Walking past the Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus and the ancient Angora I realized how similar Athens is to Rome. I had been to Rome three years ago and the similarities between the two in terms of architecture is obvious. After all, the Roman empire was influenced by the classical Greek culture. The ruins in Athens are 7000 years old.
Greece is a cradle of western civilization. Everywhere you turn, you will find ruins that are thousands of years old. If you love art, history or archeology, you'll love Greece.
At the Acropolis I soaked up on the gentle peace and the ancientness of the place which has seen life inhabited as far as the 4th millenium BC. From here you can look out at the sea (so blue and you now know why it's called the Aegean Sea) and down on the city, with the ancient Agora and Plaka hugging it's foothill. Acropolis means "city on a hill". As you look at this architectural wonder you are struck by the scale of this place steeped in history as you walk into the foot steps of the ancient Greeks . It's location definitely makes it the crowning glory of Athens. It stands above the city of Athens, an ancient citadel with some of the most significant monuments of global civilization. You can visit the holy places of Plato, Pericles and Aristotle, where democracy and philosophy were born.
Parthenon - It is the central and the largest of the Acropolis temples and is dedicated to Athena, the patron of the city. There are a total of 50 columns still remaining. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Since it has been built, the Parthenon has been used as a temple, a church, as a fortress and a gun powder storage facility. It was destroyed in a fire, in an explosion in 1687 and then looted by invaders. Standing in front of this monument I felt transported into ancient Greece. The feeling was very surreal.
Temple of Dionysos - is on the southern slope of the Acropolis and a site of two performance venues. The wide semi circle of audience seats is cut out of natural rocks and can seat about 5500 people. This large amphitheater was the first to host the plays of significant ancient tragic and comic playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes.
Plaka - is the most enchanting neighborhoods you can visit in Athens. It is a charming and picturesque neighborhood at the foot of the Acropolis constructed on the same site where once ancient greeks lived. Many houses have whitewashed walls, red tile roofs with balconies dripping with flower boxes full of bougainvillea . Plaka is a labyrinth of narrow lanes lined with beautiful buildings that are shopping centers or restaurants. Wandering through the streets here was fascinating and relaxing.
Acropolis Museum- is ultra modern, bright and state of the art museum, one stop to learn all you can about the Greek history. The museum covers 25,000 meter square on four floors and exhibits 4000 pieces of many archeological finds and treasures from all over Greece.
Hadrian's arch- was erected in 2nd century AD in honor of Roman emperor Hadrian.
National Historical Museum - This building used to be a residence of King Otto of Greece in 1813, then it was the Greek Parliament and now a National Museum. It houses artifacts from 1453 (fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans) to 1940. Also on display are traditional costumes, flags, medals, furniture and memorablia that belonged to historical figures. There is also a huge art collection by various Greek and foreign artists.
Monastiraki a.k.a monastery - Is not a monastery (however, there are 550 monastries all over Greece) but a neighborhood in the oldest part of the city. It is popular for its shops and open- bazaar like shops. Each narrow street that leads off the Monastiraki Square is lined with eclectic stores, so interesting you want to step into each one of them. You can find for sale WWII memorablia, chess sets, brass and copper pans to Mickey Mouse clock and some real antiques, chandeliers, clothing, souvenirs etc.. There is a jumbled collection of everything. The best part is the flea market where you could rub shoulders with the locals.
Roman Agora - This was a social and political center of the city and was funded by Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus. Among the buildings that are here remaining is what was the law court, public toilets and Temple. There are sculptures of the eight gods of winds.
Ancient Agora or "the gathering place" - This was probably where people gathered to hear philosophers propound their views, to be entertained or to conduct politics. There are 34 Doric columns supporting a roof which has partially survived.
Temple of Hephaestus - Is the first Athenian temple made of marble. It is enclosed on three sides and from the fourth side is an opening that allows the sun to shine on the shrine. It has a wooden ceiling with terracotta roof tiles.
Syntagma Square - The most impressive building here is the Greek Parliament, again this used to be a Royal Palace. It is in this square where leaders give speeches and demonstrations and rallies are held with Greece being in such economic upheaval. The changing of the guards takes place here with all the pomp and ceremony. This large square has beautiful trees such as cypress, oleander and orange trees. At the center of the square is a beautiful marble fountain. Nearby is the metro station , supposedly the most impressive in the world. It is a marriage between high tech transport and archeology. There are Jacaranda trees, which are not native to Greece that line the road from Zappion, an exhibition and convention center with beautiful garden around it.
National Archeological Museum - Largest collection of archeological findings from Greece have been given home here. It has five large permanent collections.The Prehistoric collection, Neolithic, Cycladic and Mycenaean as well as pieces from a prehistoric settlement in Thera. There is a wide array of exhibits ranging from gold jewelry, funeral masks, crystal and alabaster, vases, pottery, metal statues, figurines in bronze from the Middle Bronze age. The whole experience is absolutely enriching.
Mount Lycabettus - The story goes that the Godess Athena was carrying a rock to place on the Acropolis to make it even higher and accidently dropped it when she was distracted by two black birds bearing bad news. The dropped rock became Mount Lycabettus. It is about 300 meters high and provides an amazing sweeping view of the city. A funicular ride takes you to the top in 20 minutes if you are not a hiker. At the summit is a Chapel of George and a restaurant and observation deck.
Vouliagmeni Lake - Is a spectacular natural attraction with stunning rocky landscapes surrounding it. It has clear , tranquil, turquoise blue thermal waters.
Shopping for memories- Pandrossou street along with its adjoining roads is considered one of the oldest market streets of the city. It has hundreds of stores selling jewelry, leather goods, antique items, clothing, local products such as wines, cheeses, olive oils , soaps, hand creams. Art galleries , cafés and restaurants line the streets. It is a warm neighborhood , a pulsing nucleus of Greek cultural tradition, modern and old.
You make unique discoveries on a walk from Monastiraki to Psyrri. Small workshops are what you come across, artists creating hand- sewn straw hats, handcrafted traditional instruments such as the baglamas made of orange tree wood and engraved lyres that will definitely drive you into Greek folklore music. You can also watch leather sandals being made in a shop.
Taste of Greece - God Dionyssos blessed Greece with a special type of soil to cultivate grapes for making the best wine. Greek vineyards produce a wide variety of wines to savour.
Stores had a variety of Olive oils to be used as food, in dermatology to relieve and revitalize the skin, as soaps, as olivewood jewelry , as excellent woodcarvings created by local artists.
Variety of spices, pure honey, herbs like mountain tea and oregano and nuts especially pistachios line the shelves.
Had to try some authentic Greek food. I relished the tzatziki, souvlaki , moussaka and the gyros, all very popular street foods. Tried some anise flavored Ouzo and Raki with honey both locally brewed.