Athens, Plaka and Monastiraki

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Excursion of the administrative, commercial and cultural center of Ancient Athens.

A walk through the old part of Athens - Plaka and Monastiraki - is an amazingly fascinating, enjoyable and unforgettable trip.

Plaka is the oldest district in the city center, right under the Acropolis. In the south it borders with the Makriyanni quarter, in the east - with the area where the columns of the temple of Olympian Zeus and Zappeon rise, from the north - with Ermou Street, the main shopping street of Athens, and in the west with Monastiraki - another old area of ​​Athens.

You will visit the place where the fate of the great philosopher of antiquity Socrates was decided.

Plaka is declared a “traditional settlement”. Post-war buildings of the region are also identified as protected. Thanks to this, Plaka today is the only place in Athens where you can see the city as it was 100 years ago. The buildings of famous inhabitants of old Athens are also preserved.

Plaka is the place where monuments of all eras that the city passed through “meet”: ancient, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman. They testify that here the heart of the city beats from ancient times to the present day. Many small churches, a mosque, a hamam, the first university of Greece, the Ancient and Roman Agora make up the cultural mosaic of the area.

On the territory of the Ancient Agora strip malls, workshops of artisans, mint, schools and theaters were located. At Ancient Agora square free residents of the city gathered to solve important issues of his life and the lives of its residents. Here the great Socrates was sentenced to death by the inhabitants of the city.

On the territory of Ancient Agora you will see one of the best preserved ancient Greek temples - the temple of Hephaestion, 5th century BC. It was dedicated to the god of fire and blacksmithing, the patron saint of artisans - Hephaestus and the goddess Athena. Not far from it is a monument of the Byzantine period - the temple of the Holy Apostles. On Metropolitan Square, you will visit the main Cathedral of Athens, where the relics of St. Gregory V - the patriarch of Constantinople are stored, you will see the graceful Byzantine church of the 13th-century Metropolis Lesser Metropolis, monuments dedicated to the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Paleologue and the archbishop of Athens and all Greece, John Damascus.

Near the ancient Greek Agora is the Roman Forum. Here are the ruins of commercial premises, a mosque of the 15th century. In the famous Tower of the Winds with an octagonal shape, symbolizing the 8 winds blowing in ancient Athens, the state water clock was installed former times. Outside on the walls of the Tower a sundial has been preserved. You will see fragments of the western wall of the building where the Library of the Roman Emperor Hadrian , the Byzantine churches of the X-XIV centuries was. The majestic Arch of Hadrian divides the old and new city. The inscriptions carved on both sides are called the founders of Athens Theseus and Hadrian.

The Anafiotika Quarter adjacent to Plaka is an “island” in the literal and figurative sense in the heart of Athens. This tiny picturesque quarter, which climbed the northeast slope of the Acropolis, was built in the middle of the 19th century by builders from Anafi (Cyclades Islands) who came to Athens to work on the construction of public buildings and the palace of King Otto. The rental and cost of land in the rest of Athens were very expensive, so they began to build their houses in the vicinity of the Acropolis, of course, in  the Cyclades architecture style. The construction was illegal, there was no plan, everyone built his house as he wanted and where he wanted, so instead of streets there were narrow passages through the courtyards of the houses. New residents brought with them their customs and traditions, songs, dances, and gradually transferred the new Anafi to the Greek capital. Together with the construction of houses, they restored two temples located in the area since the 17th century: the church of St. Simeon and St. George tone Vrahon. Today, only 45 houses, ranging from 8 to 36 square meters, which are declared protected, have survived on the climbing streets.

Plaka is a perfect place for walking. Its picturesque narrow streets are full of traditional taverns and restaurants, cafes and bars. From everywhere you can hear incendiary Greek music. At almost every step you will be greeted by tourist shops with a variety of souvenirs and gifts, handmade shoes and clothes.

Just a few steps from Plaka is the famous Ermu street with shops of wellknown world brands and Syntagma square with famous colorful "evzones".

The walk continues through Monastiraki, another Athens oldest and most popular area. Monastiraki is surrounded by the eponymous square, which stretches south of Ermu, metropolitan and Theseus squares. The areas of Psiri, Plaka and Theseus adjoin it. The name "small monastery" comes from the old church of the Assumption of Our Lady of Athens, located on the square. In former times here was the parish of Kareya Monastery on Imitos. Monastiraki Square is dominated by the old mosque of Tzistaraki. The former Catholic church is located here. During the reign of the Franks it belonged to the monastery of Nicholas Boneface. During the period of Turkish rule it was  the parish of Kareya Monastery on Imitos, as well as the Orthodox Church of Our Lady, . In subsequent years, it became a parish church dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. On Adriano street you will visit the church of Agio Philippe (St. Philip) of the XVII century.

 The mosque was built by the Turkish governor Tcistarakis in 1759. Materials of old buildings were used for its construction. And to find material for marble wall plaster, the Turks blew up the 17th column of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The Athenians believed that under the crown of each column of the temple one curse was “hidden”. This legend is confirmed: hunger broke out in the city after this event. According to the same legend, the temple of Zeus so loudly “mourned” the destruction of its column that nobody could fall asleep in Athens that night. The temple "calmed down" only after the murder of the governor. After the revolution of 1821, the building was used for various purposes for more than a century, and in 1924 a folk museum was located in it. The famous Greek collector Drosinis presented the museum with two valuable collections, furniture, utensils, paintings by the Danish artist K. Pelf and Japanese vessels Gr. Manu. The museum was later renamed as the National Museum of Decorative Arts. Today in the mosque is a branch of the Museum of Folk Art. It exhibits a rich collection of ceramics, mainly from Asia Minor.

Monastiraki is famous for its flea market. He is loved not only by the inhabitants of the city, but also by his guests. This is a paradise for lovers of antiquities, antiques, rare things. Here you can find everything: from pins to furniture, objects of Greek life and Western culture, tourist souvenirs. A walk through the market is a journey into the history of the city and the whole of Greece.

In Monastiraki, at every step you will find souvenir shops, antique salons restaurants, taverns, cafes. An amazing, unique atmosphere reigns here. You can take a walk, watch the merchants, listen to street musicians, have a cup of coffee in some cozy cafe.

After an interesting walk through the narrow streets of old Athens - Plaka and Monastiraki, you can not resist the picturesque loud barkers and you will certainly taste delicious courses of Greek traditional cuisine and drink a glass of Greek wine in one of the many taverns near the Acropolis!

Вадим Гончаренко
В сентябре 2017 отдыхали в Греции в отеле Bomo Club Palmariva Beach (о. Эвия, Эретрия). Прежде всего хочется поблагодарить сотрудников Нижегородского представительства «Музенидис Трэвел» и ООО «Сприн-Тур» (г. Нижний Новгород) за квалифицированную консультацию, вежливое обращение и подготовку необходимых документов. А вот в Греции принимающая сторона встретила не очень дружелюбно. Организация встречи в...