Life & Style 07-18-2004 15:27

Athens is a crossroads, where the mountains meet the sea, East meets West, a city where a turbulent history co-exists with a modern business ambience, and a new era begins right now in 2004. Let us then try to trace the various faces and eccentric character of this modern-day metropolis with its Mediterranean temperament.

It is not easy to figure out a non-conformist, unruly and liberal city like Athens. A city where the ancient sense of measure co-exists with the chaos of modern times, and a relaxed Mediterranean temperament mingles with the inhuman rhythm of globalized business. Still, anyone can understand the reason for this: Athens has always been a busy crossroads. Despite its countless adventures through time and the changes in its population, the city has been inhabited uninterruptedly for over five thousand years. And no one can claim that crossroads, particularly busy ones, are supposed to be calm and peaceful...

2004 is a year that will leave its mark on the city in many ways. Organizing the Olympic Games is a monumental event which signifies a new era for the city of Athens, not only because during the summer it will be in the spotlight of international publicity as regards sports, culture and travel, but also because thanks to this amazing event, the foundations have been laid for its latest transformation: it will be portrayed as a modern, bustling, multiracial metropolis of many colours that will however maintain those particular characteristics that make it so unique and to which it owes its individual, inimitable style. A style that may be attributed to its magical location: This is the centre of Attica, of an entire world, where everything exists and intersects, - the mountains and the sea, East and West, the soft curves of the landscape with the straight line of the horizon - thus creating a basin protected by welcoming mountain ranges and dotted with small hills, the most prominent of which is home to the city's eternal landmark: the Parthenon.

Every visitor - and in particular every resident - of Athens is conscious of its century-long history. Modern Athenians are proud of their city; its name and the civilization created here bear an impact on them, whether consciously or unconsciously. Just to hear spoken the names of those who lived here and created such splendour, the generals, the writers from the brief but golden era of the 5th century, fills us with an awe similar to that felt by those who followed their example and built the civilization of the west. Their memory has never faded - and even those who came here to conquer the city that played the role of an ecumenical school of knowledge for years did not cease to respect its history. In view of all this, how can you ever expect to persuade modern Athenians to consider themselves mere mortals and not as companions to the gods鈥

According to the census of 2001, the population of Attica is 3,761,810 people (a figure which is much bigger in relatity, since many residents of Athens prefer to be registered in their place of origin, and there is no safe way of counting the total number of economic immigrants). And life in this eccentric city makes them understandably eccentric also.

On the one hand, there are antiquities literally scattered all around them, making Athenians particularly snobbish as regards monuments. They move around and have constant access to an open-air museum, which means they are not easily impressed by a pile of ancient marble. On the other hand, although they may be particularly proud of their past, they also live for the present, assimilating every new trend with ease, after making sure it is tailor-made for them. Which explains why every sort of nightlife entertainment holds a special place on the Athens scene. The variety of entertainment, the number of clubs, their design and vibrant spirit are all truly impressive. As regards food, we start with traditional tavernas, mezedes bars, steak houses and ouzeri and culminate with an evolving string of restaurants of the highest gastronomic quality. We then continue with countless bars, clubs, and live music; either popular music played on small stages or music bars with modern Greek songs or even typical bouzouki joints. All these are open on an almost daily basis - not forgetting the frequent concerts and festivals with foreign artists nor the active Athens dance scene and the various events related to it.

One thing is obvious: there is an air of relaxation and freedom in the city, highlighted by the fact that it is located near the sea. The beaches are easy to get to and so all the hustle and bustle moves in that direction, as soon as the weather gets warmer: not only to swim, but for the nightlife also - in summer, the traffic build-up during the early hours along the waterfront can only be compared to the 鈥 congested arteries of downtown Athens at midday.

As for summer weekends, that is the only time when the city seems empty: as everyone goes off to the beach resorts in Attica or to the nearest islands in the Argosaronikos Gulf and the Cyclades, in order to practise some non-Olympic sports: swimming, tanning, endless gorging and raising hell till dawn.

Source:The official website of the ATHENS 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games


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