Athens Off The Beaten Path Tips by mindcrime Top 5 Page for this destination
Athens Off The Beaten Path: 246 reviews and 355 photos
Hellenic American Union
From many years I knew the Hellenic American Union as an institution where some people (adults and young ones) could foreign language lessons but also the place where you get the certification of foreign-language skills (approved by Michigan University) for levels B1, B2, C1, C2.
As I never stadied there it was only recently that I realized they also have a rich program of exhibitions, theatrical or dance perfomances, music concerts and lectures on many different subjects (art, science, society). It’s located at Masalias str 22, only 5’ walk from Panepistimio metro station.
Hopefully I’ve read about these exhibition in a magazine and here I am in early November 2015 to see the exhibition Black & White/Color:The Two Faces of a Photograph. The exhibition was curated by Platon Rivellis and was organized by the Photography Circle from October 14 to November 11, 2015). It was housed at Kennedy Gallery (as you go inside on your right) that is usually open Monday to Friday 12.00-21.00, Saturday 10.30-14.30. From what I know there’s no entrance fee.
The exhibition shows the work of 85 photographers that got inspired by the contemporary dilemma of choosing between the black & white or colored version of the same photo! According to the flyer I knew already that the aim of the exhibition is to provoke questions and thoughts about the way in which each of these two versions works and stands on its own. The source of this debate has been the relevant option provided by the, currently dominant, digital photographic technology.
I remember myself some years before that this decision was a hard one, first of all I had to choose the proper film and then we had to go with it to the end, in many cases I had to shoot with a color film just because I had some shots left and not because I wanted and as the film wasn’t for free I had no choise. Others were choosing b&w just because printing was cheaper etc But digital technology made things easier, we can actually have the same photo in both formats and that’s what this exhibition was about, you could see the color photo side by side with its b&w version. I enjoyed many of them and in many cases I was confused if I’d shown one version or the other to someone else (because personally I never print the same photo twice) so even today we still have to make a choice...
Pic1 the entrance of Hellenic American Union
Pics2-3 samples of the exhibition
Pic 4: I took a photo of the gallery and then decided to have the same photo in both versions too :)
I’ll be there again in two weeks (November 23 to December 19, 2015) to see Those Little Anodynes a visual arts exhibition by Eleni heofilaktou and Eva Marathaki inspired by Emily Dickinson.
Mouseio Metro Stop!
In Athens outside the metro station there are signs with the M sign, the name of the stop, the metro network map, and a map of the area around the metro station.
Having said that it was a surprise to see a sign like this at Tositsa, the pedestrian street in between the National Archaeological Museum and the Polytechnic School. It was late October (2015) and of course there’s no metro stop there and from what I know there’s no plan to be one in the upcoming years (tram supposed to have one here but the line didn’t arrive).
So, what is this about? The sign looks idedical to a real one, there’s even an electricity cable at the pavement.
First, I took some pictures of curious people that were examing the map (it includes the upcoming line #4 of metro, so it’s easy to get confused but the font style is a bit different which should make you suspicious). But if you check closely the back side you will notice it’s a replica, the local map of the area is full of strange or/and funny names, Mickey Mouse str, Toast str, False Hopes str, Patience str, Paranormal str, missing chances str, personal beliefs str, Last Moment str, square of Lost Meetings! But my favorite one is that it doesn’t say the usual You Are Here but instead it says Are you Here? :)
After a small research I found out that it’s a temporary installation that will be there until November 14 and it’s probably part of the group exhibition Reality Through Fiction (organized by School of Fine Arts)
Athens is full of concrete so the few green parks give the chance for some recreation oasis inside the capital madness.
Alsos Veikou is a bit hard to be reached by public transport (but still possible if you catch the bus 608 at Panepistimou avenue in the city center) but I like to go there from time to time.
It located at Galatsi district covering an area of 217 acres and it is very well maintained and has 24h guard but I didn’t see anyone around the last time we walked there. Some of the water fountains were out of order too so I guess some little improvent is required in some parts. I couldn’t confirmed it but I guess the later is part of the ecomomic crisis and how the local authorities could (or not) paying those who used to work there.
Anyway, back to our visit… you can walk along the paths going uphill or use some of the areas that are placed for gymnastics and sports (check pic 3, one corner of the park has organized fields for tennis, basketball, football, a swimming pool, most of them were added after 1986.
It was pretty peaceful during our visit, some people were having picnic under the shadow of some tall pine trees, others were playing with their kids or watching at the numerous playgrounds and 2-3 were cycling around (I was expecting to see more bicycles). Some days it may be happily noisy with some school students.
There are benches on strategic spots where usually older people take a rest but also wooden kiosks, an open air cinema, a theatre where many music concerts take place in summer.
At Veikou avenue, you can use the side road of the avenue to park your car.
For public transport use bus 608(Galatsi-Acadimia-Zografou) that stops in front of the main gate
bust of Melina Merkouri
Most people taking pictures of Hadrian’s Arch may not recognize the bust inside the small garden (where Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian streets starts).
It’s the bust of Melina Mercouri(1920-1994) the famous greek actress/singer that starred in some iconic greek films, don’t miss the drama film Stella (1955) and the comedy Never On Sunday (1960) if you haven’t seen them yet.
Her second husband was the American film director Zules Dassin that was her mentor for many years. But Melina Merkouri was also known as a political activist and later (1981) became the first female Minister for Culture in Greece, actually she managed to hold on that position until 1989 and the again 1993-94. Her biggest dream was the return to Athens of the Parthenon marbles, they were removed by lord Elgin in 1811-12 and they are now at the British Museum. For this purpose she fought hard for the construction of the New Acropolis Museum that we all can enjoy now but unfortunately the marbles are still away from home. She was also the one that had the idea of a long pedestrian street that will promote the ancient greek culture, in our days we can walk along Dionisiou Areopagitou but she wasn’t there when the pedestrian street completed.
We knew how much she loved smoking so it was no surprise that she died from lung cancer on 6 march 1994. She was buried at the First Cemetery of Athens. Pic 4 was taken there showing the memorial over her grave, her husband lies next to her.
Pic 5 was taken at Acropolis metro station (platform with direction to Anthoupoli), it’s a large impressive photo showing Melina in front of Parthenon
Patision and Gladstonos
Walking from Omonoia along Patision (officially 28th October street but no one really use this) on the way to Archeological museum you’ll see on your right the pedestrian street Gladstonos. In between the two café/bakeries is a statue and behind it another monument. What are they, just another uknown figure for the average tourist? Do even the locals know anything about this Lieutenant? Do they just needed a free spot to put the monument or this corner was important for some reason?
This was the spot where the fascist organization ESPO (National-Socialist Patriotic Organisation) had its offices during the Axis occupation in Greece (1941-1944) with main target to enlist Greeks to fight along with the germans at the front!
Of course at the same time many resistance organizations were founded. PEAN (Panhellenic Union of Fighting Youths) was one of them. It was founded by the air force Lieutenant Kostas Perrikos and carried out active resistamce, usually in the form of bombings.
So, this was the place where on September 23, 1942 ESPO bombed the building of ESPO, not an easy acchivement in the heart of the occupied Athens. Members of the destruction squad were K.Perrikos, A.Mytilinaios, Sp.Galatis and I.Bimba. They managed to wound severely 6 Germans and 40 ESPO members including Sp.Sterodimas who was the founder of ESPO and died after a while. This act caused the destruction of ESPO and any german attempt to recruit greeks into german army stopped but brought also a revenge. On 11.11.1942 they arrested several PEAN’S members and executed many of them including K.Perrikos but also 5 others (Dimitris Lois, Thanos Skouras, Dionysis Papadopoulos, Giannis Katevatis) all of them executed at the beginning of 1943. Just behind the bust of Perrikos is another monument with reliefs about some of those. What I didnt know was that Ioulia Bimba (she was the one that was holding the bomb in a luggage in a near by bus stop for 3 hours predating she was waiting for the bus) was executed too but not in Greece, she was transferred in a concentration camp in Germany first where she was decapitated.
fountain in Ano Kalamaki
This is a district only 8km from Athens that attracts many visitors during the summer months because of the beach. For many years I believed Kalamaki was a different district than Alimos (famous for the beach/marina side of it) but is actually the former name of Alimos. It’s part of the greater Athens area but also a separate municipality.
Kalamaki (small reed) was probably named (in 1927) after the long reed fields that used to be here in the early 20th century. Located in the south part of Attica region bordered by Vouliagmenis avenue to the east and Poseidonos avenue to the west. Near the sea is bordered with Paleo Faliro district. With about 40,000 inhabitants is a popular residential area but tourists may find interesting only the beach side part but I usually wall in Ano Kalamaki when visiting some relatives.
During the ancient era this was the area of Alimountos(fish village outside Athens) which was the birthplace of historian Thoukidides (460BC) but in reality people lived here since Neolithic times. It was named after the plant alimos(known as armyrithra now) that was popular in the area although I’ve read at the official site of Alimos municipality that it’s from the ancient greek word als which means sea, so the one near the sea. Before WWII there were only pasture fields but then rich Athenians started to build summer houses near the beach and it was only until after the 1960s when some business and stores started to rise. The marina of Alimos is the largest in Greece, can host more than a thousand yachts.
There are some big avenues so it doesn’t have the claustrophobic sense of other distrists where apartment building are very close to each other. Bying a house is expensive there, especially close to the beach. For the beach side you better take the tram from Syntagma (towards Voula and get off at Alimos beach) but for the other part metro stations of Ilioupoli and Alimos are better.
Pic 1 fountain in Ano Kalamaki
Pic 2 bust of Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), a charismatic greek leader/statesman in the early 20th century that was elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece (1910-20, 1928-32)
Pic 3 bust of Georgios Karaiskakis (1782-1827) a famous hero/greek commander during the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Turks
Pic 4 behind the bust of Karaiskakis are some trees that were donated from Mavromati Karditsas, the area where Karaiskakis was born.
Pic 5 Agios Panteleimon church in Ano Kalamaki, probably one of the ugliest churches I ever saw
Most European countries celebrate the liberation from the Nazis but in Greece we focus at the beginning of the war (October 28, 1940 when we said no to Mussolini and the Greco-Italian War started (lasted till 1941 when Germany occupied Greece and it was only until October 12, 1944 when they finally left.
And today (October 12, 2014, 70 years after the withdrawal of the conquerors), something unique took place in Athens. A walking tour organized in the center, the tour guide was the historian Menelaos Charalampidis that took us to specific corners in the corner focusing on the tragic events of the Nazi occupation that lasted 4 years and costed the life of thousands.
-We started at Propylaia (in front of the University) where a small intro speech gave us some basic facts of the situation (1 out 11 greeks died during WWII)
- then we walked to Massalias street where was the morgue back then. That was the place were carriages were bringing the corpses of those who had died from starvation, about 45,000 people because the first years 1941-42 Athens was like hell, with no imports (so no bread, no olive oil), destroyed transportation, no gas, hundreds of companies and factories were closed except those that were taken and used by the Nazi to support their targets.
-Next stop was at Solonos and Asklipioy intersection we learnt about the demonstration that 400 university students did on march 24, 1942 (from Eksarcheia to Kolonaki through Solonos street) to commemorate the liberation from the turks (1821). It was the fist demonstration during the occupation, it evolved into a mass protest and of course was hitten by the Italian police.
-Then we walked back to Stadiou 15 where OTE(Greek Telecomunication) Building stands. Here one of the first strikes during the WWII took place on april 12, 1942. Strikes were banned of course and those who participated knew they’re facing death penalty! But the strike gave strength to many others and strikes begun at the banks etc
-Back to Panepistimiou avenue we stopped in front of the Bank of Greece. It was here where the hugest demonstration in occupied Greece took place on july 22, 1943. Organized by EAM (National Liberation Front) which was the main movement of the greek resistance with mainly left and communist people. Almost 100,000 people took place at the demonstration (they were against the Bulgarian outspread to the south, something the germans wanted) and was the corner of Omirou and Panepistimou streets were protested got killed (later we also saw photos of that). At one side of the bank is a memorial for some of those who got killed that day.
-Then we walked to Santarosa and Panepistimiou, the general area was the black market during the occupation, Nazis had approved and used several casino in the area and were the places where traitors and nazi were exchanging information, and gold.
-next stop was at Patision and Gladstonos where on September 23, 1942 a partisan organization bombed the building of a fascist organization that was trying to enlist Greeks to fight along with the germans at the front!
-last stop was at Korai street, at the building were thousands greeks were hold, tortured and died by the Nazis.
It was an amazing yet sad tour and no matter we were more than 500 people we all enjoyed it. They said that they will try to make it again next year. The tour ended at the Law University were we watched some old shorts films and photos (photography wasn’t allowed during the occupation) that gave extra light of what we heard on the tour. At the end another historian (professor Mpournova) gave us extra information from her archive (including Red Cross’ files from that time) about the daily life in Athens during the occupation.
I know, those who come to Greece will end up sooner or later on some island and will enjoy the sea. But for those who just returned from an island and already miss it or for those who dont have time to visit an island there are many beaches at Attika region. Some of them are very close the center of the city, only 30' away by tram from Syntagma square!!!
At the south check Alimos (free entrance), Elliniko(free entrance), Asteria Glyfadas, Boula, Voulagmeni plaz, Limanaki Vouliagmenis, Kavouri, Yabanaki(activities for kids), Freatida
On the east coast you can visit some other beaches, Artemida(Loutsa) can be reached with bus 305 from Nomismatokopio metro station, while for Porto Rafti and Nea Makri you need a long distance bus from Pedion Areos.
If you have a car you may drive a bit further to the west where the beaches of Porto Germeno, Psatha and Alepohori will please you (and they are almost empty during the week)
Kipseli district is crowded! The word "Kipseli" means beehive because of the style of the buildings one next to other when other districts that times had more space (in ourdays it's the same everywhere). I still remember my first school teacher telling us that is one of the most crowded districts in the world. I’m not sure about that but in Greece is the most densely populated area with more than 200.000 residents.
Kipseli is between Galatsi district(at the north) and Patision Av.(at the south). Pedion Areos park used to be one nice park in the past but for some strange reason it’s abandoned the last years although there are not a lot of parks in Athens. Try to avoid the park after the afternoon.
Some architectures say that the buildings of Kypseli were very modern when they made but that was back in the 1930's, with Bauhaus and art-deco elements. Amazing to believe that it was just an area where the Athenians were going for recreation! Later in the 60s it was an upscale area with modern clubs, cinemas and theatres so a lot of artists start to gather in the area. In the 80s the rich people moved to the north suburbs and the city centre (where Kypseli belongs) start to fail in just a residential area…
Unfortunatelly, in our days you can see dozens of apartments one next to the other making you looking for free space without hope of course. The rents are cheaper here so many foreign immigrants choose to stay here and that gives a multicolor feeling in the area. You can see many shops that belongs to Africans or Asians and their customers are from their countries also.
What you can do here is:
1.go down Fokionos Negri Street, a partly pedestrian long street with cafes and pubs so it’s great to visit the area during the afternoon in spring/summer when the young people give life till late in the area.
2.The municipal market of Kipseli built in the 1930s. It was closed the last 10 years and recently occupied by locals after the municipality announced plans to demolish it and build a parking lot! Some locals make announcements from time to time about art expressions and other cultural events in the old building. You can see the market on your left hand as you go down Fokionos Negri St.
3.Walk in the pedestrial street of Agias Zonias for some nice local cafes
4.Visit Pedion Tou Areos park. A nice but ind of isolated park that brings me back a lot of games we used to play as children.
5.Eat at the ethiopian restaurant Axum
6.Make your hair rasta in one of nigerian places
7.visit one of the numerous small theatres of the district, the perfomance is in greek of course
Metro hasn’t made till here yet (2 stations will be build in the future) but you can visit the area by buses N.022, N.035 or trolley buses N.2, N.4, N.9. All of them stop at Kispeli square and Fokionos Negri starts from there.
monastery of Kesariani
Some years before I went up there for a concert of Savina Yanatu, one of my favorite greek female singers. Lately, I go just to relax at the near by café. You need a car to reach the monastery but it’s really amazing that you can go there in 15’ from the center of Athens at the greeny slopes of Imitos mountain and get away from the noise of the busy city! After your visit to the monastery you can continue by car for a few minutes and you will see a small terrace on your left. They serve some cold beers, small dishes and the cold coffee of course and the prices are ridiculus cheap. One of the best hidden places of Athens for me during summer. Nothing special for the eyes but so pleasant for the soul.
the monastery stands at the slopes of Imitos mountain, at Kesariani, 9 km from the center of the city. The taxi ride will cost you about 15euro but it will be difficult to return. If you don’t mind to walk 2,5km you can go down to Kesariani district and catch bus 224 that goes back to the center of Athens.
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