In a feature dedicated to Athens, the Editor of the Financial Times Weekend, Alec Russel, takes readers on a journey to discover new galleries, restaurants and museums in the Greek capital.
Starting on Dionysiou Areopagitou street, the journey begins as Financial Times’ reporter wanders through the historic center, and peers into the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Visitors in this place, he points out in the article, find themselves in the heart of a modern city, but at the same time just outside one of humanity’s most important historical monuments. At the Parthenon’s gates, young street musicians provide the soundtrack to the walk, painters capture the moments and the faces of travelers, while the tavernas of Plaka create a scene that could well be from the past.
At Hadrian’s gate, Russel stops to read the inscription on one side of the Acropolis that says: “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.” On the other side, the inscription sends a different message: “This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.” A few meters down the hill, he finds a luxury restaurant with fusion cuisine. “This is Athens,” he emphasizes: “the coexistence of the ancient with the modern.”
Only visiting for three days, he still manages to take readers on a journey. Explaining his simple plan for discovering the city, it appears right that Athens is now considered an ideal destination even for a three-day getaway.
The columnist goes on to summarize his three-day visit:
Day 1: Ancient Athens. At the Acropolis, a guide brings to life the ruins and scenes from the times of Pericles, as well as scenes from 1830, and the hard work of the first restorers here after the independence of the nation, two decades after Lord Elgin removed parts of the frieze of the Parthenon. Referring to the marbles held at the British Museum, he says: “Diplomatically, our guide let the stones tell their own story.” Though while the tour guide does not speak, the General Director of the Acropolis Museum does not hold back and describes the frieze as “the most perfect thing ever done by human hands.”
Day 2: Modern Athens. The second day of the visit coincides with the annual Open House day – a great opportunity for a tour of the contemporary landmarks of the city. Lots of architecture, and a stop by the National Theater is followed by food in a beautiful restaurant in the alleys below Syntagma Square.
Day 3: The marriage of the old and the new. Russel heads to the port of Piraeus, destination Hydra. After a short trip over sea in the Saronic Gulf and he’s in the spiritual home of Leonard Cohen. It’s easy to see why the artist chose the island, he declares, and why he wrote his lyrics and legendary songs there. An island where cars are banned, Hydra remains the place of poetry and dreams. It’s a day dedicated to swimming, philosophical discussion, and food again.
Returning back, and the journalist reports that in Athens “3000 years of history fit in three days”.
This article was previously published in Greek at kathimerini.gr.