Athens, June 2018

Athens, June 2018


The neighborhood of the Gods, as Greeks and foreigners alike have named it, singing its praises. Located on the northeastern slopes of the Acropolis rock, Plaka was the center of Athens since antiquity.
Plaka holds it's fascination as it manages to preserve the sense and the aroma of a more romantic and carefree era, despite the growth of the city during the last decades. The area directly below the Acropolis, the neighborhood of Plaka is Athen's  oldest and most picturesque neighborhood. Lying under the shadows of the Acropolis walls, its winding narrow streets, some only fit for one person at a time to get through, Plaka has been restored to its former glory. As soon as you start walking around Plaka 's stone-paved, narrow streets, you will have the feeling that you are traveling back in time.

The charm of its pastel hued walls and wrought iron balconies, geranium spilling onto stone steps, small churches every where, each with their own congregation, and taverns and souvenir shops vying for the visitors attention. The higher reaches of Plaka is called Anafiotika, a white washed 19th century village clinging to the north-eastern slopes of the rock. You will be delighted by the beauty of the neo-classical colors of its houses, their architecture, their lovingly tended little gardens, the elegance, and the total atmosphere of the area. When you decide to take a walk around it be sure to bring a map along, because Plaka is a labyrinth and you may get the feeling that you are lost in its maze of narrow streets and alley ways. No need for alarm though. It is easy to orientate yourself: uphill is the Acropolis and downhill are Syntagma and Monastiraki. 
The origin of the area's name is not really known thus allowing various theories to have developed. According to the most recent one, Plaka owes its name to a large stone slab (plaka in Greek) found in the area of the church of Ayios Georgios of Alexandria. near the ancient theater of Dionysos.Most buildings of Plaka are old aristocratic residencies. During the 19th century the area attracted many affluent Athenian families, which left behind marvellous neoclassical mansions. Today, most of them are restored accommodating museums, restaurants or shops.

PHILOMOUSOU ETAIRIAS SQUAREPlaka's central square was named after the Philomousos Etairia (Friends of the Muses namely the 9 patron goddesses of the Arts) which was founded in 1813. Its aim was to encourage Greek-oriented studies and the preservation of the archaeological treasures of Athens. The square is full of cafes, restaurants, bars and night clubs. Walking in Plaka, one can partake of the light and zesty spirit in the air day and night, as well as select one from its numerous hang-outs for a cup of coffee or a drink with a view to the Acropolis. A variety of souvenir-, clothing- and jewelry-shops are also there to complement the busy and cheerful setting. The area is ideal for an outdoor lunch or dinner, offering a plethora of traditional taverns and posh restaurants which will surely satisfy all those eager for the fine Mediterranean tastes of the Greek cuisine. Furthermore, visitors of Plaka can enjoy special nights of authentic local entertainment thanks to live Greek folk or popular music groups performing at many of the restaurants.

ROMAN AGORAJust outside the eastern side of the Roman Agora you will come across the octagonal monument, Andronikos Kyristes' clock. Built during the 1st century BC, housed an hydraulic clock. Each of its eight sides was decorated with representations of the eight winds. That is why the monument was nicknamed Aerides (winds) 

The Monument of Lysikrates - In ancient Athens the staging of theatrical performances in the theater of Dionysos was sponsored by wealthy citizens called choregoi. The choregos who sponsored the best performance of the year was presented with a prize by the city. When wealthy Lysikrates won the prize (334 BC) he decided to build a monument to house it where it remains to this day. Its construction by Lysikrates was only the beginning of the monument's long and eventful story. In 1658 a Capuchin monastery was founded here by French friars of that order and in 1669 the monument was bought by them. It was in this monastery that Lord Byron stayed during his second visit to Greece. It was in its gardens that in 1818 the first tomato plant in Greece grew after Father Francis brought the seeds from abroad. In 1829 a foreign traveler in Greece was granted permission by the friars to take the monument with him but fortunately it proved too heavy. Later, Lord Elgin put his mind to the same task but was again stopped, this time by the monks.

ARCH OF HADRIAN A bit off Plaka towards the main avenue of Amalias, one find the Arch of Hadrian. After the construction of the temple of Zeus the Athenians honored Hadrian by building, in AD 131 an arched gateway in the north-west corner of the enclosure of the temple. The arch, built of Pentelic marble (Penteli is one of the mountains surrounding the basin of Athens), bears two inscriptions. The one on the side facing the Acropolis (west facade) reads: This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus while the other the side facing the sanctuary an the extension of the city by Hadrian reads: This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.  If you were to take a walk in Plaka on the east side, you enter Anafiotika a very picturesque neighborhood built in the Cycladic architectural style! There you find the churches of St.George of the Rock and St.Simeon. To your right is Mnisikleos St. which ends at the Acropolis. It is one of the narrowest streets in Plaka and is stepped at many places, and full of small inviting, charming taverns. Today Plaka attracts many visitors from every part of the world. That vivid multinational crowd,strolling down it's narrows alleys, adds to the place's fascination. Plaka can hold you captive for many hours and even days. Countless shops line your way offering souvenirs and popular art items ,giving you the chance to take a small part of Athens back home.

Monastiraki - Next to Plaka is Monastiraki. Monastiraki Square lies at the end of Pandrosou St. According to one account it owes its name to the church of the Virgin Mary which is a monastic estate of the Kaisariani Monastery whose medieval name was the Great Monastery. 

Monastiraki begins at Monastiraki Square, goes down to St.Philippe square, and along Ermou St. toThissio, and Pireos St. and peters out in the surrounding narrow side streets. At its center lies Abyssinia Square which is the place where the Sunday bazaar has been held since 1910. Monastiraki had always been the bazaar, decked out in its gaudy colors. Everyone here talks to you about art. Of course, there are shops with real antiques. Leaving that aside, it is relaxing to walk through Monastiraki even if you do not buy anything.Today Monastiraki is a true fair for the one who strolls through it.

Discover Athens: [Syntagma, Lycabettus, Plaka, Acropolis, Psirri, The suburbs, Coastal areas, Outskirts of Athens, Pireaus]

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