Naturally there is more to Athens than the Acropolis these days. There’s quite a bit more since the city now holds 4 million people spread across a wide valley pretty much as far as the eye can see in mid rise 60’s era apartment buildings. I didn’t scratch the surface of Modern Athens, although I saw a little of it on my way to several museums away from the center but I did spend a fair amount of time wandering the old city – the tourist area – with sinuously winding streets filled with cafes and shops which is spread around the foot of the acropolis.
Monstraki “square,” which is not square at all was a block from my hostel and a major hub of commerce and tourism. The view of the acropolis wasn’t bad either.
Hadrian’s arch (yes THAT Hadrian) was erected by the citizens of Athens as a thank you for all the urban renewal he did and still stands on the dividing line between the new and old part of the city.
Not all the Greek ruins are admission only museum sites – some are just an open park area in the middle of a shopping district.
Even in winter, a lot of urban life takes place on the sidewalk.
For some reason I found this tagged and dilapidated wall very beautiful.
Early in the morning, a rare empty street.
The remarkable but routine changing of the guard outside the presidential palace. This ceremony takes place every hour.
Its very serious but still seems to have take its inspiration straight from the British Ministry of Funny Walks.
I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to modern Athens. Its unfair, I know, but one doesn’t visit that city to see its newest splendors. The main modern architecture I paid any heed to is the subject of tomorrow’s post, the New Acropolis Museum. But here’s a smattering of shots from the workaday city that most of the city’s residents inhabit.
What did grab my attention, despite not being the eponymous Greek ruins, was the (mostly) Byzantine era Greek orthodox churches. The form was very consistent with red tiled dome roof, greek cross format, tall narrow windows, striped brick and stone exteriors, and stunning tile and fresco work inside. Here are a few I particularly liked.
There were many of these little churches scattered through the city. None seemed particularly central – they must have been more neighborhood places of worship or perhaps shrines to individual saints.
The form was so consistent that its sometimes hard to tell one from another but this particular one was set in the middle of a modern shopping square.
It had really lovely frescos inside.
The obligatory Christ looking down from the dome. This was consistent in Greek Orthodox churches I visited.
And, of course, in the East, Christ wears a moustache.
This was my favorite church – dating from the 11th century (same era as the Duomo at Pisa) its facade was cobbled together out of stone from pagan buildings.
The architects fitted in the pieces where the could, trying for but not always achieving any symmetry.
The included carvings are beautiful and strange.
Here on the front they have a “matched” set of sphinxes and griffons flanking the door that don’t really match.
In order to square their collective concience with plastering the building in pagan symbols they added carved crosses to as many places as possible. This particular piece – a naked man – needed two large crosses to render it acceptable.
A larger and more modern church. The materials and scale have changed but the form remains the same.