DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2

Ancient Agora 1 DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2Ancient Agorà, Athens, Greece

Before going to Athens, I wrote that my “mission” would have been to investigate how Balkan is Athens and now I can say that I found a lot of Balkan vibes in Athens indeed. Food markets, bazaars, kiosks, shoe-shine men and vendors on the streets… you will spot the Balkan side of Athens just strolling around the city centre; for a further investigation, you can attend a live music concert, look for the Ottoman architectural heritage or eat at one of the many street food kiosks, where you will find the best Balkan recipes and –it goes without saying- the ubiquitous meat.
But the Balkan feature I’ve been especially happy to find in Athens is the warm, welcoming attitude of its inhabitants: everybody was extremely nice with me, from providing me with very detailed information on where to find street art in Athens, to suggesting me traditional restaurants where to try the best of Greek cuisine, or introducing me to a local street artist and arranging an interview…without considering the countless times I’ve been helped to find an address or to catch the tram in the right direction!

Ok, enough with rambling, let’s review few more places in this very welcoming town.

ANCIENT AGORA || MONASTIRAKI

Usually I travel off the beaten path, but in every town there are some touristic spots even I don’t want to miss; and so, with all due precautions such as visiting during unpopular hours, I went to the Ancient Agorà for a taste of Ancient Greece.

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Ancient Agorà, Athens, Greece

The Agorà was the heart of the public life in Ancient Athens and –therefore- the centre of Athenian democracy, the place where Socrates presented his philosophical theories and many theatrical, musical and athletic events took place. Founded in the 6th century BC, the Agorà was a large square surrounded by many administrative buildings, temples, altars, fountains and houses; during the centuries it was repeatedly destroyed and pillaged, until a Byzantine neighbourhood grew up in the area in the 10th century AD and the Church of the Holy Apostles was built. In the late 19th century the Agorà area was buried under the “Vrysaki” quarter of modern Athens, which has been destroyed to begin excavations.

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Ancient Agorà, Athens, Greece

The site, now fully restored, is preserved in an excellent way: it is clean, well organized and really taken care of.

The Temple of Hephaistos (460 – 415 BC) is the best preserved Doric peripteral temple of the Greek world. In the 7th century it was converted into a church (the Church of Saint George), which later became a burial place for Protestants.

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Ancient Agorà, Athens, Greece

At the other side of the site there is the Stoa of Attalos, which was a place for Athenians to meet and to trade, that is the first gallery of shops ever! The place now hosts the Museum of Agorà and its rich archaeological collection, whose most ancient artifacts date back to 4000 BC.

Ancient Agora 41 DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2Ancient Agorà, Athens, Greece

Another great highlight of the site is a small Byzantine Church (Church of the Holy Apostles, 1000 A.D.), which also happens to be the only medieval monument preserved of the many known to have been built in the Agora.

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Ancient Agorà, Athens, Greece

NATIONAL GARDENS || SYNTAGMA

Right behind the hectic centre of Athens (Syntagma Square and the Parliament) there is a peaceful oasis. Designed as the royal garden, it is now the meeting point of all old Athenians, gathering here to chat on the beautiful stairs of the neoclassical Zappeion.

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National Gardens, Athens, Greece

national gardens 3 DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2National Gardens, Athens, Greece

NEA IONIA DISTRICT

Considering also the amount of pictures I took over there, I should have written a whole post just about the Nea Ionia district, whose discovery and exploration have been among the most amazing experiences of my trip. I went there already on my second day in Athens and I liked a lot the area, but it has been only after a tour with Dimitri from Couchsurfing that I fully appreciated the charm of this post-industrial hood.

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Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

Dimitri came to our appointment fully prepared: he knew I am into industrial archaeology and thus he brought on his tablet a pdf illustrating the history and the urban development of Nea Ionia, from its origin as a refugees’ area (in 1923, when the Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey moved to Greece and the Muslim citizens of Greece moved to Turkey, a “mutual expulsion” that followed the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922) to the industrial development which employed all the newcomers, most of which were expert in the Turkish art of making carpets.

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Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

While many factories have been destroyed, few of them survived and have been reconverted, hosting now supermarkets, banks, a cultural foundation (the Desde Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, inside the former Anatolia Factory) and they even hosted the Olympic Games Headquarters in 2004.

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Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

Wandering around Nea Ionia you can still spot some of the traditional refugees’ houses, which are lovely even if in a pretty bad shape making us daydream about the original charm of Nea Ionia’s small houses and curvy cobbled streets.

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Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

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Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

Today, Nea Ionia is a residential area where you will find many shops, bars and restaurants but just venturing few steps off the most commercial streets you can find some small, lovely houses.

Nea Ionia 9 DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

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Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece

HALANDRI DISTRICT

Another suburban area I liked a lot is Halandri, located on the blue line few stops before (or, well, after) the Airport of Athens. Being quite detached from downtown Athens, Halandri is a sort of small town by itself, with its local park, many restaurants and cafés (among which the trendy Theory Bar), art galleries, shops, churches and so on…

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Halandri, Athens, Greece

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Halandri, Athens, Greece

The area is very nice, with modern buildings (some of which really eccentric) and many green areas.

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Halandri, Athens, Greece

THE NATIONAL SCULPTURE GALLERY || KATECHAKI

My visit to the National Sculpture Gallery has been another top experience of my week in Athens, not only for the beautiful collection, but also for the whole experience of finding it by venturing across the Hellenic Army Park, walking by the abandoned Olympic Park of Goudi and discovering -on the way- many fascinating industrial abandoned structures.

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Katechaki, Athens Greece

The National Sculpture Gallery is inside two buildings of the former royal stables and it hosts a permanent collection of Greek sculptures from the 19th and the 20th century; there is also an outdoor sculpture park with the most contemporary artworks.

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National Sculpture Gallery, Katechaki, Athens Greece

goudi national sculpture 3 DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2National Sculpture Gallery Katechaki Athens Greece

A hidden gem… and what I love the most when I travel is to enjoy all those minor sights that locals, taken away by their busy routines, rarely visit.

THE ABANDONED MILITARY HOSPITAL || KOLONAKI

Abandoned military hospital athens DISCOVERING ATHENS – PART 2

Abandoned Military Hospital, Athens, Greece

There it is, my urban exploration in Athens: a charming corner of the city centre which used to host a Military Hospital composed of 13 old stone buildings from the late 19th century, now abandoned and partially ruined.

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Abandoned Military Hospital, Athens, Greece

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Abandoned Military Hospital, Athens, Greece

The complex, unknown to the most, is hidden behind the high concrete wall of Deinokratous street and you can get a bird-view of it by entering the nearby hospital and admiring the former barrack from above. There are some plans to list the area as historic place and to reconvert its building, as it already happened for similar old stone buildings in the nearby Liberty Park: the perfect location for an urban exploration!

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Abandoned old stone building in Liberty Park

FLISVOS MARINA

While planning my week in Athens I considered a couple of islands for a day-trip: I read that I could have reached Salamis or Aegina in less than one hour from downtown Athens, but the weather wasn’t good during my holiday, so I had to skip the islands and –unfortunately- also Piraeus and Perama. But I still wanted to see the sea, breath its scent, listen to the sound of the waves… and so I had a walk along Flisvos’ seaside.

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Flisvos Marina, Athens, Greece

I guess the place looks lovely and more lively during the summer….

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Flisvos Marina, Athens, Greece

Article by www.blocal-travel.com 

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