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12 Αθήνα - Αττική Athens - Attica 13

Journey to the Everlasting Destination

Ταξίδι στον αέναο προορισμό

long years under Roman, then Frankish and finally Ottoman occupation; ancient and contemporary civil wars; followed by the Balkan and World Wars.

On September 18th 1834, Athens became the capital city of the modern Greek state and despite any difficulties, turned into a beautiful city with picturesque neighbourhoods and impressive neoclassical houses preserved to this day with their front yards and balconies full of flowers.

Post-war Athens turns to more contemporary trends and mimics the architecture and aesthetics of the big Western metropolis. Thousands of big blocks of flats appeared to house people from the province at first, and foreigners later on, who rushed in pursuit of fortune and a modern life style. The city limits expanded quickly to all directions, covering areas of what used to be country side. Nowadays, within the city limits, one can witness the paradox of ancient, Byzantine, neoclassical, modern, futuristic, urban and popular, rich and poor, coexisting in a unique, beautiful manner!

Athens of today is a lively modern city which has everything there is to offer. On the occasion of the 2004 homecoming Olympic Games, the city underwent an extensive renovation and modernization in order to host the event. The construction of new infrastructure such as the International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”, the Metro, the new Acropolis Museum to name but a few of the recently completed works, help the city adapt to the needs of modern everyday life while combining the old style with the new. Also Attiki Odos motorway and the big avenues as well as the Suburban railway aim to improve everyday life in the city by connecting the city centre with the outskirts and suburbs. Renovation was mandatory for every hotel as well as many other buildings in Athens.

Modern shopping and sports centres were built to increase the visitors’ options. Also, the port of Piraeus has been reorganized, facilitating the transportation of passengers and cruise ships, while the rest of the ports of Attica, Rafina and Lavrion improve intensively their services day after day. At the same time, there are many places of cultural interest - shelters of Arts and Literature, some older, some new - but all dedicated in serving high quality cultural standards, while protecting the old heritage and promoting every important effort coming from intellectual people, artists and scientists.

I nexhaustible …!

Visitors share special moments of the city life with the people of Athens. They may enjoy together the view from one of the many high places, admire the eternal monuments that are scattered everywhere, or they can just take a walk around a quiet neoclassic neighbourhood. Sometimes they walk side by side in archaeological sites or around the narrow streets of the old town; they search the libraries, the museums and houses of Art or attend some play or musical performance in magnificent ancient and modern theatres. There are times they enjoy a hearty meal at a small family tavern or modern stylish restaurant or they simply follow the young ones - who really know how to enjoy themselves - to go clubbing or dancing to “bouzouki” until the early morning hours!

The historical and commercial city centre is the biggest attraction for thousands of tourists who visit the Greek capital each year. The area is well organized and there are no cars allowed. Anyone, from every part of the city may catch a tram, the Metro, a bus, any other transportation or a taxi and get off at Syntagma square, Monastiraki or the Acropolis metro station.

From this point on, everything comes easy: only a few yards away there is the new Acropolis Museum, the ancient theatre of Dionysus, and a little further The Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the way to Acropolis itself! Nearby there is the Ancient Agora of Athens with the impressive Stoa of Attalus and the Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaisteion) at the northern side of the Acropolis. There, around the holy rock of the Acropolis, extends the old town of Athens with cozy old quarters like Plaka, Anafiotika and Monastiraki. These are the busiest spots any time of year.

Even in the heart of winter the tables at the pavement of Adrianou Street are full of people! Then, there is the flea market, “Yousourum” and the Abyssinia Square where there are many antique shops and old second hand book shops; cheap clothing and souvenirs. The new fashion way demands “day time” and

“nocturnal” visits to Thissio and the area of Psiri, until the early morning hours of the next day, since there are gathered many restaurants, bars and night clubs of all kinds! All these sites are in a very short distance from each other; so are the nearby hills, the Panathenaic Stadium and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, allowing the visitor to see the most important monuments of Athens within a few hours. It is also possible to combine sight seeing with shopping just to make your day simply unforgettable. Especially when it comes to shopping, dinner and having fun, Athens has plenty of suggestions …

The city’s central shopping area starts in front of the Greek Parliament at Syntagma Square and the nearby streets: Ermou, Stadiou, Panepistimiou, Voukourestiou; it includes all the narrow streets connecting the main streets and ends up at Omonia Square. There, you can find the best Greek and foreign designer clothes, jewelry, leather goods and many other goods. A walk around the shopping centre of Athens offers fantastic shopping experience! The same goes for Kolonaki, an old aristocratic part of the city, next to Syntagma Square, with its splendor and exquisite trendy clothing suggestions. There are also numerous shops in every part of the city, selling hand made jewelry and trinkets, books, flowers, decorative material e.t.c. as long as one knows where and how to look for them. When it is time to stop for a cup of coffee or a refreshment, for a meal or just to catch one’s breath, there will always be a stylish little bistro nearby.

In case your taste is for something completely different… 30’away, Athens beaches are there for a swim and a drink of ouzo… There are also many archeological sites, parks, vineyards and farms on the outskirts of Athens for you to visit. Within a couple of hours’ drive there are the mountain or sea side resorts of Attica and Saronicos Bay, ideal for one-day excursions, a quiet weekend or summer vacation with your family. For those of you who love sports and action, you may take part in excursions, sports competitions or “alternative” escapes with a group, sailing, diving and climbing, or you can even join speleological expeditions that really worth your while.

If you‘re a fan of sports like riding, tennis, golf and sea sports… there’s no problem! You may even go skiing or rafting if you wish! The mountains outside Attica are within a few hours’ drive. Outside the city limits lies the rest of Attica, with its own people and character, which attracts many of the city people who choose to live in the country and work in the city. The whole of Attica is a lively and interesting place that is certainly worth visiting.

In the following pages we will try to show you everything we talked about so far. It’s going to be a short “visit” compared to all the important, magnificent and wonderful places we know are there for you to see, or discover by yourselves. We chose an entirely realistic route and avoided any “improvements” by the photographic lens.

Our goal is to let you have a quick glance at what we Athenians already know to be typical of Athens and Attica. The pictures are those of our everyday life which you will soon experience as soon as you visit us…

We wish you a pleasant “journey to Athens - Attica, the everlasting destination”!

E verlasting

Athena Pallas, divine symbol of wisdom, virtue and military discipline was born in full armor out of her father’s Zeus head with a spear in her hand. She and Poseidon, her uncle, commander of all waters, ended up claiming the same city which was to become the renowned city-state, cornerstone of Western Civilization and birthplace of Democracy. In a contest between them, Cecrops, the first native king of Athens, chose Athena as the city protector because her offering – an olive tree – was that of peace (symbol of fruit, oil and wood) while Poseidon offered a salty water spring. The city was named after Athena and this is how our tale begins…

Plato quotes ancient Egyptians who describe Athens being a powerful city since 9,600 B.C. Nobody can tell when exactly the city of Athens acquired its name or how long its history is. King Theseus united twelve of Attica’s settlements into one and established Athens as the capital city. He divided the population into three castes i.e. “Eupatrides” (nobles) the educated rich people; ”Geomorous” the farm and cattle owners and “Demiourgous” the craftsmen. With time, the city in connection with the port of Piraeus became a trade centre and gained in power and wealth. There the ancient Greek intellectual heart starts beating: Literature, Philosophy, Arts, Science and of course Democracy which marked the world history. During that Golden Age 400,000 Athenians sailed the Mediterranean with 470 triremes and ruled over 20 million of allies and subjects. Athens became the centre of SE Europe influencing the islands, the coasts of Asia Minor, Sicily, Magna Græcia, Provence and Spain.

Athens-Attica is strategically located right at the centre of the Greek and Mediterranean, region at merely 20m above sea level. The city lies protected in the “arms” of the surrounding mountains (Parnitha at 1.410m, Penteli at 1.108m, Hymettus at 1.072m, Aegaleo at 476m). Its position, wisely chosen from the start, ensured the well being and safety of its citizens, who in critical moments could flea southwards to the sea, with the islands of Argosaronicos bay being only 50 nautical miles away. With such a strong and safe home, the Athenians easily expanded and conquered the known world.

None of the essentials was ever missing from Athens or Attica. There could never be a more peaceful location, protected from strong winds, with the sun shinning brightly most of the time and a beneficial climate to people’s health, as this. Attica is surrounded by calm sea waters with quiet natural ports and shallow beaches which served as shipyards or naval bases during war time. The city hills (the Acropolis, Areios Pagos, Colonos Agoraios, Nymfon and Pnyka, Lycabettus, Filopappou, Ardittos, Sicelias, Strefi, Tourkovounia) were beneficial; each in a different way. Some bore beautiful forests, small rivers or lakes; others supplied the people with marble and mining products while others bore their crop. For centuries the greater Athens area had been supplied in abundance with drinking water, fresh green and dairy products, fish and sea food, wood, marble, silver, lead and clay, all of excellent quality, used by the people for their homes, temples, theaters, stadiums, war ships, statues, amphorae and everyday utensils.

Pausanias wrote that during the era of prosperity, on the pavements of Athens one could count more statues than people! The philosophers, orators and great masters, were teaching and discussing freely on the streets. At

the Agora, the Temples, the Gymnasiums, the Stadium, the Theatre or the Vouleuterion (House of Parliament) the city was pounding with intellectual and financial activity. Education was completed at 18 years of age and included -besides reading and writing- Mathematics, Poetry, Literature, Painting, Music, Dancing, Singing, Sports and Civics. For two more years, each youth had to study closely the rights and duties of citizenship. At the age of 20, they had to pledge allegiance to the city laws, respect for their ancestors’ values, bravery in battle and a life long dedication to the progress of Athens. Fully prepared and aware of their responsibility the youngsters could then vote on every city council issue. Many would choose to further their education next to a great master.

It is, therefore, not by sheer luck this city nursed great minds whose names marked permanently the world history; men who established the basic principles for today’s life and the natural world as we know it. They were philosophers, historians and orators like Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes, Antisthenis, Thucydides and Xenophon; artists, poets and playwrights like Praxiteles, Pheidias, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles; legislators, “fathers” of Democracy and army generals like Pericles, Solon, Cleisthenes, Aristides, Miltiades, Alcibiades or Themistocles.

The perfect intellect, the big ideas, the moral principals, the inventions, sciences, arts and philosophy of the Greeks had a deeply religious character and formed the guideline for global Knowledge. The construction of the Parthenon, for instance, which was meant to be the great temple-symbol of goddess Athena, was performed by the two renowned architects, Iktinos and Kallikrates. Allegedly the temple reached architectural perfection due to the ancient mystic knowledge and techniques employed by the two constructors.

Centuries later, during the Enlightenment, great minds in Europe and the most distinguished librarians and universities of the world discovered this precious for all mankind Athenian inheritance. For centuries, every important book in the world refers to what was either first conceived and formulated or invented by ancient Greeks and the Athenians. It is a remarkable fact that modern Greeks still use unchanged many of the ancient words Homer used in his poems in 800 B.C. and our children are still taught Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad like the children in ancient Athens. Scientific works and spiritual books like the Bible are either written in Greek or use Greek terms to express their meaning in full. All these facts make Greek a “living” language for all mankind. As a tribute, we use in this book a few international Greek words which begin with the letter A (e.g. Athens, Attica, Argosaronicos).

Many things have changed since then -in Greece and the rest of the world; however, we believe the soul of Athens and Greece remains the same, even when the times aim to diminish human values and the visions taught by the great masters and teachers of the past. Athens today, despite any contradictions and differences, still urges us to insist on being intellectual, sensible and …become artists of life itself!

R esilient

Many changes took place as Greece found itself successively and for many

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