ghat, which is one of the beautiful ghats of Kolkata where one can get down to the river, take a boat ride or just stroll on a nice promenade lined with trees and food stalls.

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Sunset at Prinsep Ghat

It was just so relaxing to be there till the time a blaring Party Boat appeared on the river! We watched the sun going behind the clouds and went further.

We hadn’t seen even one temple thus far, and my friends wanted to see one. I didn’t want to go to a crowded one, so we went to the Birla temple. It’s a beautiful, relatively new temple (opened in 1996, after a 20 year long construction).

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Birla Temple

An industrialist family – the Birlas – have commissioned several such temples in India. I liked the quiet ambiance there which is what I look for in a place of worship. But we didn’t have too much time as we were supposed to leave the taxi soon. So we proceeded and got a drop  at the mall where we wanted to get a few things. Shopped, ate a bit and then went back to our guesthouse, thus concluding our first excursion of the city of Kolkata..

Stay tuned..more to come 🙂

Inspiration (or rather the lack of it)

Off late, it’s become quite a mundane existence for me. I do collect lots of things but then don’t do anything with them – art supplies, craft stuff, kitchen appliances, exercise things, photography stuff, subscriptions to lessons, learning urls, pins on pinterest, to name a few. It’s as if there is no desire to create anything because of the feeling of the futility of it all. And I don’t know how to get out of it or whether there is even a need to do that. Is it the classic midlife crisis or is it do with the fact that I’ve had to make so many trips to the docs last year to figure out the cause for my food sensitivities (without success) ?

May be getting to see the sun again, would reset my batteries. I didn’t want to put this out as the entry on the topic of Inspiration but I find the pic above (the napping bird at a zoo) so hilarious that I just thought of sharing it nonetheless even if at the moment it is used to depict the lack of inspiration.

The State of Nothingness

Found this “last edited in 2012” post that’s been lying in the drafts folder. It’s 2019 now and yet, I still have the same questions, after having experimented a bit in the meantime, with free as well as paid courses.
Meditating  – what an interesting exercise. The instructions say to block all thoughts from entering your mind. Now is that even possible? It feels like an eternity when you close your eyes and try stopping any thoughts that flow like the winds blowing in an open field. Some people have claimed that they’ve been able to hold their thoughts for up to 2 minutes – and I wonder how did they know that it was for 2 minutes unless they were thinking about time all the while.
                  But one could wonder if it would be meditation if one was thinking about meditation itself? I guess not. Why is it so difficult to hold the thoughts? I read somewhere that even while sleeping there are thoughts. I’m not sure of that because I’ve never been able to recall any after having woken up. What I am sure of is that it would be a really interesting state – that of having no thoughts! Though there are lots of self-proclaimed teachers of meditation but I wonder if anyone can really be taught.
                 Since meditation is supposed to make you reach the state of nothingness, does it imply that without thoughts, there is nothing in this world? Then Rene Descartes’ proclamation “Cogito ergo sum”, which means “I think, therefore I am” makes sense to me. And if that’s the case, why would one want to reach that state of nothingness when the self is lost? May be it’s an experiment which one needs to do for himself/herself and based on the outcome, one can decide which state one wants to be in. But to decide, the prerequisite is the successful completion of the experiment!

The Best of Athens

First of all a very Happy New Year to us. Hope that it brings beautiful times and fulfillment of our wishes, while we take another trip around the sun!

It’s been almost two months since my visit to Athens but I can still not stop thinking about it. Despite having lost a lot of my photos (don’t worry, the tears have dried now – mostly), I still have a stash that I can look at and re-live the moments when I exclaimed, chuckled or simply just stood lost in time. Enjoy the photos.

An ancient kid’s potty, along with the instruction manual!
The Lucky Pigeons who get to eat Olives!
Interesting Mannequin..is it supposed to entice you to buy stuff?
So, this moment and village is super important as that’s giving me the visa-free chance to see Europe!
Pillars of the Temple of Zeuss, with Acropolis in the distance on the hill; how magnificent it’d have been in its time!
Exploring the Aegean Sea, same as so many ancient sailors would’ve (but I had wifi aboard!)
And the beautiful sunset over the Aegean Sea
The Real-life slo-mo movement of the Guard at the Parliament (Syntagma)!
A sign on the ground telling you to be aware of the pickpockets!
A museum about the school system in Greece! Took me back to my school days…oh the good ol’ days..

Beautiful Orange Trees laden with fruits throughout the city!

Voula

Before starting this post, I tried to search for some nice quote to put in but there were none that resonated with what I feel when I am near the sea. All I see is this vast expanse of blue/green/turquoise water and the equally sized sky on top. But then I am usually on land when I am watching this spectacle. And once in a blue moon, when I am in the boat, it’s just to go from one piece of land to another – may be for 2 hours, and that’s about it. And whenever I have done that, I haven’t found a big difference between being on a giant lake, in a river or at the sea. And that I think is probably because I have not had the view from the top that would show how small I am in comparison to the water body I am on. The only perspective I have is of me is in relation to everyone else around me. Therefore, I have absolutely no idea what all those quotes are talking about – ocean singing, quietness, beautiful thoughts yadi yadi yada. I mean the water is not even drinkable, for crying out loud, let alone all the sand that you bring back with you! But even then, whenever I’m in a place where there is a chance to go see the sea (funny), I go and do that. May be one day I will understand what exactly is everyone raving about by being at the sea. Alright, alright – it’s not that bad. All I am trying to say is – probably I feel the same beside a river as beside the sea.

So, on the second day of being in Athens, I looked up at a pamphlet/map at the apartment. I found that there was an organized boat trip to three small islands. So I kind of ran to the meeting point in Syntagma Square hoping to find a spot even if I hadn’t pre-booked anything. If not, then at least to get a place for the next day. As per the pamphlet, a red bus was supposed to pick up the passengers to take them to the port. 5 minutes, 10 minutes past the meeting time and no sign of that red bus. Then I asked the friendly looking kiosk owner again (I’d asked him earlier if that was the meeting point). He speculated that probably the company wasn’t running the tour that day because the season was almost over and therefore, might not have had enough bookings. Yes, I know, I should have checked earlier. So – I decided to mail the tour company later and find out more. Long story short – it worked out, but two days later. The full story here. Now, what to do? It was only about 8:30 AM in the morning. I had two options – to hop on the metro and go to Piraeus (the port from where the ferries go to the islands) or take a tram (as mentioned on the map) going through the city and then alongside the coastline, to reach a beach town called Voula. How did I know about this second option? The nice hosts of the apartment that I’d renter, had told me about it while handing me the key. And it seems things have a way of working out in a certain way. One of the hosts had mentioned that after Saturday, the temperatures were predicted to drop. So if I wanted to go to the beach, I should do it by Saturday. And as you can see, despite my not really planning to do that, there I was – at Syntagma Square, on Saturday morning, looking for the tram number 5 to go to the beach!

I found the tram stop after some searching – it was right opposite to where the Parliament building ends and the National Garden begins. However, there was a notice stuck there which I didn’t completely understand until a friendly Athenian walked by. The notice said that people need to take the metro to a stop (Neos Kosmos)  and then take the tram from there because there was some construction going on the line from Syntagma till that other stop. So off I went to the Metro station. As far as I remember, that was my first Metro ride in Athens. Usually, I avoid the underground because then you don’t get to see the sun and the buzz of the city, but then sometimes, you find quite some interesting stuff underground – like in Athens. The Syntagma metro station is a mini museum! It  showcases several of the ancient artifacts unearthed during the digging for the construction of Athens Metro network. Same is true for a few other stations like the Acropolis and the Monastiraki.

Amphoras at the Mini museum at the Metro Station

Once at the Neos Kosmos, I saw a no. 5 standing right in front of me but I didn’t climb in because I had no idea which way it was going. Usually when I have the unlimited travel pass, I am quite careless and climb in onto the transport get down at the next stop after realizing that it’s going in the opposite direction. But that day, I didn’t. I waited (it was a boring wait) and then saw first a man running towards a tram coming from the opposite side and then saw the tram making a turn into a street perpendicular to the one I was standing in. So I also ran. And good that I did because that was the right direction! Boarded the tram and just observed people coming in and going out along the way. One woman, probably in her 50s, carried a folding chair and a kind of beach bag. Definitely a local. And I didn’t even have flip-flops! That’s when I realized that I was not really prepared for the day at the beach. But now I could not turn back. Some other passengers were probably going for work. A family of three was the one that was with me on the tram till the last stop. The mother kept her 3 or 4 year old busy with a notebook and a color pen during the long journey. I could have gotten down at so many places on the way, like the woman with the folding chair who got down at the first sight of the ocean. I guess I wanted to see where did it end. The tram went through Glyfada, a nice suburb which reminded me of a locality in Bangalore, which used to be the place to go when my friends and I wanted to be in a quiet posh part of the city with swanky (ya, expensive too) cafes, wide streets and lovely houses. I thought of getting down there on my way back to the city. After getting down at the last stop, there were two options – again! I could stay there or find a way to go to Sounion where there is a Temple of Poseidon. The family of three which got down there, seemed to be about to do that because we all walked onwards and they stopped at what looked like a bus stop. I think either I didn’t want to wait for the bus and be again on a long journey, while the sun was also quite bright or may be I was not thinking straight because the nearby beach was beckoning me. I don’t know what it was but I just decided to stay back and enjoy the scenery of where I was. In retrospect, I think I could have gone further but now that cannot be changed.

Coming back to the story. I got down to the rocks close to the water, which was quite close to the street, as compared to the other beaches I have been to, where I’ve had to walk quite some distance in the sand to reach the waters. There were a handful of other people, all most probably pensioners, at the beach with their chairs/umbrellas. The beach itself  was strewn with sun-bleached leaves of some kind (or may be sea weed). It was not with fine sand but wasn’t pebbly either. And then the water – that was just fabulous! I took off my shoes and socks (as you already know I wasn’t really prepared for the beach) and found a rock on which to sit and dip my feet in the water. It was so cool to the touch and gave a lovely contrast to the heat of the sun overhead, which was already strong although it was just a little before 10 AM. The time might explain the presence of only old people; the young ones were probably finishing their chores or working or may be just waking up after a Friday night party (like the one in some apartment in the complex I was staying, with upbeat piano music that sounded great but annoying if you want to go to sleep!)

The Clear Waters of the Aegean Sea

So there, I sat for some time but as you might know from my other posts, I am not one of those who can sit still, unless it is on the couch in front of TV when I completely lose track of time. So after a while, when I felt my head burning, I decided to get up and move further. I wanted to see what else was around. So jumped on a bus and it took me through the beautiful neighborhood. One very interesting thing I saw was colorful awnings on the balconies of all the apartments, which makes sense when it is as sunny as it was there. I wonder why we don’t have them in India where summers are quite brutal!I got down where I wanted to, walked around a bit, took a lot of pictures, found the bus again and thus, explored the area.

The Park at Voula with fishes on the Ground!
Some Pigeons enjoying the Beach

It was getting around noon and I thought of finding a restaurant. I thought of going back towards Glyfada where I’d seen some malls while on my way to Voula. Once there, I went to the malls but didn’t find anything good. Then I found a vegan restaurant called Yi. That was a really great find. It was a spacious place, with calm ambiance and beautiful decor and a nice host. That was so different from the restaurants in the city, alright from the restaurants I’d been to. The host confirmed my thoughts, when I asked if they had a branch in the city, that it would be difficult to find that big a space to create such a relaxing atmosphere within the city. I had a very nice lunch there, complete with a dessert, while the phone was also getting fueled up on the side. 

Relaxing at the restaurant away from the midday Sun

Then from there, I decided to return to the city for which I found the connections via bus and metro, with the help of the wifi at the restaurant. I could have taken the same tram no. 5 back that I came with, but then I would have seen the same sights again. The other way promised some more new things to see. You know that desire to absorb as much as possible of a place that you like?  Then you know what I was feeling like. It’s good to have those public transport passes!

The metro that I found brought me to the Acropolis station where I spent some time exploring the mini museum set up there, with the finds from the diggings there.

Went out, walked around a bit, before climbing onto the Areopagus hill, which was named as Mars hill by the Romans. I didn’t know the name then but just saw a lot of people over there and went. It’s funny that I learnt this from my Portugal trip that if you see the board indicating a “Miradouro” anywhere, don’t think but just go. “Miradouro” means “Viewing Point”. There was no board It was a lovely view of the city as well as the Acropolis from there. The hill had several purposes during the Greek and the Roman times but it is most famous for the speech of Apostle Paul. As it so happened, the Greeks worshipped 12 Olympians but they also had a 13th deity they called “Agnostos Theos” – the Unknown God. Apostle Paul cleverly placed the God mentioned in Christianity as this 13th deity!

The Panorama from the Mars Hill

 After getting down from there, I went around in the search of Anafiotika neighborhood which was supposedly below the Acropolis. May be I found it may be I didn’t. I tried it once again on my last day of the trip in Athens, you can read about that here. But found myself in the market (Ermou street?) and got pulled into the shop of a friendly shopkeeper to buy some souvenirs when they used some Hindi words to get my attention (“chalo chalo” and “namaste”). The octogenarian granny at the door shook my hands warmly while the grand-kids showed me the wares. I bought a few things and then was on my way. The market was all beautifully lit up by then, as was the Acropolis. Sat around the Monastriaki square for some time, got something to eat at a nice vegan restaurant close-by and called it a day.

P.S. Unfortunately, I have lost a lot of my photos while transferring them to the laptop, so I am a bit sad. I can just hope that I my memory is serving me right and I am recalling the events correctly. Moral of the story – 1. At least outline the events of the day on the same evening, if completing the full post is not possible and 2. Upload the photos to an online service for safekeeping in parallel!

The Hills, Bombardier Saint, Prison, Theater, An Unusual Museum, and a Well-deserved Ouzo

Continuing from the previous post, when I had just reached the other end of the pedestrian street I was walking on, from where I could either go to the Philopappos Hill (Hills of Muses, Pnyx, Nymphs) or towards the Acropolis. I am actually wondering now how did I end up there – was that street parallel to the street leading to the Philopappos Hill? Must be so because otherwise I cannot explain it. During the walking tour on the first day, we were both that pedestrian street and the Philopappos Hill but I cannot recall where we took the detour that day.

Once there, I was torn between going towards the Acropolis which was gleaming in the Sun and towards the Hill. Why did I want to go back to the hill? I wanted to see this church that I had seen during the walk but hadn’t gone in to see how it looks from inside. The church of “Bombardier” Saint Demetrios. Cool – a bombardier saint – huh!

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Church of Agio Demetrios Loubardiaris

So the story goes that sometime during the Ottoman rule of Athens in the 1600’s, on 25th of October – St. Demetrios day, a Turk officer thought of destroying the church by firing a cannon from his post at the Acropolis. But surprise surprise, before the cannon could be fired, a thunderstorm broke out and the cannon exploded at the Acropolis itself and destroyed the artillery and probably the officer too and the church and the worshippers were saved! Since then, as would be the natural consequence, the church got the nickname of “Loubardiaris” – Bombardier. (Unfortunately parts of Acropolis also got destroyed in that explosion but that’s not the point here). As my luck had been that day – this church was also closed when I reached there – so I couldn’t see it from inside.

But you know, I found another cool place close to this church – the place famous today as the Prison of Socrates. There are other caves around with the same claim but I saw the board with the name at this place. If you don’t know the story of Socrates, here it is. Socrates’ philosophical ideas didn’t sit well with some of the influential people of Athens. So they put him on trial for misleading the youth of Athens and sentenced him to death. This cave is believed to be where he was imprisoned.

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Prison of Socrates

Later when I was strolling in the shopping area and chatted up with one shopkeeper, we concluded that we have come 180 degrees from the times of Socrates. Why? Well, in Socrates’ time, 399 BC, it seems it was not right to execute someone but committing suicide was fine (Socrates had to consume poison – carry out the sentence himself). And today – executing someone is fine but trying to commit suicide is punishable by law! Sounds so ironic. Also interesting is the fact that even after more than 2000 years, you can get killed for having a different philosophy than that of others around you, however logical your philosophy might be!

Then I returned back towards that junction that I mentioned earlier. This time, it was to move on towards the Acropolis. What I was looking for, was the Theater of Dionysus, presumably world’s first theater, built in the 5th century BC, with a capacity to hold 17000 people! I had glimpsed it while I was on the Acropolis a few days ago, and clicking pictures of the sights down from there. But on this day when I was searching for it, I just couldn’t find it. Google maps was making me go in circles. I rather reached the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and may be because I was tired, one part of my brain convinced the other curious part, that the same place must be having two names! I assumed that the place I had photographed from the Acropolis, was some other site! Anyway, so this Odeon was built in 161 AD and had a capacity to seat 5000 people. The Odeon has seen concerts from a lot of celebrities since after the renovation of 1950’s, most notably Yanni due to which people still call it Yanni’s theater! Interesting to note is that in India, in the city I grew up, there used to be a cinema hall with the name of Odeon. I didn’t know back then that the word had Greek origin and one day I would be seeing a real Odeon!

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Odeon of Herodes Atticus

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Inside the Odeon as the Sun is receding

After sitting there for a bit and imagining the concerts that would have enthralled the audience in the old days and the new, and getting a bit sad that I had to leave this lovely city the next day, I gave out a sigh and decided to move on and make the most of the last day of my trip there. I went in search of Anafiotika – a neighborhood on the foot of the Acropolis, that has houses like those on a Greek island, in the middle of the city! It was setup by the people who had come to Athens from Anafi, an island, hence the name Anafiotika, “little Anafi”. I had tried to find that on another day too but didn’t find the whitewashed houses that I’d seen in the photos. This time, I looked at the maps and decided to follow the path to Anafiotika cafe, assuming that would definitely lead me to the right place. I was taken through the same staircases as the previous time (google maps) and so once again, no sign of those whitewashed houses. I believe I was close by but may be like in the Harry Potter world, the houses had a charm on them that made them invisible to me! It was still nice to see the cafes on the staircases doing brisk business, with patrons enjoying the outdoors while it is still comfortable to stay out (although I guess in Athens, there would never be a time when people won’t be sitting outside!).

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Cafe in probably Anafiotika neighborhood

And while I was making my way down from there, I found a red train make its way on the street! It had lots of kids inside, probably a school picnic. Some kids waved at me, so I waved back. Some naughty ones in the last car made faces at me, so I….no, I didn’t make faces back at them.

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A train coming out on the street!

Then as I made my way down, I looked at the maps again and found that I was close to one place I had heard about the previous day during the boat tour from co-travelers. So I made my way to that but in between something else caught my eye. It was a museum but not just any museum. It was the Museum of School Life and Education! Ever heard of something like that? I hadn’t. I went into the door briefly, found a courtyard, took a few pictures and came out. But then the curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go inside and find out more. It was around 4:45 PM and it was to be open until 6:00. So I bought the ticket and proceeded to learn more about the school life and education in Greece from the 17th century onward. I think I’ll write another post to detail that out, to do justice to it, just like I have to write a complete post about the Acropolis, about the Laiki Agora (farmer’s market), about another museum, about so many things!

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A model classroom in the museum

Once done from there, I was quite nostalgic – about my own school days when there used to be chalk and duster in the classrooms and even though I liked school, the sound of the  bell signaling the end of the class was always welcome!

Then I moved on to the place which I was on my way for 40 minutes earlier – a pub called Brettos. It is the oldest or one of the oldest distilleries in Athens. It’s there since 1909! Today the distillery has moved away from here but still, they make their own liqueurs. The colorful bottles on the walls gave it a different charm. It was just nice to be there and to slowly enjoy an ouzo.

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Brettos

After that I spent a lot of time in shopping nearby (only small things that I could take with me in the hand luggage although I wanted to buy soooooooooo many things!) and then decided to call it a day. What did I have for dinner? Ah yes, it was vegetable rice noodles with Satay sauce from a wok place on the way. Last time I was there, it was packed as if things were being given for free! This evening it was much better. I ordered, received my takeaway within minutes and I was on my way. For one last time in the trip, I boarded the bus which I had taken back to the apartment a couple of times in the previous days. And then once back, I enjoyed my dinner with my feet up and watching some television (English channels!). The packing could wait..

“One thing I know is that I know nothing.” – Socrates