A recent news report says that Athens is the most "flirtatious" city in the world.
Athens was close to a "lifeless" city the day we landed there. A sunday. Mid morning already ,when we arrived. But not a soul in sight ! Gleaming buildings, well swept pavements, broad roads , parked cars. A couple of fully shuttered vans gliding soundlessly by. Not a single sign of any life anywhere ! It was almost eerie.
The cabbie just shrugged at our surprise. " Sunday!" he declared, as though that explained everything.
We saw a handful of Athenians out and about on the street only after noon. And no, I dont remember anyone being anything close to friendly, let alone flirtatious !!!
THE ACROPOLIS dominates Athens. It is also called the Sacred Rock as it was the location of many Greek Mythological episodes. And people, since ancient times, have been visiting Athens mainly to see and experience The Acropolis. And like most pilgrimages , it involves some huffing-puffing uphill trekking . And worth every huff and puff of it.
According to mythology, Athena and Poseidon had a contest to decide who would be the legandary city's patron divinity and Athena won - hence Nike (= Victorious) Hence, too, the name Athens. Further up is the main building, The PARTHENON, a widely recognised monument. Awesome .
Map of Acropolis
When we visited, some restoration work was going on, so there was a lot of scaffolding stuff and machines around most places. It sort of dulled the total impact. However, it was thrilling to see before one's eyes all those wonderful monuments long admired in picture books :
The Erectheum with the caryatids, The temple of Olympian Zeus, The Propylea, Temple of AthenaNike, Asclepieion, Theatre of Dionysus, The Odeon of Pericles etc.
Temple of Nike
The Museums are to die for ! The Acropolis Museum , The Benaki and the National Archeological museum contain vast quantities of antiquities which leaves one drop-jawed.
Ancient marbles displayed in the museum atop the Acropolis
The Ancient Agora, an open air museum is another wonderful place to soak in history.
It is situated in the north west slopes of the Acropolis and was the nerve centre of ancient Athens , a place for trading, theatre, sports , religious festivals, political debates and general elections. Though most buildings have colllapsed, some have been reassembled and renovated ( like the one above ) so that , as we walk about the well preserved avenues, we get a fair idea of what ancient Athens would have been like.
Athens is not all history. There are delightful neighbourhoods one can wander around to get the feel of contemporary greek life. : Omonia , Syntagma , Monastiraki, Plaka , Kerameikos are the places we went around. A monument called Adrians Gate ( built in 131 AD) stands in a busy intersection and is the official dividing point between the Old City and the New city. We passed by this Gate many times as we visited various attractions and always wondered how it is still standing tall and proud inspite of the maddening two way traffic roaring by almost 20 hours a day.
Omonoia Square is the oldest square and a modern agora that attracts gatherings of people for any occassion and no occassion !Grand Hotels, shopping arcades, cafes, fountains : it has them all. A place to "chill out" in. Full of life and gaiety. Unfortunately we also saw police hauling away the limp body of a young woman from one of the underground dens. "Drugs !" spat our taxi driver. Saddened to see a wasted life.
Syntagma Square, adjacent to the Parliament building, is the largest square and officially the City Center. It has a grand neoclassical look. We missed the change of guards parade, one of the major attractions here. But caught sight of a few in full regalia before the parade.
Plaka and Monastiraki, lying in the foothills of Acropolis are very scenic places with stylish cafes, flea bazars and souvenir shops.
Ofcourse we also visited the Olympic stadium .
A short drive away from the city in one of the suburbs is a sports museum which also has a Virtual Reality theatre. ( Virtual Reality was a new science at that time) Having seen an ad. for it in one of the guide books, we took a taxi to this lesser known museum and thoroughly enjoyed the interactive Virtual Reality experience. But getting back to the city proved to be a problem because no taxi in that neighbourhood went into city after 5pm ! After some high tension scrambling around, we found one who agreed to take us back to our hotel for twice the fare !
We did not taste much Greek food in Athens except some meze. Most of the time it was the familiar MacDonalds !