There’s a quaint beauty in and about Athens that you’ll only find in equally rare, ancient places in the world. Everything about it reminds you that this amazing city has withstood centuries of change that it indeed almost literally was the birth of modern man.
Of Gods And Legends…
If you’re a history buff, seeing the subject of your fantasies looming before your eyes will surely be a dream come true. The amazing temples dedicated to the Gods of old, eons ago are still there albeit in ruins. Some of the churches in the city which were built during the medieval times also stand on what used to be sacred ground. All these you can find around the area of Athens known as the Plaka- the oldest, most historic section of the city.
The name ‘Athens’, used since Pre-Greek times, is traditionally believed to have been derived from Athena the Goddess of War. It’s only fitting then that a visit to this city should include a visit of her temples as well as the ruins of other temples dedicated to the old Greek Gods. The Acropolis (‘sacred rock’) and its monuments- The Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike (‘Nike’ meaning ‘Victory’ in Greek) to name a few- are among those dedicated to the city’s patron goddess. However, there are also equally interesting temples dedicated to the other ancient gods.
One such temple is The Temple of Olympian Zeus or the Olympieion. Once the largest temple in Greece, it was built in honour of Zeus, king of the Gods. Its remains are located in the centre of Athens. Most of it has been destroyed, taken apart over the centuries including for quarrying, but this huge structure is still an amazing sight.
Knick-knacks And Souvenirs
Besides temple-hunting another way of getting a whiff of the original Athens is by visiting the rest of Plaka. You can walk about safely on foot as the roads have been closed to most vehicles, although motorcycles, and occasionally delivery trucks, are allowed to pass through.
If you’re looking to shop in that area then you should head for the nearby Monastiraki Flea Market, with its array of touristy stuff. Souvenirs and knick-knacks can be found here in abundance, at pretty low prices. If you want to experience the authentic ‘flea market’, then go on a weekend when stalls will also be opened up in addition to the shops there.
The Monastiraki is a hub of activity especially on weekends, when it is packed with locals and tourists alike. It is a delightful way to spend your time, although you might want to go there before noon to avoid getting stuck in the crowd.
You could also explore Ermou, where the Tsakalof, one of the most expensive streets in the world is, besides the eight-storey Eleftheroudakis bookshop- bookworm heaven!
And Getting A Tan
Be prepared, too, as Greece, being a Mediterranean country, is more sultry than most of its European sisters. If you’re traveling in the summertime especially, you may want to make sure you have sunscreen and wear loose, comfortable clothing, besides plan your day trips to avoid getting burnt.
And if you want a break from walking about and want to just soak in the Mediterranean sun, a quick trip to the beach would be the perfect thing to do. You could visit any of the free beaches dotting the coastline, or if you’re into something a little more luxurious, you could go for the organised beaches which offer other entertainment as well, from food to massages and even extreme activities.
The Grand Beach Lagonissi, Vouliagmeni Beach and Asteria seaside are among the beaches which offer such facilities.
And when hungry- fear not, Greek food is so varied that there’s surely something to suit your palate. Be sure to try as much as you can- Greek food is renown for being fresh, light and tasty, a unique and completely healthy meal for the diet-conscious.
Bon Apetit! Or, as they would say in Greece – Kali órexi!