Piraeus Port – Athens, Greece

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The port of  Athens , Piraeus was the greatest port of the ancient world and remains one of the busiest in the Mediterranean. In a country that derives most of its livelihood from the sea, Piraeus is the true capital, while  Athens  is a sprawling suburb full of bureaucrats. Still, it’s hard to find much charm in the tall buildings and dusty streets, although Zea Marina and Mikrolimano with their yachts, brightly-lit tavernas and bars are a handsome sight.

Themistocles founded the port of Piraeus in the 5th century BC when Phaliron,  Athens ‘ ancient port, could no longer meet the growing needs of the  city . The Miletian geometer Hippodamos laid it out in a straight grid of streets that have hardly changed. The centre of action was always the huge central agora, where the world’s first commercial fairs and trade expositions were held. All religions were tolerated, and women were allowed, for the first time, to work outside the home.

As Piraeus was crucial to  Athens ‘ power, the conquering Spartans destroyed the Long Walls linking  city  and port in 404, at the end of the Peloponnesian War. After the 100-year Macedonian occupation and a period of peace, Sulla decimated the city to prevent any anti-Roman resistance, and for 1,900 years Piraeus dwindled away into an insignificant village with a population as low as 20, even losing its name to become Porto Leone. Since the selection of  Athens  as the capital of independent Greece, Piraeus has regained its former glory as the reigning port of a seagoing nation, but much of it dates from after 1941, when German bombers blew the port sky-high.

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Athens City Breaks Guide

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For more than 3500 years  Athens  has been attracting visitors. Rich in history and home to one of the most famous buildings of the world – the Parthenon, which represents the golden age of  Athens  urban planning, it is impossible to compete with the impressive architecture of the  city . Apart from being just a tourist spot,  Athens  is also home to more than half the population of Greece.  Athens   city  breaks will surely help you know about this extremely beautiful city.

You are sure to fall in love with the jumbled and elegant skyline of neoclassical facades, whitewashed sugar-cube houses, the Plaka quarter – a colorful mixture of flea markets and antique shops, markets that have stalls piled with huge tubs of olive, fresh fish and well stocked tables laid out of the pavement tavernas.

The acropolis is one of the places visited most by tourists. It provides the best of classical architecture that you can find anywhere else in the world. You find the slender ionic columns of the Temple of Athena and the six female caryatids of the Erechtheion included in the satellite buildings. Theater had a great role in ancient Greece. The Roman theater of Herodes Atticus still stages summer shows for theater enthusiasts. After having a cultural feast at the Acropolis, you can visit the Benaki Museum where you can kindle your curiosities, and the National Archaeological Museum will keep you occupied for days. If you are looking to take a break from the hustle of the Athenian life, a peaceful walk along the 40 acres of the National Gardens is the best.

It is believed that modern  Athens  was born in 1834 and restored as the capital of the newly independent Greece. After the second world war, a massive expansion took place that was funded by American money. The Mediterranean climate was responsible for the high temperatures in the city. Pollution and excess traffic were some of the problems that  Athens  began to face. Visitors and philosophers felt that the architectural excellence were overshadowed by the urbanization. However, more than 3 million people visit this city each year and have a quick look at their favorite places.

Apart from the celebrated classical sites, the city also boasts of Byzanthine, the medieval and ninth century monuments and some of the famous museums in the world. You will also appreciate some of the areas that are immersed in surprisingly natural beauty. Though there is heavy traffic, the village like qualities are very evident in their cafes, markets, tavernas, and in the maze streets surrounding Plaka.  Athens  is also known for its fine restaurants and colorful and varied night life. The port at Piraeus and the metropolitan area are economic powerhouse and industrial areas of Greece. The Olympics in 2004 brought in many new developments that included an airport, new sports venues, extension of the metro system, up-gradation of hotels and renovation of many top museums.

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Philadelphia- the New Athens

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A city not only known as the city of American freedom or the birthplace of America but also known for the revolutionary role it has played since centuries. Welcome to Philadelphia, a life-size city in Pennsylvania and the birthplace of America. Philadelphia is often referred as the New Athens, the name first suggested for the work done by the famous native of the city Benjamin Franklin. Rightly so as Benjamin Franklin was responsible for the country’s first insurance company, the city’s first public library and the first fire department; Franklin also played a great role in establishing the city’s Postal system as well as inventing new conveniences such as bifocal lenses and the Franklin stove.

Philadelphia or “Philly” best known for its role in the American Revolutionary War saw the convening of the Continental Congress as well as the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. Shortly after the nation’s inception took place in Philadelphia, it was named the nation’s capital between 1790 and 1800 before it was relocated to its present Washington D.C. Philly is now a big metropolitan which accommodates around 6.2 million inhabitants from almost all nationalities.

One of the unique factors about Philadelphia is that it is the most walkable city in the US and this factor is well used for the better part of it. Signs like “Walk! Philadelphia” well compliments the cities uniqueness and at the same time guide visitors toward shopping, dining, gallery perusing, cultural enjoyment, local must-sees and public transportation should it need to be taken. The city has two very walkable shopping districts as well as the walkable Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to many museums, including the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art that was made famous in the Rocky series of movies.

Its geographic location makes Philadelphia accessible by all modes of transport. The Philadelphia International airport is a busy one and you can find regular flights to almost all the locations. You can even enjoy the road trip to Philadelphia. Moreover as a visitor you can find hotels for every budget and if by any chance you are on a tight budget you can definitely find a suitable place in the Philadelphia districts. There is a place for every budget in Philadelphia. Some of the regular facilities offered by the hotels in Philadelphia include air conditioned rooms, car rentals, airport pick and drop facilities, swimming pools, health clubs, spas, restaurants etc. The city provides a unique nightlife to all and that definitely means that you can take a ballet in the nation’s oldest grand opera house as well as knock back a Pabst and a shot of swill for three bucks. In all Philadelphia makes a great city for all and if you haven’t taken a note of that you better mark it in your next holiday destination.

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Athens, A Trip To Antiquity

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Anyone who studies the classics or has a unique interest in history of philosophy should venture to the great metropolis of  Athens . The first step in planning such an adventure is obtaining a US passport. After that feat is accomplished then  Athens  is only a plane ride away.

Passports

Passports have been around for quite a while, they originated in France and then the US picked up on them. They became valid travel documents permitting travel to foreign lands. They are required today in order to travel to another country. They used to be somewhat difficult to obtain, now through technology and the internet they are readily available as well as ll the other passport services that may be needed.

 Athens 

 Athens  is named after the warrior Goddess Athena. She is the patron deity of this ancient thriving metropolis. Greek myths of the clash of the titans versus Olympic Gods have permeated literature and other aspects of world culture. There are very few people who are completely unfamiliar with any Greek myth. History books are full of ancient epic battles involving the Athenians and surrounding ancient peoples.

Sites

There are many sites to visit in  Athens , each rich with history and culture. The Parthenon is perhaps the most famous of the Athenian ruins. Its is the temple to Athena that stands on the top of the great hill, or Acropolis. There is also Syntagma Square, The National Archaeological Museum, and Mount Olympus. These are just a few of the many sites that  Athens  has to offer.

Parthenon

The Parthenon is one of the most famous sites of  Athens . It is atop the hill, Acropolis. This structure was built in honor of the great Goddess Athena who was the cities deity. The Parthenon has had many uses since it was temple to Athena. It has been a church, a Muslim mosque, and was even a munitions depot when the Turkish occupied Greece. Through all that it has remained almost in tact.

Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is the central of the  Athens  business district. Syntagma translated means constitution. So it is constitution square, where government buildings are and fountains and even Greek guards. Syntagma Square is where all major filming and photo shooting is done in Greece.

National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum is the countries largest museum. It was originally constructed to hold the excavated finds from the nineteenth century, but since then it has grown. It now holds over 11,000 exhibits from Ancient  Athens  and beyond. The items featured range from pre-historic collections to the Bronze Age and also feature items from Egypt as well.

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All About Athens

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 Athens  is the capital  city  of Greece. It is a modern, big  city  as the capitals of other European countries are, and more than a million people live in  Athens  and its suburbs. But  Athens  is also one of the most important  cities  of history. Thousands of years ago, when most of the men on earth were still ignorant savages, the learning and the science and the art of today had their start in  Athens . About five thousand years ago, men first built a  city  where  Athens  stands today. They built the city around a rocky hill about four hundred feet high.

On this hill they built walled-in fortifications called an acropolis, about which there is a separate article. The people lived around the hill and farmed the land. If an enemy attacked, they could all go to the Acropolis for safety. All cities in those ancient times passed under the rule of one king after another, fought and lost many wars, sometimes were conquered and ruled by neighbouring peoples, and sometimes conquered the neighbouring peoples and ruled them. For hundreds of years,  Athens  rose and fell in this way.

But about three thousand years ago-not long after the year 1000 B.C. – the people of  Athens  began to develop a civilisation greater than the world had known before. The first step toward this was the Greek language as the Athenians learned to use it. No other language then had the words needed to write great books of science as well as great poetry and other literature. The poetry of Homer, written in this language, is still as great as any that has ever been written. In the hundreds of years that followed, the drama was born in the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and others. Three of the greatest philosophers of all time, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, taught and wrote in this Greek language.

Laws written in this language, by the great statesman Solon and others, gave  Athens  one of the earliest democratic governments. The Greek language is still used by scholars throughout the world.  Athens  became a democracy in 508 B.C. The two hundred years that followed were the times of its greatest glory. During this period the sculptor Phidias and other Athenian sculptors built the magnificent buildings on the Acropolis and carved statues that are still models of beauty. The people elected their own leaders.  Athens  was a “ city-state ,” which means that it was a city but also an independent country. There were many slaves, however. In 338 B.C.,  Athens  was conquered by King Philip of Macedon, a neighbouring country in Greece. (Philip was the father of Alexander the Great, who conquered almost the entire civilised world.)

After it fell under the rule of Macedon,  Athens  did not become big and independent again for more than two thousand years. The Romans ruled it, then a series of conquerors until the Turks made it part of Turkey about four hundred years ago.  Athens  became just a small town. In the year 1834, the entire country of Greece became independent again and  Athens  was made the capital. It began to grow, and now is a great city again. It is the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church (also called the Orthodox Catholic Church), and the capital of the kingdom of Greece. About two thirds of all the manufacturing in Greece is done in and near  Athens . The remains of many of the great buildings of ancient  Athens , including the Acropolis, can still be seen there. During World War II, the Germans occupied Greece and captured  Athens , but it was not damaged.

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Cheap Flights to Athens

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A glorious and magical  city  worshipped by gods and humans alike,  Athens  happens to be one of the most famous vacation destinations in Europe. With the sun shining over the city all year through, the climate is one of the best in that part of the world, making it an ideal place for tourism. There are several cheap flights to  Athens  plying on a regular basis, board one and embark on a vacation of a lifetime. This enchanting birthplace for civilization is laden with breathtaking views. If it’s not the magnificent landscapes that inspire you, the ancient and contemporary architecture will.

The city with distinct aspects is at once appealing and exciting. A walk around the famous historic triangle of Plaka, Thission and Psyri overwhelms you, a stroll in the old neighborhoods reveal the coexistence of different eras, and the mansions of yore, some well-preserved and some worn out by time present a striking contrast to the modern. The Greek capital dates back to mythological times and as a result the place is dotted with stamps of antiquity all through its surface. The city that you see in its entire splendor is a consequence of several influences, including ancient and medieval Greek, Roman, Byzantine and the contemporary era. Do a wise thing, come to the Greek capital equipped with a rather long stay, reason? The historical attractions are one too many. Start your journey with the South Slope of Acropolis, go on to the ancient Agora, visit the temple of Olympeion Zeus, spent a few hours admiring the Hadrian’s Arch and Library, go atop the Hill of Areopagus, the Hill of Philopappou and that of the Nymphs, and see Kerameikos. Attractions like Lysicrates’ Monument, Panathenaic Stadium, Roman Agora, Temple of Hephaestus, and the Tower of the Winds is also not to be missed.

Museums and art galleries showcasing creative arts are omnipresent throughout  Athens  with some giving a great insight into Greek archeology, history, modern art, while others dedicated to ceramics, music, railway etc. One of the unique selling points of  Athens  as a tourist destination is its close proximity to the whitewashed Greek islands. Enjoy one-day getaways, charming villages, ancient historical cities and equally fascinating and picturesque countrysides, each one with a varied color, culture and character. If you happen to be visit  Athens  with family, fret not. The city presents myriad options for all of you to enjoy together. These include parks and gardens, National Zoo, planetariums, educating and entertaining cultural centers, go-karting areas, and amusement parks. Places to stay and crash in are as varied as the attractions of the city itself. You can opt to stay at a luxurious five-star hotel, book yourself a bed and breakfast, stay in a holiday home or an apartment, or check into a cheap hotel accommodation. Culinary delights and gourmet foods can be relished and savored at any of the several world-class restaurants, or try a meal at the local eating joint, which is equally scrumptious and satisfying. For a prefect start to your holidays in Europe, come to  Athens  first.

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Athens Holiday – The Greek Capital

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This metropolitan capital is also the largest and one of the oldest cities in Greece.  Athens  is rich with ancient history, myths and a contemporary touch of bars, café and restaurants.  Athens  is also the  city  of Olympics, architecture and holiday in  Athens  is nevertheless a complete adventure in itself, with  Athens  offering breathtaking archaeological rich places, beaches and crowded shopping areas.

Following are some of the tourist spots or attractions one must visit when holidaying in  Athens :

Acropolis

Acropolis is one of the major tourist spots as it stands high up on the hills, giving a spectacular view of the Greek capital. The structure is loaded with archaeological values and its origin goes back to 510 BC. The attraction is also worth paying a visit when holidaying in  Athens , due to the amazing temples surrounding it. Every year huge crowd of tourists and visitors come to acropolis when on a holiday in  Athens . Never miss acropolis when in  Athens .

Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

This tourist spot is a great way to enjoy holiday in  Athens  by viewing sunset, also you get to experience archaeological rich monuments surrounded with striking sea view. The place is a quite a hit among foreign tourist and local visitors.

National Archaeological Museum

This popular tourist spot was structured in year 1889 and is home to some of the most amazing ancient artifacts and proof of really old civilizations. The museum is loved by many who plan a holiday in  Athens  just for its history and archeological richness. The museum has mask of Agamemnon that goes 3,600 years back. Greek sculptures, Cycladic idols, pottery and ancient jewelry, coins as well as a 2000 years old finding of a computer.

The Plaka

Plaka is loved by tourist and visitors and is a major way to wind down when holidaying in  Athens  and experiencing the thick and thin of  Athens’s  archeology. This 19th century narrow streets going down the acropolis is filled with shops, cafes, boutiques and local building. This tourist spot is round the clock surrounded with tourist and local visitors. You can always found good souvenir to take back to your country from souvenir shops on Plaka.

Piraeus

This attraction is found at the suburbs of  Athens  and has tourist and local visitors of  Athens  all dinning at best and sophisticated dine outs, taverns and sea food restaurants. Piraeus is not exactly a part of  Athens , but can be reached by ferries and is worth paying a visit, when relishing an exotic holiday in  Athens .

Kessariani

Maintained and run by a group of monks, the monastery is a regularly visited by tourist holidaying in  Athens , due to its historic and amazing built and background. The building built in 11 century got its mosaics in 16th or 17th century. This orthodox monastery is surrounded with pleasing scenery, flourishing gardens and enjoyable views.

Time to visit or holiday in  Athens 

The best time to holiday in  Athens  would be anytime other than months of summers, which are hot and humid enough to make the holiday a disappointment. Thus, it is better to visit  Athens , for that fun and enjoyment, in the months of March and October. Spring and autumn is always good time to tour  Athens .

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Athens – A Gourmet Delight

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If you want to experience Greece, then Athens is the city for you. Imagine going to the Parthenon on top of Acropolis Hill to enjoy the breathtaking view. Acropolis is known to be the Sacred Rock. It is situated on top of 512-foot limestone rock. Acropolis was originally built in 1500 BC.

Erechtheum is another impressive sightseeing spot. It is a temple that is built to honor Greek gods: Athena and Poseidon. The Propylea is a huge ancient gateway. It is situated right next to the Temple of Athena Nyke or Wingless Victory.

At night, you can find astounding sound and light show in the Acropolis. This show is held every night in English, and it is performed every night, except on the full moon night. The show lasts for around 30 minutes.

After the show, you can walk to the Plaka which is full of cafes and restaurants. Even if you don’t speak Greek, there is no need to worry. Most waiters can speak and cater English speaking customer. The food here is delicious and inexpensive.

In the afternoon, if you don’t have too much time for all of the sightseeing in Athens, you can stop at the souvlaki shop for gyros and authentic Greek salad. In case, you want to eat on the go, you can buy cheese pie, spinal pie, Piroski bread from the street vendors.

Syntagma Square is another area that is known for great foods. There are many great cafes in this area. Metax is a sweet brandy which is often served here.

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Balkan Holidays – 10 City Breaks in the Balkans

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A city break is an ideal way to learn something of a different culture in a few days. A city break gives you a chance to absorb a new experience. The Balkan region has a diverse mix of geography, history and culture.

City breaks in the Balkans offer something for everyone no matter what your age, taste, or whether you are part of a group or travelling alone.

Here are 10 cities that reflect the character of the Balkans.

1. Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade is known for being a vibrant and trendy city and has a reputation for offering a vibrant nightlife the best features of which are the barges spread along the banks of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

Belgrade boasts two opera houses, a number of museums, including the National Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There is also some stunning architecture

A former river island, Ada Ciganlija, on the Sava river, is Belgrade’s biggest sports and recreational complex. It is the most popular destination for Belgraders and visitors alike during the city’s hot summers.

2. Bucharest – Romania

Bucharest is known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Epoque buildings and a reputation for the high life, which at one time, earned it the nickname of “Little Paris”.

Bucharest has much historical charm – from the streets of the Old City Centre, which are slowly being restored, to the grand architecture of the Royal Palace and the lush green of Cismigiu Park. The city also claims a large number of museums, art galleries, exquisite Orthodox churches and unique architectural sites.

3. Dubrovnik – Croatia

Dubrovnik is one of the world’s finest and best preserved fortified cities and features two kilometres of walls, some 6 metres thick in places lined with turrets and towers, that run around the city. George Bernard Shaw said in 1929: “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik”.

4. Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana is a charming city, the numerous parks and a vibrant cultural scene. There are numerous art galleries and museums and a mediaeval castle located at the summit of the hill that dominates the city centre.

Ljubljana Zoo covers has 152 animal species. An antique flea market takes place every Sunday in the old city. Tivoli Park is the largest park in in the city, has 3 main avenues, planted with chestnut-trees.

5. Sarajevo – Bosnia

Sarajevo is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated around the Miljacka river, commonly known as the Sarajevo River. This river is one of the main features of the city. In December 2009, Lonely Planet listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010

A great way to get around this city is on the electric tram system. Sarajevo was the first city in Europe to have a full-time operational electric tram network running through the city.

6. Skopje – Macedonia

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and the Memorial House of Mother Teresa commemorates this. There are many old churches and mosques to visit for those who love history and architecture.

Many famous worldwide artists have attended the music festivals over the years. The Skopje Jazz Festival is part of the European Jazz Network. The Blues and Soul Festival in early July is part of the Skopje Cultural Summer Festival and the May Opera Evenings have been one of the most visited events in Skopje.

The City Park is home to the main museum, several monuments, small lakes, cafes and restaurants. The city Zoo and stadium are also here along with several nightclubs.

7. Sofia – Bulgaria

Sofia is nestled in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, which makes it an ideal location for hiking and skiing. The city of Sofia is a lively, bustling and cosmopolitan city with many nightclubs, live venues and traditional Bulgarian taverns and restaurants. Many famous musicians have played in Sofia.

Sofia houses numerous museums and art galleries, including the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men.

The city has many places of special interest, museums and churches, and has a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Boyana Church

8 Split – Croatia

The city is located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and offers great links to surrounding seaside towns and to the numerous Adriatic Islands.

The city centre is taken up by the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, which is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Athens – Greece

Athens is home to the world famous Acropolis? The Parthenon and the other main buildings on the Acropolis were built by Pericles in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens. You could spend some days exploring this and it is best to start early on the hot summer days.

The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. It is now a pedestrian area of restaurants, tourist shops, and cafes and is an enjoyable place to relax.

The National Archaeological Museum ranks among the top ten museums in the world.

10. Istanbul – Turkey

Istanbul, the historic city that stands in Europe and Asia and has the status of 2010 European Capital of Culture is an ideal venue for a city break.

In Istanbul’s steep and bustling streets, and visitors can spend hours buying or viewing the wonderful products on offer in the markets, where bargaining is essential. The Grand Bazaar, has over 4,000 craft shops, selling carpets, pottery, jewels, and antiques in its labyrinths.

There are many monuments and historical sites including the Hagia Sophie and one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture, the “Blue Mosque”

Be sure to take a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait, and enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the city especially at sunset.

There are many more places in the Balkans that make it ideal for a short city break.

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Athens – The Destination

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Athens was named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, which is certainly fitting for the birthplace itself. Evidence of its ancient heyday is everywhere, in the remnants of monuments, statuary and sacred sites that are still revered as survivors of one of history’s most important eras.

A Poseidon adventure in art

In Greek mythology, Poseidon is the god of sea, so it is only fitting that the astoundingly wrought bronze statue of him was raised from the bottom of the Aegean Sea, where it lay for centuries after a shipwreck off the Cape of Artemision. The two-meter tall figure stands with arms extended and leaning forward on its left leg. The right hand once held a trident, and the unknown sculptor clearly was a master in accurately duplicating the complicated balancing act that goes into the seemingly simple motion of throwing a spear.

This work of art is one of the many stunning bronzes at the National Archeological Museum in Athens. The museum’s collection – which includes pieces that date all the way back to the prehistoric period – offers the best collection of Greek art in the world. Renovations closed the museum for a year and half, but it was reopened just in time for the 2004 Olympic Games.

At 260 feet above the city, the Acropolis (“high city”) is not only the highest point in Athens, but for many people it is the high point of any visit to Greece. It is the oldest known settlement in Greece and was a sacred site for ancient Athenians.

During the period of 448 to 420 B.C., the distinguished Athenian statesman Pericles commissioned the construction of four new monuments on the Acropolis at the site of former ruins. The Athenian sculptor Phidias presided over the construction and interior design. The Ionic Erechtheum includes the Porch of Caryatids, with its column in the shape of monumental female figures that identify remains a mystery. The Ionic Temples of Athena Nike, dedicated to the cult of Athena as the goddess of victory, was built during the Peloponnesian War, its frieze depicts the Greek victory over the Persians in the battle of Plataea. The Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis with rows of both Doric and Ionic columns, replaced an earlier version destroyed by the Persians. And of course, the Acropolis remains home to what’s left of the Parthenon.

The Parthenon, designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, took 15 years to complete. It was the closest to Pericles’ heart: Among various friezes depicting life among gods, the large statue of Athena represented his homage to the goddess and to the greatness of Athens.

Even in A.D. 131, savvy developers like the Roman Emperor Hadrian recognized the importance of signage. “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus,” reads the inscription on Hadrian’s arch, situated at the foot of the Acropolis and once the marker between Hadrianopolis and the Athens city limits. The side facing the Acropolis and ancient Athens reads, ” This is Athens, the city of Theseus.”

Like all the surrounding monuments and the Athens infrastructure itself, Hadrian’s Arch has undergone a major facelift. The 60-foot high archway, constructed of Pentelic marble, upheld by columns with Corthinian capitals and topped by a series of Corinthians columns, lost a bit of structural stability in the mid-18th century, when 8 of its columns were removed.

Restorers shored up the arch, cleaned away centuries of pollution and repaired its cracks, just in time for the 2004 Olympic Games.

The Evzones

The Evzones were once the elite soldiers of the Greek army. Today they are the presidential guards, a ceremonial unit that maintains watch over The Parliament, The Presidential Mansion and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The soldiers wear a traditional and highly photogenic uniform comprising a scarlet cap with a long black tassel, a cotton tunic, black knee tassels above white stockings, red clogs with black pompons and a woolen kilt called a fustanella. The fustanella has 400 pleats, one for each year that the Greeks were on the occupation of the Ottoman Empire. Bearing leather cartridge belts and rifles with a bayonet, the soldiers maintain strict physical discipline as they stand at attention and resist tourists’ attempts to distract them.

A changing of guard is performed daily before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but on Sundays, the complete ceremony – involving an army band and dozens of soldiers – is conducted.

Alice in Wonderland

Imagine Alice in Wonderland’s tumble into a magical world, and you will have an idea what this-off-beaten-path attraction in the Village of Paiania is like. Far larger than a rabbit hole, Koutouki Cave is a natural wonder that will awe you with its colors and formations. In 1926, a goat disappeared from its herd where it was grazing on the slope of Mount Ymittos. A search turned up a small crevice, and a brave soul descended by rope into the abyss below. The goat had not survived the fall, but its intended rescuer returned with a story of a beautiful underground chamber.

The vertical cave consists of a 38.5 meter shaft that opens onto a large cavern with a diameter of about 60 meters. Guided tours take visitors in through a man-made entrance and lead them on a path through stalactites and stalagmites formed by mineral deposits from water seeping through the limestone of the mountain. The tour ends with a light show accompanied by classical music. It’s just a short taxi ride from Athens to nearby Paiania.

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