The Greek Islands and Athens

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The Greek capital Athens Lies in a basin surrounded by the sea on one side and mountains to the other sides, Athens, which contains a third of the population of Greece, two thirds of all Greek cars, and half the country's industry, has been condemned as having one of the worlds worst air pollution problems, which are aggravated by the stifling heat of the summer sun, you can see why, during the summer months, many Athenians escape from the city to the islands at the weekends, filling to capacity, the island ferries on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, reversing the situation with a mad dash back to Athens on Sunday afternoons and evenings.  So if you are intending to travel during this time, you would be well advised to book your ferry tickets in advance, ensuring that you are in good time to board the ferry, as they do not tend to hang about, and have even been known to leave a little earlier than scheduled.

Athens

But visit the city when the weather is not quite so warm and you may well be surprised at how pleasant Athens can be, with many of the ancient sites of the city within an easy walk of each other, once you have mastered the art of crossing the very busy roads.

Athens 2If walking is not for you, public transport is cheap, and you can get almost everywhere in Athens by bus, although trying to work out which bus you need can be a problem. When you do get on board, don't be surprised if it is standing room only. Tickets can be bought individually or in packets of 10, from kiosks located along the routes throughout the city. When you board the bus, make sure you validate your ticket, as inspectors carry out checks, and those without a validated ticket, will face on the spot fines.

Where to Stay

If you are planning a short break in Athens, and you wish to spend the time visiting the sights, then the old Turkish district known as the Plaka is the place to stay. Sitting just below the Acropolis, the Plaka is a mix of 17th and 18th century buildings inter-dispersed with some even older Byzantine churches. Although busy with tourists, it is by far the most atmospheric area of Athens. The Plaka is mostly traffic free, apart from the ever present motor cycles, so strolling around the shops, that are aimed almost exclusively at the tourist market, can be a relaxing experience.

The Parthenon was built during the fifth century B.C. to commemorate a hard won victory over Persia. It sits upon the Acropolis as a reminder of the glory that was Greece, and stands as the symbolic birthplace of Western democracy.

The Evzone Guard is a popular tourist attraction in their tasseled caps, kilt, and woolly leggings, this uniform is based on a traditional mountain costume. They can be seen guarding the the Greek National Parliament in Syntagma Square. The building was originally built for King Otho inthe1830s. There is a changing of the guard ceremony held at regular intervals in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Evzone Guard, for all there ceremonial duties are in fact a highly trained elite corps that was, at one time, recruited almost exclusively from mountain villages.

Temple of Zeus, to reach this site, which lies just on the edge of the Plaka, you have to cross a very busy main road, you enter through Hadrian's Arch. On the near side, the arch bares the inscription "This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus", and on the other side, "This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus".

Athens 6Tower of the Four Winds. Built in the 1st century by a Syrian astronomer, it was a water clock, sundial, weather vain and compass.  The water clock was powered by a small stream running from the Acropolis. At the top of the tower, on each face are carved figures floating through the air, representing the eight winds. The tower is part of the much larger site of the Roman Forum, which itself was an extension to the older Greek Agora that lies to the west.

Likavitos Hill For stunning views over the whole of Athens, this is one site that is well worth a visit. If you choose to walk from the Plaka, you can take a short cut through the National Gardens. Once you reach the base of the hill, there is a choice of either, taking the path that zig zags to the top, or taking the small vernacular railway that runs up through the hill. Choose a clear day and you will not be disappointed.

What to See

Athens 3 Athens 4 Athens 5 Athens 7 Acropolis Athens