Best of Athens and Piraeus

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The Acropolis of Athens (Ancient Greek: Ἀκρόπολις; Modern Greek: Ακρόπολη Αθηνών) is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, “edge, extremity”) and πόλις (polis, “city”). Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as “The Acropolis” without qualification.

While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon and the other buildings were seriously damaged during the 1687 siege by the Venetians in the Morean War when the Parthenon was being used for gunpowder storage and was hit by a cannonball.

The Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the preeminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on 26 March 2007.

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Syntagma Square (Greek: Πλατεία Συντάγματος, pronounced [plaˈtia sinˈdaɣmatos], “Constitution Square”), is the central square of Athens.[1] The Square is named after the Constitution that the first King of Greece Otto was obliged to grant, after a popular and military uprising on September 3, 1843. It is located in front of the 19th century Old Royal Palace, housing the Greek Parliament since 1934. Syntagma Square is the most important square of modern Athens from both a historical and social point of view, at the epicentre of commercial activity and Greek politics.

 

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The square is bordered by Amalia Avenue (Leofóros Amalías) to the east, Otto Street (Óthonos) to the south and King George I Street (Vasiléos Georgíou Prótou) to the north. The street bordering the square to the west, connecting Stadiou Street with Fillelinon Street, is simply named “Syntagma Square” (Plateia Syntágmatos). The eastern side of the square is higher than the western, and dominated by a set of marble steps leading to Amalias Avenue; beneath these lies the Syntagma metro station. The stairs emerge below between a pair of outdoor cafes, and are a popular city-centre gathering place. Syntagma also includes two green areas to the north and south, planted with shade trees, while in the centre of the square there is a large mid-19th century water fountain.

The Old Royal Palace neoclassical building, housing the Greek Parliament since 1934, is immediately across Amalias Avenue to the east, and surrounded by the extensive National Gardens, which are open to the public; the Parliament itself is not open to the public, even when not in session. Every hour, the changing of the guard ceremony, performed by the Presidential Guard, is conducted in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the area between the Syntagma Square and Parliament building. On certain days, a ceremonial changing of the guard occurs with an army band and the majority of the 120 Evzones present at 11 am.

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Pláka (Greek: Πλάκα) is the old historical neighbourhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens. It is known as the “Neighbourhood of the Gods” due to its proximity to the Acropolis and its many archaeological sites.

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The name “Plaka” was not in use until after the Greek War of Independence. Instead, the Athenians of that time referred to the area by various names such as Alikokou, Kontito, Kandili, or by the names of the local churches.]The name Plaka became commonly in use in the first years of the rule of King Otto. The origin of the name is uncertain: it has been theorized to come from Avanade “Pliak Athena”, meaning “Old Athens”, or from the presence of a “plaque” which once marked its central intersection.

Location

Plaka is on the northeast slope of Acropolis, between Syntagma and Monastiraki square. Adrianou Street (running north and south) is the largest and most central street in Plaka and divides it into two areas: the upper level, – Ano Plaka – located right under the Acropolis and the lower level – Kato Plaka – situated between Syntagma and Monastiraki.

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Monastiraki (Greek: Μοναστηράκι, pronounced [monastiˈraci], literally little monastery) is a flea market neighborhood in the old town of Athens, Greece, and is one of the principal shopping districts in Athens. The area is home to clothing boutiques, souvenir shops, and specialty stores, and is a major tourist attraction in Athens and Attica for bargain shopping. The area is named after Monastiraki Square, which in turn is named for the Church of the Pantanassa that is located within the square. The main streets of this area are Pandrossou Street and Adrianou Street.

The Monastiraki Metro Station, located on the square, serves both Line 1 and Line 3 of the Athens Metro.

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Mount Lycabettus (/ˌlaɪkəˈbɛtəs/), also known as LycabettosLykabettos or Lykavittos (Greek: Λυκαβηττός,pronounced [likaviˈtos]),is a Cretaceous limestone hill in Athens, Greece. At 300 meters (908 feet) above sea level. Pine trees cover its base, and at its two peaks are the 19th century Chapel of St. George, a theatre, and a restaurant.

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The hill is a popular tourist destination and can be ascended by the Lycabettus Funicular, a funicular railway which climbs the hill from a lower terminus at Kolonaki (The railway station can be found at Aristippou street). Lycabettus appears in various legends. Popular stories suggest it was once the refuge of wolves, (lycos in Greek), which is possibly the origin of its name (means “the one [the hill] that is walked by wolves”). Mythologically, Lycabettus is credited to Athena, who created it when she dropped a mountain she had been carrying from Pallene for the construction of the Acropolis after the box holding Erichthonius was opened.

The hill also has a large open-air theater at the top, which has housed many Greek and international concerts. Among the artists who have performed at the Lycabettus theater included Ray Charles, Joan Baez, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola, John Mc Laughlin, Gary Moore, Peter Gabriel, Black Sabbath, Nick Cave, Pet Shop Boys, Deep Purple, UB40, Placebo, Radiohead, Moby,Massive Attack, Faithless, Whitesnake, Tracy Chapman, Patti Smith, Vanessa Mae, Brian Ferry, Tito Puente, Buena Vista Social Club, Orishas and Scorpions.

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The Arch of Hadrian (Greek: Αψίδα του Αδριανού Apsida tou Adrianou), most commonly known in Greek as Hadrian’s Gate (Πύλη του Αδριανού Pyli tou Adrianou), is a monumental gateway resembling – in some respects – a Roman triumphal arch. It spanned an ancient road from the center of Athens, Greece, to the complex of structures on the eastern side of the city that included the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It has been proposed that the arch was built to celebrate the adventus (arrival) of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and to honor him for his many benefactions to the city, on the occasion of the dedication of the nearby temple complex in 131 or 132 AD.[1] It is not certain who commissioned the arch, although it is probable that the citizens of Athens or another Greek group were responsible for its construction and design. There were two inscriptions on the arch, facing in opposite directions, naming both Theseus and Hadrian as founders of Athens. While it is clear that the inscriptions honor Hadrian, it is uncertain whether they refer to the city as a whole or to the city in two parts: one old and one new. The early idea, however, that the arch marked the line of the ancient city wall, and thus the division between the old and the new regions of the city, has been shown to be false by further excavation. The arch is located 325m southeast of the Acropolis.

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The Panathenaic Stadium (Greek: Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο), also known as the Kallimármaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο, meaning the “beautifully marbled”), is a multi-purpose stadium used for several events and athletics in Athens. The Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, the Panathenaic is the only stadium in the world built entirely by marble [3] (from Mount Penteli) and is one of the oldest in the world.

In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honor of the Goddess Athena. During classical times, it had wooden seating. In 329 BC it was rebuilt in marble by the archon Lycurgus and in 140 AD was enlarged and renovated by Herodes Atticus, giving a seated capacity of 50,000.

The remnants of the ancient structure were excavated and refurbished, with funds provided by Evangelos Zappas, for the revival of the Olympic Games. Zappas sponsored the Olympic Games that were held there in 1870 and 1875. In 1895 the stadium was refurbished a second time for the 1896 Olympics, with completion funding provided by the Greek benefactor George Averoff, whose marble statue now stands at the entrance, based on designs by the architects Anastasios Metaxas and Ernst Ziller. In 1906 the Panathenaic Stadium hosted another one major international athletic event the 1906 Intercalated Games.

On April 4, 1968, the 1967–68 FIBA European Cup Winner’s Cup final was hosted in the stadium where AEK Athensdefeated Slavia Prague in front of around 80,000 seated spectators inside the arena and another 40,000 standing spectators. It is believed that since that game the Panathenaic Stadium holds the world record attendance for any basketball game to date. In the 2004 Olympic Games, the Panathenaic Stadium hosted the archery competition and the finish of the Marathon.

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The Port of Piraeus, as the largest Greek seaport, is one of the largest seaports in the Mediterranean Sea basin.The port is also a major employer in the area, with more than 1,500 employees who provide services to more than 24,000 ships every year. Port of Piraeus has been the port of Athens since Archaic times.

Until the 3rd millennium BC, Piraeus was a rocky island connected to the mainland by a low-lying stretch of land that was flooded with sea water most of the year. It was then that the area was increasingly silted and flooding ceased, thus permanently connecting Piraeus to Attica and forming its ports, the main port of Cantharus and the two smaller of Zea and Munichia. In 493 BC, Themistocles initiated the fortifications of Piraeus and later advised the Athenians to take advantage of its natural harbours’ strategic potential. In 483 BC, the Athenian fleet left the older harbour of Phaleron and it was transferred to Piraeus, distinguishing itself at the battle of Salamis between the Greek city-states and the Persians in 480 BC. In the following years Themistocles initiated the construction of the port and created the ship sheds (neosoikoi), while the Themistoclean Walls were completed in 471 BC, turning Piraeus into a great military and commercial harbour, which served as the permanent navy base for the mighty Athenian fleet. However, in the late 4th century BC began a long period of decline for Piraeus; the harbours were only occasionally used for the Byzantine fleet and the city was mostly deserted throughout the Ottoman occupation of Greece.

Thessaloniki and its port were captured by Wehrmacht troops on 9 April 1941 (the fourth day of the Battle of Greece).

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