Greece has featured heavily in the news recently, but the potential tourist should not be discouraged by the gloomy stories concerning the economic crisis. In Athens particularly individual expression and political activism are spilling into the streets, creating a vibrant and colorful urban culture that everyone can enjoy. The city has a well-trodden tourist route so this article will introduce you to three of her most striking hidden gems.
Exarcheia is at the heart of Athens’s student and counterculture district, full of cafes and bookshops and splashed in a dazzling and sublime array of contemporary and topical graffiti. Exarcheia is a fabulous place to soak up Athenian street life and food, most notably souvlaki (stunningly fresh Greek kebabs), and get a sense of her intellectual heritage.
You can do your bit for Greece’s economy by supporting the many energetic small businesses here; the staff makes shopping unique and intriguing, sharing their experiences of the area and proudly showing off their wares. Most poignantly of all, Athens’ Polytechnic and its memorial to the student protestors killed there in 1973 are moving reminders of Athens’s impressive history of democratic protest.
A half-hour journey from Athens on the E22 bus takes you to the prosperous seafront suburb of Vouliagmeni. Delightful in itself with its sea-swept bars, restaurants, and views of the Aegean ocean a little-known natural wonder lies a mere ten minutes down the road.
Carved into an ancient, towering rock face is Lake Vouliagmeni: a mineral lake that conveniently maintains a pleasant temperature between 20-27oC, allowing for breath-taking exploration of its reputedly bottomless turquoise-blue depths.
The dazzling clear water is inhabited by friendly Doctor Fish who will ensure that you get a ticklish pedicure with every trip! While you inspect the stunning scenery (look out for bottled blue kingfishers darting down) you can also take advantage of the Lakes luxurious cafe: their coffee is not to be missed.
The site of ancient Athens city walls and cemetery, the Kerameikos today comprises a series of fascinating sun-baked ruins set amidst a glorious verdant green space. The bright and airy museum showcases the areas, and archaeological finds magnificently and makes a lovely prelude to a picnic lunch amid the ruins.
Ornately engraved tombstones are a feature of the exhibit and offer touching human insights into the day-to-day life of this ancient cultural center. You will find living history here too in the form of the resident wild tortoises. Tread carefully amongst the lush vegetation: what looks like a rock may turn out to be a tortoise!