It’s not just the Acropolis and the Plaka district in Athens. Long a simple stopover on the road to the islands or the Peloponnese, the Greek capital attracts for its cultural and hotel renewal. For some time now, the gazettes and marketing have even been selling the city in “New Berlin” for its arts scene supported by cheap rents, squats and nightlife. The name annoys locals who remember the lack of German eagerness to support Greece during the crisis of 2008-2011… But between the memorial power of archaeological sites, the many café terraces, the orange trees on the slopes of the Lycabettus and the Mediterranean shimmering in the distance, Athens has much more to offer than this arty new face.
7:30 a.m. On foot, from one century to another
The Panathenaic Stadium (1), built in place of the ancient one for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, is still deserted, without even the “joggers” who sometimes take a lap before the arrival of the crowds by bus. Silence bathes the “U” of white marble, majestic under the cypresses. A tunnel in the stands leads to a small exhibition of torches, posters and mascots from the various world editions. We may soon be able to admire the Phrygian cap that looks like a clitoris, which serves as the emblem of the Paris 2024 Olympics…
Then, the walk leads to the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, built between the VIe century BC and 131 AD, with its triumphal arch as a survivor of a movie set. Behind the neoclassical pomp of the Zappéion, an imposing building built by a wealthy entrepreneur at the end of the 19th centurye century, extends the beautiful national garden (2). This is where a writer tries to escape his killer in Makis Malafékas’ recent thriller, In the rules of art (Asphalte, 2022), a look as lucid on the city as it is acid on the contemporary art market, which made Athens a branch of Documenta in Kassel (in Germany) in 2017. However, at the entrance to the park, a sign (“Seeing the Invisible”see the invisible) invites to download an application through which “augmented reality works” are supposed to decorate the paths and the exotic vegetation. When everything here invites you to let go of your screen.
9:30 a.m. Honey and sugar
In front of the Palace of Parliament, tourists await the changing of the guard, two evzones (elite soldiers) in skirts and stockings clack their pompom clogs. Behind Syntagma Square, the “beating heart” of Athens, it’s time for Nikis Street and baklava: those from the Karakoy Gulluoglu shop are “good as there” (Istanbul) even if they are no longer imported. Those of the adjacent patisserie (Fleivor) are even more delicate.
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48 hours in Athens
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