The next leg took us through the university district. Although the University of Athens has now relocated to premises outside of the city, it retains the three great Neoclassical structures there today on “University Street”, formally known as the Evangelos Venizelos Boulevard. Under the courtyard on the other side of the road was the rather poignant “Stoa Bibliou”, a little basement precinct where academic publishers used to sell books to students. However the Greek financial crash did for these publishers, and their stores still stand empty there, some with displays of yellowing books still in the windows.
We then passed back towards the Acropolis area, taking us through the ancient district of Acharnia, past the walls near Monastiraki on Aeolou Street, which formed part of the ancient Acharnian Rd and Gate (the area made famous by Aristophanes’ comedy Acharnians). We returned to Monastiraki itself and finished at the “little metropolis” church, which is famous for its use of ancient spolia.
The day finished with the excellent hospitality of Dimos Kouvidis, who hosted us with food and wine on the terrace of his apartment, complete with sweeping views across to the Acropolis.
All in all, this was a fascinating tour of ancient Athens in its modern setting, displaying for us a rich archaeology of ideas, people, styles and ideas through the ages.
Additional notes/images from Ana Cabrera
This being Sunday, we were awakened by the bells of the nearby church, Saint Catherine, announcing the Sunday Mass at 7:45 and at 10:00; and the sunny day that it was.
Today we have the opportunity to walk in Athens from a different perspective, looking at some hidden places and learning different aspects of the Athenian urbanism, Greek history and Athens vibrant city.
Our first stop was the river of Athens, Ilissos. Channeling through tunnels today, the river’s location is important to Athens’s development as a city surrounded by mountains, including the hill of Lykavittos and the Acropolis, among others. In the near future, the river and its banks will be open to creating a riverside walk.
After that, we turned to the 19th-century Stadium, where the first modern Olympic games took place in 1896 and saw how the city expanded using the grid structure, connecting hubs between different districts.
During the walk we began to know a little of the different characters and figures that mark Greek and Athenian history, some through the street names, others through the sculptures and busts that decorated the streets, gardens and squares. Even at the underground station at Syntagma Square you can see the city’s stratigraphy and see some of the archaeological material recovered during the station construction.
One impressive sight was the Akademia and University halls, with the 19th century Classical Greek style, including painting capitals. On the garden, two ancient olive trees watch the entrance on the Akademia.
From that point, we turned to see some Byzantine churches and the University’s “Books Stoa”. This was a place which have many small bookshops prior to the financial crisis, but which the crisis closed.
The last monument was an amazing Byzantine church that reused many decorated fragments and spoke of the city richness in materials to be used in buildings, walls, roads, as we saw in Isthmia last Thursday.
The walk finished with a Greek picnic on the terrace of Dimos Kouvidis, facing the Acropolis hill! A snack to get a taste of this city.
Many thanks to Gonda for the tour!