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Athens, Greece: Where Genius, Ruins, and Beauty Collide

Before you start reading about our time in Athens, I’d like to point you in the direction of the video/slideshow that is just above this short paragraph. It’s a compilation of my photos from our visit and gives you a good hit of what we encountered as we took in the city of Athens. Thank you for watching, and now, onto the blog . . .

I remember anticipating my first visit to Florence, being filled with such excitement knowing I would be walking the very same streets as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael and wondering if I would actually cross paths with their footsteps. I felt the much the same way as I anticipated seeing Athens.

I found my mind drifting back in time, imagining the streets of Athens filled with the musings and genius of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These three philosophers shaped the course of Western civilization, and their legacy still inspires and challenges us today. I was now just a short cab ride away from walking in the actual footsteps of some of the greatest minds that explored justice, metaphysics, reason, and science. Welcome to Athens, Greece!

On paper, Athens did not sound very appealing to us . . . it’s a sprawling, congested, and chaotic city with the second highest population density in Europe and a whopping 3.4 million people. Today, almost half of the population of Greece lives in the Athens metropolitan area.

Carla and I didn’t anticipate really liking Athens. We saw our visit to the capital city as more utilitarian than adventurous. Our flight back to the states left from Athens, so it was necessary to at least spend one night there. So, we decided to give it a week which would allow us to leisurely and comfortably see the sites, and even if it didn’t appeal to us, the history of this ancient city would be so magnificent that it would certainly be well worth the visit. That was our thinking . .

As with any large city in Europe, we have learned that where we stay makes all the difference. After doing a little research, we chose to stay in the Plaka district - the oldest neighborhood in Athens. it has been continuously inhabited for over 3,500 years – all the way back to the Neolithic period. Not only is Plaka the oldest neighborhood in Athens, but it’s also the most beautiful and picturesque. It’s located at the base of The Acropolis and therefore near numerous ancient ruins. In Plaka we left behind the congestion and chaos of the city and delighted in walking the pedestrian streets that are filled with charming little cafes, bars, traditional taverns, small shops, and beautiful architecture. Plaka felt like a protected enclave or village and there was very little to remind us that we were surrounded by a large and bustling city.

Athens, as it turns out, was indeed well worth the visit . . . not only for its rich history and magnificent ruins and museums, but also for the charm and beauty of Plaka. One of our favorite areas inside Plaka was yet another smaller neighborhood with only 50 people – the settlement of Anafiotika. The settlers who built this small neighborhood came from the island of Anafi in the 1800’s to work as craftspeople on the refurbishment of King Otto’s palace. They built their homes on the side of the acropolis in the style of their native Cyclades Islands – small structures with white walls and colorful doors and shutters. And as we strolled through the very narrow and winding streets of Anafiotika we felt like we were back on the island of Paros.

By the end of our visit, Carla and I were Athens converts, and we caught ourselves wondering if we might even enjoy living in Athens . . . in Plaka, of course. And to be honest, while I really don’t want to live in a city that big, if the universe played a little trick on me and I had to live in Athens for a year . . . well, I think it would be a very enjoyable and amazing year.

I would encourage anyone visiting Greece to make sure that your time in Athens is not just a stopover for the airport. We almost made that mistake, and it would have been a huge miss. Allow Athens to surprise you . . . and indeed she will. Enjoy.

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Such an important post. If we all do more maybe we can slow it down for our grandchildren.



Another gorgeous posting, Simcha and Carla! Thanks for enlightening us on the wonders of Athens


Thank you . . . and so glad you enjoyed the post.

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