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REST OF ATTICA

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Bordered by beauteous shores to the East and to the South and by densely forested mountains to the North and to the West, the region of Attica displays its geographical diversity immediately. Yet this diversity extends to much more. Including the extended Metropolitan area of Athens, the remaining inland, the peninsula of the Trizinia county and eight small islands, Attica remains but a small part of the Greek nation, yet it hosts nearly half of its entire population. The city of Athens alone has more to offer than anyone can absorb with but a single visit; whether for business or pleasure, the visitor will encounter an infinity of choices. Fully-equipped conference halls with top-notch technological facilities are available within the city itself, its majestic countryside, or in its ports, where a cruise ship may move the conference from one island to the other, combining business with an exquisite vacation. Luxurious hotels, top-quality Greek as well as international cuisine, limitless nightlife which often reaches well into the next day, seductive shopping options, and recently modernized transportation facilities. The 2004 Olympics are over, but the infrastructure built to service them remains at the disposal of the Athenians and their guests. Taking the metro is, in most central stations, a visit to an archaeological site. All are offered plentiful in what is one of the richest cultural centers worldwide, a city which many refer to as the birthplace of democracy, of philosophy, of independent thought, and much more. 

 

ATHENS

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

 

The metropolitan city of Athens, capital of Greece, with a population that exceeds 4000000, dominates the prefecture, and with its endless array of diverse attractions, it keeps visitors far too busy to look elsewhere in the region. Yet many promises are held for those who manage to take their gaze off the mesmerizing stare of the Goddess Athena; pebbled beaches, pine forests crisscrossed by trickling streams, and breathtaking cliffs towering over foamy blue waters, are but a taste of what the rest of the region can offer.    

 

HISTORY-CULTURE

 

In the region of Attica, as well as within the city of Athens itself, continuous human presence dates as far back as the sixth millennia B.C. This makes Athens perhaps the most ancient city that remains inhabited to this day, where the line of antiquity lies unbroken for more than eight millennia. Successive city layers have been built one upon the other for thousands of generations, some of which can be seen in the Syntagma metro station. Athens is the city where Pericles established Democracy, where Philosophy was taught by the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, where Theatrical dramas were performed by the masters of the art Sophocles, Aeschylus, Evripides, where the roots of modern comedy grew from the seeds  found in the mirth of the works of Aristophanes. It is the city which, along with Sparta, held the Greeks together to meet the threat of the Persian empire face to face, leading to a series of heroically outnumbered victories which many believe to have triggered the golden age of Greece. It is also a city that suffered centuries of foreign rule, mostly under Romans and Turks. Recent history has been no less burdensome; the necessity to instantly host the inflow of a about a million of refugees expelled from Asia Minor in 1922 led to a rapid building programme which damaged the city plan irrevocably, while world war II bombings and urbanization in the 1950΄s delivered additional blows to the once beautiful city. Decades later, a grandiose event, the celebration of the Olympic Games in their homeland, inspired Athenians and all Greeks to renovate their capital. Though the task seemed impossible, it actually worked; in a span of just a few years, Athens has truly become a city reborn. Its infrastructure is the most modern in the world, including a new airport, a new metro, new avenues, new ring roads, modern buses, and very much more, comfortably connecting this cultural capital with the rest of the country, as well as with the rest of the world.     

 

SIGHTS

 

There is too much to be seen in any single visit; archaeological sites alone number more than some hundreds, and therefore one must focus on the principal attractions. There are also numerous sights to satisfy other interests, including museums, galleries, and beauteous landscapes. 

 

ATHENS

 

It is difficult to imagine any individual who, being in Athens, does not feel compelled to pay a visit to the Acropolis. This impressive mass of rock, jutting out of the plain to form a natural fortress, holds one of the most spectacular sights ever made by mankind, one of the most recognizable constructs of humanity, the most elegant among the wonders of the ancient world: The Parthenon. Once this pilgrimage has taken place, there is much more to be seen, but one can focus on what he finds most of interest. A stroll within the old city, in the picturesque neighborhoods of Plaka, Psirri, Monastiraki, and Thission, can be combined with wonderful cuisine and shopping, with occasional glances at the buildings of the ancient marketplace or visit to the remarkably well-preserved temple of Hephaistus. The archaeological museum of Athens and the temple of Olympian Zeus are also of principal interest, while one may enjoy a refreshment by the sea in the suburbs of Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni, or Sounion. The view from Lycabettus hill is impressive at late hours, offering a gorgeous picture of Athens-by-night. A walk form Syntagma square to Omonia square can be rewarding, offering a glance at elegant buildings of the 19th century and many shopping opportunities.         

 

PIRAEUS

 

The presence of the sea is always felt in this beautiful city, whether in sight or not. The sea breeze makes its way through avenues and alleys, its refreshing scent soothing the heat of the blazing sun of the Greek summer, or milding the bitter winter cold. Piraeus has been the major port of Greece since antiquity, hosting the multitudes of triremes of the once dreaded Athenian fleet. Much of the great walls which once connected it with Athens to form an impregnable line of defense still stand tall, and can be seen en route to enjoy a refreshment in the many seaside cafes on the hill of Kastella. Piraeus has its own archaeological museum, full of spectacular findings such as the statue of Poseidon, as well as many other sights, and its own market, which some may enjoy more than that of central Athens.      

 

THE REMAINING AREA OF ATTICA

 

Attica has much more to offer than Athens and Piraeus. There is ancient Elefsis, home of the Dionysian ceremonial orgies and of the temple of Demeter, goddess of fertility. Marathon is the landscape of the renowned battle and the beginning of the most famous race in athletic history, where the mound erected to honor those who fell that day forms an impressive spectacle. A trip to ancient Vravron can be followed by a swim on its wonderful beach. The temple of Poseidon in Sounion, towering over a high cliff above the sea, offers one of the best views to the Aegean Sea available, and perhaps can be combined with a stay in the luxurious resorts at nearby Lagonissi. The ancient silver mines of Lavrio are awe-inspiring, while the well-preserved ancient fortress at Fyli, at the fringes of the Parnitha mountain range, provides an impressively clear image of ancient defensive works. The old national road leading to Corinth offers a ride above the sea, where a rest can be taken to enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many taverns that are found on the way. For those who prefer meat traditionally cooked on charred coals, a visit to the taverns situated upon the surrounding mountains -Pendeli, Ymmitos, and Parnitha- is mandatory.       

 

ENTERTAINMENT-SPORTS-SHOPPING

 

Shopping in Athens can be exciting, offering many bargains, along with attractions in every direction. The market of Piraeus is also seductive, while good bargains lie to be discovered for those who will go through exploring the suburbs. Nightlife is spectacular, to say the least, with all kinds of establishments -clubs, bars, beer galleries, dance shows, bouzoukia, taverns, restaurants, and anything else imaginable- open all night and well into the next morning, even on weekdays. Sports facilities are perhaps the best available in the world, most being recently constructed or drastically renovated to host the 2004 Olympics. 

 

MUSEUMS

 

The archaeological museums of Athens and Piraeus are but the prime attractions of a category which lists 41 museums in the city of Athens alone. The entire region of Attica hosts more than 100 museums and even more collections, covering an impossible range of fields of interest as well as all major historical periods and forms of art.  

 

ALTERNATIVE TOURISM

Archaeology, cultural, ecotourism, gastronomy, educational, congress, spiritual, sporting (canoe-kayak, water ski, banana, water parachute, trekking, mountain climbing, mountain bike, parapente, rappel, windsurfing, scuba diving, sailing, catamaran, horse riding, caving). 

 

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