A Change of Pace in Athens Greece

When someone mentions a holiday in Greece, the first thing that pops up in most people’s minds is sandy beaches and sparkling clean water. With a coastline 13,676 kilometers long, there is certainly a beach to suit every taste. However, Greece is also known for its capital  city ,  Athens ; a buzzing metropolis that never sleeps. Apart from the many fine hotels that are available, there is also alternative accommodation such as studios or apartments for a more affordable stay. For the tourist who wants to experience this city up close and work up a sweat at the same time, the best way is to rent a bike.

There are many cycling enthusiasts willing to take the challenge in a foreign country. Greece has many cyclists of its own and a plethora of agencies renting bikes or offering bike tours. All you have to do is decide how you want to do it; on your own or with a group. Since  Athens , like any big metropolis, has constant traffic congestion, cycling will certainly give you the freedom you’re looking for. Once you have studied your maps, you will be ready to zip in and out of traffic and discover secrets of the city that are off the beaten track.

Right in the heart of this modern city lie the ruins of an ancient civilization. As you head towards the city centre, you cannot miss the majestic hill of the Acropolis, a world heritage site. Sitting proudly at the top of the hill, is the famous columned structure of the Parthenon, which was built in honor of the goddess Athena. The hill and surrounding area abounds with the splendid remains of the past such as the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, the Erectheion and the Agora, the marketplace of ancient  Athens . All roads and narrow alleys lead you to these proud remains and reveal the mysteries of a distant world that is set amidst a modern city.

Along the way, you will find people and places to accommodate you on your tour. There are many roads that are off limits to cars as well as wide pedestrian pathways that are bicycle-friendly. Of course, during high season, the streets are dotted with people from all walks of life who come here to see the sights and experience the culture. The cafes and many eateries overflow with tourists while the locals, most of them fluent in English, are friendly and welcoming. Various artists and musicians are also there to entertain the crowds and shops spilling over with beautiful souvenirs.



Dining in Athens

 Athens  is one of the oldest  cities  in existence and has a fascinating dining scene. Traditional tavernas and ouzeries mingle with contemporary restaurants, fast food joints and cafes to create a truly diverse dining landscape. Who knows what you’ll find in  Athens .

A Historic City

 Athens  is full of historic monuments, having been inhabited for around 7,000 years. The city has been swept through a number of cultures including Hellenic, Dorian and Ottoman.

 Athens  colorful history adds to the culinary experience you’ll find there. While the city now boasts over 3-million people in its urban area, it has seen many faces, battles and artistic triumphs. One look at the Parthenon, located in the Acropolis, during sunset and you’ll be smitten.

Greek culture was born in  Athens , a  city  named after the goddess Athena who, in mythology, battled Poseidon for rule over it. The two higher beings were to present a gift each, Poseidon’s being salt water to represent naval rule; Athena’s was an olive tree symbolizing peace and prosperity. The Greeks chose democracy and thus was born the basis of western culture and politics.

Explore the Tastes of Greece

In  Athens  you’ll find a variety of great restaurants. While commercial, touristy restaurants are popular with visitors it’s often at the family owned tavernas that you’ll find the real cuisine of Greece.

Greek dining is epitomized by fresh seafood, simple flavors and mezethes, or “tapas”-like shared plates. Look for eateries where you can see the food prior to eating it, or that advertise fresh fish on their menus. Whether you’re in the Plaka or Psiris in central  Athens  or enjoying the sea views in the Microlimano, you’ll find fish on the menu.

Start with a glass of house wine (often better than the bottled) or anise-flavored ouzo and a couple meze while you peruse the menu. If you’re ordering fish, notice whether the price is per kilo or for the whole dish as eating fresh seafood, like many places in the world, can get expensive. If budget is of no concern then enjoy the best you can get!

One important thing to do when dining out in Greece is to notice where the locals are eating. Don’t be caught in tourist traps that feed you commercial foods. It’s not every day you get a taste of Greece, so it has to be worth your dollars.

Common foods in Greece besides the variety of seafoods such as various small fish like sardines and anchovies as well as octopus, include pork and lamb dishes like gyro or souvlaki; vegetable dishes that include eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and green beans; rice and pastas. If you’re stopping for a quick bite grab a gyro, or pita sandwich, or go for a fresh greek salad. Many things here are simply flavored with garlic, herbs, lemon, salt, pepper and of course olive oil. Check out an ouzerie or cafĂ© for an afternoon drink and simple meal.

Vegetables and legumes are important inclusions in the Greek diet and vegetarians will find tons of options for dining. Enjoy tasty falafel (chickpea patties), bean soups or dolmades, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice and fresh herbs.

Greek desserts pleasure any sweet tooth without going over the top. Greek yoghurt, nuts and honey are common ingredients in Greek desserts, many of them wrapped in phyllo pastry.

Great coffee didn’t become popular in Greece until recently but now you’ll find a ton of cafes serving cappuccino and frappe (iced coffee). Coffee in Greece is unlike coffee in the United States though. You may be served instant coffee or coffee that isn’t so finely strained. A little grounds never hurts, and actually makes the coffee seem better, a little more rustic.

Where to Dine in  Athens 

 Athens  is a huge  city , and it can feel overwhelming when you first get there to know where to go. Inquire with the hotel staff or make friends at local cafes to learn where the diamonds in the rough lay.

The main dining areas of  Athens  include:

Plaka-this is the oldest part of  Athens , this mainly pedestrian area features most of the touristy places, but also some great dining gems and cafes.

Psiri-you’ll find a lot of culture and history here. Known for its anti-establishment stance Psiri features fine dining, tavernas and cafes alike. It’s advisable to start first with Plaka and Psiri when doing adventurous dining in  Athens .

Mikrolimano-this breathtaking area of Piraeus features fresh seafood dining with incredible views. This is an especially busy area during the summer, and features some of the more expensive restaurants in  Athens .

Kifissia-this is upscale  Athens . You’ll find a lot of entertainment venues and expensive, beautiful restaurants here.

This is only a touch on what is available for dining in  Athens , but gives you a good start. Be open to new things and really explore the tastes of  Athens !



A Short History of Athens

The history of Athens is virtually the history of Greece, for this immortal city was for centuries the heart of the Hellenic world and the acknowledged leader of its civilization. Though in common with all Greek cities, its origins are too remote to be anything more than a matter for conjecture. The Cyclopean wall that runs round the rock of the Acropolis, the neolithic remains, traces of Bronze Age habitation and a number of pre-Hellenic place-names prove that Athens was occupied by man from the very earliest times.

Athens was perhaps the largest of the independent Attic communities with its king residing on the Acropolis, probably in the palace named after Erechtheus, whose memory is perpetuated in the magnificent temple of the Erechtheion. A tribe of their Ionian kinsmen from Marathon, from whom later generations of Athenians were proud to claim descent, invaded the city and rapidly became predominant. Under the rule of Cecrops, the first known king of Athens, and that of his successors, Pandion, Erechtheus, Aegeus and Theseus, Athens increased in size and importance, slowly absorbing the smaller communities of Attica, until in the reign of Theseus (c. 1300 BC) they were all united under his leadership.

About 1100 BC, the Dorians invaded the Peloponnese and swept all before them; it seemed that no army could withstand them, and Athens was in mortal danger. Its citizens sprang to arms, though with a presentiment of certain defeat in their hearts. It had been prophesied that the Athenians could only ensure victory by the death of their king. King Codrus then decided to sacrifice himself to save his people. Making his way disguised into the Dorian camp he provoked a quarrel in which he was killed. When the invaders discovered that it was Codrus they had slain they despaired of success and retreated; Athens was saved.

Since no one was thought worthy to succeed this heroic king, the monarchy yielded to government by the nobles, who appropriated all power. They chose three archons, or executive officials, from among their ranks to represent the king and share the royal power. This change was affected by the devolution of the military powers of the king to the polemarch, who then became the supreme military commander; the first archon, who later became the chief state official, was the civil governor, while the archon basileus, who was a descendant of Codrus, retained the title of king and had control of the religious rites of the state. Although first hereditary and limited to the royal clan, the tenure of the archonship was later reduced to a period of ten years and all noblemen were eligible for office.

This reform, however, did not satisfy the masses that resented the concentration of all state authority in the hands of the aristocracy and clamored for a written constitution. In 594 BC the nobles bestowed full power to remodel the new state on one of their number, the celebrated Solon, trusted by noblemen and peasant alike. For the first time in the history of the world the people were given a measure of participation in government, the grant of political rights and a constitution. Later the office of archon was made annual and elective and to the existing three offices, military, civil and religious, were added the six thesmothetae whose sole duty was to record judicial decisions. In spite of these concessions discontent was rife, and a number of popular revolts exposed the state to constant danger.

In 546 BC, Peisistratus, a distinguished and daring statesman seized power and made himself dictator. Under his autocratic rule Athens enjoyed great prosperity. He stimulated commerce and industry, and by fostering agriculture laid the basis for the development of Athens’ chief export, the olive. Through his vigorous foreign policy, for the first time, Athens emerged as an Aegean Power. Posterity is indebted to this devoted lover of the arts since he ordered the preparation of the first authorized version of Homer’s sublime epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. He also embellished the city with monuments whose splendor was later surpassed only by those of the Golden Age of Pericles.

Peisistratus died in 527 BC. Though a dictator, he had been an enlightened and benevolent ruler. He had cared for the interests of the common man and curbed the power of the nobles; but his sons, especially the elder, Hippias, were brutal tyrants who exercised their power solely in their own interests. They excited the hatred of the Athenians to such a degree that in 514 BC a conspiracy was organized and the leaders, two patricians, Harmodios and Aristogeiton, killed the younger brother, Hipparchus. Hippias was driven into exile and the civic liberties of the state were restored.

The resounding victories over the Persians at Marathon, in 490 BC, and particularly the glorious Battle of Salamis, in 480 BC, in which Themistocles proved himself a naval commander of genius, laid the foundations of Athenian supremacy over the Hellenic city-states. A statesman of uncommon foresight, Themistocles added diplomatic triumphs to his victories. By protracting the parleys with Sparta he gained the time necessary to complete the rebuilding of the city’s fortifications, which had been destroyed by the Persians during their second invasion.

Themistocles’ policies were continued by his successor, Cimon. Athenian domination over the states of Asia Minor was consolidated and no enemy ship now dared appear in the waters of the Mediterranean. Besides being a brilliant strategist Cimon was also a great lover of art. He embellished the city, and commissioned his intimate friend, the eminent painter Polygnotus of Thasos, to execute vast frescoes recording the glorious deeds of the Athenians.

The year 460 BC saw the eclipse of Cimon and the rise of his political rival, Pericles, who controlled the affairs of the state, including the earlier period of the Peloponnesian war, until his death in 429 BC. An aristocrat but at the same time leader of the democratic party, he was a fervent advocate and champion of people’s rights. During the years of his administration Athens reached the summit of her grandeur, and the most brilliant century of Greek history is known as the Age of Pericles. Athens was now mistress of a superb fleet of three hundred sail and an army of thirty thousand perfectly armed and disciplined soldiers, with fortifications extending to the port of Peiraeus; she was impregnable to attack from land or sea, while her commercial prosperity and the tribute of the Delian League amassed in the treasury made her the richest city in all Hellas.

If the material prosperity of Athens was great during this period, her attainments in every field of culture were incomparable. A galaxy of architects, sculptors and painters and their gifted assistants adorned the city with a dazzling array of temples, public buildings and other works of art. Nor were Athenian achievements in literature less noteworthy. In this period the Attic drama produced many immortal masterpieces. It is also to Periclean Athens that the scientific thought of Europe in logic, ethics, rhetoric and history owes its origin. Supreme in the arts of war and peace, Athens was the most illustrious city of antiquity and seemed destined to endure for ever, but the inconstant gods were envious of happiness that matched their own.

The outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 was the first of a series of misfortunes to fall upon the city. Two years after the beginning of this internecine and intermittent struggle between Athens and Sparta for the hegemony of Greece, Athens suffered irreparable loss in the untimely death of Pericles during the dreadful plague that ravaged the city. Twelve years later the treachery of Pericles’ nephew, Alcibiades, was the cause of an even greater calamity.

Idol of the masses, Alcibiades was a gifted but completely unscrupulous demagogue who served his native city only when it suited him. Against the opposition of more experienced generals he succeeded in persuading his fellow citizens to embark upon the Sicilian Expedition (415) and was appointed one of the commanders. Shortly after the fleet had set sail he was recalled to stand trial on a charge of sacrilege, but fled to the Spartans, to whom he betrayed Athenian plans for the invasion of Sicily.

The crushing defeat of her fleet before Syracuse with the loss of forty thousand men and two hundred and forty ships, struck a crippling blow at the naval prestige of Athens and in 404 after twenty-seven years of war, utter exhaustion and starvation forced her to capitulate to her rival, Sparta.

Though her defeat deprived Athens of the leadership of Hellas, she retained her cultural eminence. The plays of Euripides and Aristophanes, the sculpture of Praxiteles and Scopas, the paintings of Zeuxis and the philosophical works of Plato mark this period as one of particular brilliance in the history of arts.

During the Corinthian War (395 BC) there was a revival of the Athenian naval power under Conon, whose squadron utterly routed the Spartan ships at the historic battle of Cnidus (394 BC). Following his triumphant return Conon ordered the rebuilding of the Long Walls (393 BC), which Athens had been compelled to demolish by the victorious Spartans at the end of the Peloponnesian War.

These walls completed the city’s chain of giant defenses. A roadway 8 kms in length and 170 m. wide, protected on either side by walls 18 m. high and 3 m. thick, secured communication between the city and the port of Peiraeus with its adjoining harbors. To the south was a had already been removed for the adornment of the new city on the Bosporus, and she was the object of further depredation in AD 523 when the great church of St. Sophia was erected. Under Byzantium the Parthenon and other glorious temples were converted into Christian churches, and in AD 529 Constantinople ordered the closing of the celebrated philosophical schools and the confiscation of their libraries; Athens was but a name.

After the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204 the Burgundian Count Otto de la Roche was granted the lordship of Athens, later raised to a duchy by Louis IX, and established his court on the Acropolis. On the death of Guy II, last duke of the House of de la Roche, the duchy passed to his cousin, Gautier de Brienne, the last French duke of Athens. Three years later (1311) he perished at the battle of Copais where a fearsome army of Catalan adventurers, known as the Grand Company, slaughtered the flower of Frankish chivalry. The Catalans terrorized the country for seventy years until they were overcome by another horde of Spanish mercenaries, the Navarrese Company.

In 1388 the Florentine Nerio Acciajuoli, Castellan of Corinth and Lord of Thebes, whom the Navarrese had elected as their leader, seized Athens and installed himself in the ducal court of the Acropolis. The house of the Acciajuoli lasted until 1456 when the last duke, Franco, was forced to yield to the Turks.

In 1684 when Venice declared war against the Turks, Doge Francesco Morosini was appointed to command the expedition. Ably seconded by a Swedish general, Count Otto Koenigsmark, he drove the enemy out of the Peloponnese and then marched against their garrison in Athens. In Morosini’s bombardment of the Acropolis, then held in force by the enemy, severe damage was done to the monuments there.

In 1821 the great revolution against Turkish occupation, which had lasted for almost four centuries, spread third wall, the Phaleric, which extended to the coastal town of Phaleron and protected the bay connecting it with Peiraeus. These massive walls rendered Athens an impregnable fortress, making it impossible for an invader to cut her off from her trade and food supplies.

From 338 BC the orator Lycurgus was archon. During his tenure of office he further embellished the city and restored those ancient monuments that had suffered either at the hands of man or from the ravages of time. In this same period, from the tribune of the hallowed rock of the Pnyx, resounded the voice of the great orator, Demosthenes, whose name will forever be linked with the last splendors of the immortal city.

Alexander the Great treated Athens with marked favor and granted her a considerable measure of autonomy. Though she had lost her supremacy in science and scholarship to Alexandria, Athens was still considered the natural home of philosophy, while in the theatre Menander’s New Comedy made Athenian life known throughout the civilized world.

After being sacked by Sulla in 86 BC for her part in supporting Mithridates the Great against Rome, she became part of the new Roman province of Achaea in 27 BC. Her only importance now lay in her philosophical schools which were frequented by such young Romans as Cicero, Herodes Atticus and Horace.

Athens was later restored to favor as a free and sovereign city and regarded as the cultural center of the Roman world; Hadrian and later Antonines lavishly endowed her with many new buildings. During the reign of the Emperor Hadrian a whole new city, Novae Athenae, to which the Arch of Hadrian was the gateway, rose around the Olympieion.

With the foundation of Constantinople Athens sank into the obscurity of a provincial Byzantine town and is rarely mentioned in the chronicles of the period. Pheidias’ statue of Athena Promachos and other works of art throughout Greece. A year later, in 1822, the intrepid Odysseus Androutsos, one of the principal figures of the War of Independence (1821-1833) succeeded by a surprise attack in capturing the Acropolis. In 1826 the Turks under Reschid Pasha again besieged it. An attempt by the French philhellene Colonel Baron Fabvier to relieve the heroic defense force was defeated, and the garrison commander Gouras killed. Further attempts to relieve the Acropolis proved no more successful than the first, instructions were therefore sent to the garrison to surrender.

On 24th May 1827, the Turks having accorded them the honors of war, the remnants of the gallant defenders marched out with flying colors.

The Acropolis remained in the hands of the enemy until 12th April 1833 when, in the name of Greece, Colonel Baligand took formal possession from the Turkish commander. On 13th December of the same year King Othon, the first King of Greece, entered the city. One year later, on 18th September 1834, Athens was officially proclaimed the Capital city of the Kingdom.



Collecting Ancient Athenian Coins

Coins issued by certain cities or empires took the leading role in dictating which coins were readily acceptable for trade in the Mediterranean lands. One such   city  was  Athens , which established the “Attic standard” that was to be adopted later by Alexander the Great. Silver was used to pay civil servants, soldiers and mercenaries, and it is believed that the latter is the reason that many Greek silver coins were struck in the first place. The non-Greek lands of the Near East issued large quantities of silver coins, most notably the Parthians, Sassanians and Baktrians. These coins vary in style and fabric, the thickness and purity of the planchet on which the coin was struck, and are relatively under valued compared to the more widely collected issues of Greece proper.

In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of warfare and wisdom. Later known as Minerva by the Romans, she was the goddess of not only wisdom and battle, but of certain crafts and the protector of all cities and states. At birth, according to one myth, she sprang from the forehead of Zeus, the king of the gods, fully grown and dressed in armor. Athena is usually shown wearing a helmet and a magic shield called the aegis. The goddess Athena was not only wise in war but also in the arts of peace. She supposedly invented the plow and taught men how to yoke oxen. Athena’s chief symbol was the owl and in Greek mythology, the owl is firmly linked with Athena who is usually picture with her owl perched on her shoulder. Some say that is why the owl, in modern times, associated with wisdom.

Athenian coins were used in exchange throughout the Greek world, hoards have been found as far away from  Athens  as Babylon, Afghanistan and Iran. The quantity of Athenian coins minted in last half of the fifth century BC, reflect the changed and powerful position of  Athens  in the eastern Mediterranean, from a small  city-state  defending itself on land against the onslaught of Darius at Marathon,  Athens  grew to be the  center  of an empire whose power was dependent on its control of the sea. From being a partner in and administrative head of the Delian League,  Athens  became its leader and its many  city-state  members paid  Athens  tribute.

Huge sums must have been necessary for the commercial activities of  Athens  port  city , Piraeus, construction atop the Acropolis and in the city, financing of the Athenian fleet, and perennial warfare. The money was derived not only from annual tribute received from the Delian League  city-states , but from rich silver deposits  Athens  owned and mined at Laurium, close to Cape Sunium as well. The mines provide the silver that paid for construction of the fleet that destroyed the Persians at Salamis in 479 BC.

Common to all issues of the coin are the goddess Athena, in profile on the obverse, and the owl, her constant companion, standing on the reverse, a sprig of olive leaves with a berry above its shoulder. Variations in design exist among denominations of the coin.



Balkan Holidays – 10 City Breaks in the Balkans

A city break is an ideal way to learn something of a different culture in a few days. A city break gives you a chance to absorb a new experience. The Balkan region has a diverse mix of geography, history and culture.

City breaks in the Balkans offer something for everyone no matter what your age, taste, or whether you are part of a group or travelling alone.

Here are 10 cities that reflect the character of the Balkans.

1. Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade is known for being a vibrant and trendy city and has a reputation for offering a vibrant nightlife the best features of which are the barges spread along the banks of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

Belgrade boasts two opera houses, a number of museums, including the National Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There is also some stunning architecture

A former river island, Ada Ciganlija, on the Sava river, is Belgrade’s biggest sports and recreational complex. It is the most popular destination for Belgraders and visitors alike during the city’s hot summers.

2. Bucharest – Romania

Bucharest is known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Epoque buildings and a reputation for the high life, which at one time, earned it the nickname of “Little Paris”.

Bucharest has much historical charm – from the streets of the Old City Centre, which are slowly being restored, to the grand architecture of the Royal Palace and the lush green of Cismigiu Park. The city also claims a large number of museums, art galleries, exquisite Orthodox churches and unique architectural sites.

3. Dubrovnik – Croatia

Dubrovnik is one of the world’s finest and best preserved fortified cities and features two kilometres of walls, some 6 metres thick in places lined with turrets and towers, that run around the city. George Bernard Shaw said in 1929: “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik”.

4. Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana is a charming city, the numerous parks and a vibrant cultural scene. There are numerous art galleries and museums and a mediaeval castle located at the summit of the hill that dominates the city centre.

Ljubljana Zoo covers has 152 animal species. An antique flea market takes place every Sunday in the old city. Tivoli Park is the largest park in in the city, has 3 main avenues, planted with chestnut-trees.

5. Sarajevo – Bosnia

Sarajevo is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated around the Miljacka river, commonly known as the Sarajevo River. This river is one of the main features of the city. In December 2009, Lonely Planet listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010

A great way to get around this city is on the electric tram system. Sarajevo was the first city in Europe to have a full-time operational electric tram network running through the city.

6. Skopje – Macedonia

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and the Memorial House of Mother Teresa commemorates this. There are many old churches and mosques to visit for those who love history and architecture.

Many famous worldwide artists have attended the music festivals over the years. The Skopje Jazz Festival is part of the European Jazz Network. The Blues and Soul Festival in early July is part of the Skopje Cultural Summer Festival and the May Opera Evenings have been one of the most visited events in Skopje.

The City Park is home to the main museum, several monuments, small lakes, cafes and restaurants. The city Zoo and stadium are also here along with several nightclubs.

7. Sofia – Bulgaria

Sofia is nestled in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, which makes it an ideal location for hiking and skiing. The city of Sofia is a lively, bustling and cosmopolitan city with many nightclubs, live venues and traditional Bulgarian taverns and restaurants. Many famous musicians have played in Sofia.

Sofia houses numerous museums and art galleries, including the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men.

The city has many places of special interest, museums and churches, and has a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Boyana Church

8 Split – Croatia

The city is located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and offers great links to surrounding seaside towns and to the numerous Adriatic Islands.

The city centre is taken up by the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, which is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Athens – Greece

Athens is home to the world famous Acropolis? The Parthenon and the other main buildings on the Acropolis were built by Pericles in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens. You could spend some days exploring this and it is best to start early on the hot summer days.

The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. It is now a pedestrian area of restaurants, tourist shops, and cafes and is an enjoyable place to relax.

The National Archaeological Museum ranks among the top ten museums in the world.

10. Istanbul – Turkey

Istanbul, the historic city that stands in Europe and Asia and has the status of 2010 European Capital of Culture is an ideal venue for a city break.

In Istanbul’s steep and bustling streets, and visitors can spend hours buying or viewing the wonderful products on offer in the markets, where bargaining is essential. The Grand Bazaar, has over 4,000 craft shops, selling carpets, pottery, jewels, and antiques in its labyrinths.

There are many monuments and historical sites including the Hagia Sophie and one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture, the “Blue Mosque”

Be sure to take a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait, and enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the city especially at sunset.

There are many more places in the Balkans that make it ideal for a short city break.



One M&T Plaza

Many talk extensively about New York and how it has evolved to be the most commercialized metropolis in the United States. The State of New York includes Buffalo, the silent sibling who has contributed to the state’s growth in an almost invisible way. Among the many things in Buffalo that attract tourists to get a glimpse of a more laid-back atmosphere in cacophonic New York, the One M&T Plaza stands tall in the city center. It’s not an exceptionally tall building, nor is it an architectural marvel. But then, why is it so popular among the many who visit Buffalo?

Standing just 317 feet tall and housing 21 floors, the One M&T Plaza was built in 1966 and is the current home to the M&T bank’s corporate headquarters. The building was designed by Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, the same people who designed the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. This is probably one reason for its immense popularity. During holidays, the building’s top band is illuminated, creating a very celebratory mood around the place. On normal days, this band is simply illuminated in white. Hockey season sees the building colored in blue and gold, cheering on the Buffalo Sabers.

The land space used to build the One M&T Plaza was the highest real estate transaction ever made during that time in Buffalo. Its construction required an entire city block to be demolished. The One M&T Plaza has a promenade facing the Main Street and hosts various lunchtime concerts in summer. A farmer’s market can be found between the plaza and Lafayette Square, mostly during late spring, summer and early autumn. The One M&T Plaza is located nearby to everything in central Buffalo.

If you are in Buffalo for business, you’d most likely to have to pay a visit to the One M&T Plaza’s promenade for a business lunch. Whether you are traveling for leisure or business, choose a Buffalo hotel with a good reputation to avoid hassles. Try the Millennium Airport Hotel Buffalo for a difference, as they offer modern amenities,excellent services and very cozy accommodations for all their guests.



Newest Trend in the Ancient Athens’ Culture

The city of Athens has a history that dates back about three thousand four hundred years. The city of Athens has a population of about seven hundred and forty five thousand five hundred and fourteen. The city covers the area of about fifteen square miles.

Athens is a cosmopolitan city and nowadays it is at the center for finance, economics, industry, culture and also politics. Research has revealed that Athens is the thirty-second richest city within the world. Traditionally Athens was known as a city-state that was powerful.

The heritage that dates back to the classical era is actually still evident within the city and this era is represented by a number of different works of art and ancient monuments and this includes the Parthenon, which is very famous. Even nowadays the city is still home to vast array of Byzantine monuments and Roman monuments. There is also an array of Ottoman monuments and these represent the long history of the city. If you have an interest in monuments and culture then book online and get cheap tickets so you can enjoy what the city has to offer whilst saving money.

The city of Athens is able to enjoy a climate that can be described as subtropical Mediterranean. The southern part of Athens tends to experience a semi arid climate that means that it tends to have hot weather. This city is able to enjoy lots sunshine all through the year and it averages at two thousand eight hundred and eighty four hours per year. Most of the rain falls between the middle of October and the middle of April. There is not a lot of rainfall during the summer months and any rain that does fall during these months tends to be in the form of thunderstorms or showers. It’s worth booking cheap airline tickets and making the most of the nice weather that this city has on offer.

For many years now the city of Athens has been very popular with tourists and this is assisted by the fact that the city is easy to get to from any where in the world and it is possible to get cheap flights. Over the last decade the infrastructure within the city and the social amenities have great improved. The city of Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004 and this was part of the reason why the city made such a massive improvements in its facilities. The Greek government worked within the European Union in order to undertake major projects such as the state of the art international airport that is known as Eleftherios Venizelos and also the expansion of the Metro System in Athens. The city of Athens is home to about one hundred and forty eight theatrical stages and this is more than any other city within the world.



Things To Do In Athens, Greece

Athens is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and this means that there are ample places to see and visit in the city. The home of famous philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato has many things to offer visitors.

Acropolis is the considered to be one of the biggest attractions in the city. It is the site where ancient Athens was situated and home to temples dedicated in the honor of Athena, the patron goddess of the city. The main buildings in this ancient city were designed by Pericles, and most of them were constructed between the years 460 BC and 430 BC. The most popular attractions are Parthenon, Erechtheion, the Temple of Nike and Propylea. At the very foothills of the Acropolis is Plaka, where you can visit numerous museums. The Jewish Museum, the Greek Folk Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Paintings are located here.

You should not miss a chance to visit the ancient agora in the city. Marketplaces played an important role in ancient Greece, and when visiting modern-day Athens, you will have a chance to see the ruins of the ancient marketplace in the city. There is an entrance fee levied, but it is worth it. You can also visit the Ancient Agora Museum to see the exhibits and also admire the marvelous architecture of the building.

If you are not a fan of history, then modern-day Athens will not disappoint you. The main square in the city is known as Syntagma Square and this where all the hot spots of the city are located. Here you will find restaurants, shops, hotels and bars situated around a huge water fountain. To the north and south of the square are some great gardens that house a number of cafes where you can sit down to sip a cool drink or take a quick bite. The square is also close to the Greek parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Kolonaki District is located close to Syntagma Square where you can visit designer stores and boutiques to purchase branded labels. The District also has posh eating places. It is considered to be one of the richest suburbs of the city.

If you are in Athens, you should not miss a trip to the local flea market situated at Monastiraki. You can get good bargains and souvenirs to take home. Finally, take the metro to get some information about this city. While the metro was being constructed, many ancient artifacts were found which are now displayed in some of the stations.



Athens – A Walk On The Wild Side

 Athens  is known for archeological sites and history. If you want a break from history,  Athens  has much more to offer travelers.

 Athens 

You’ve seen the Acropolis, you’ve hit the museums and you’re trying to figure out if it is time to head to the islands. Wait! You’re missing much of the modern charm of  Athens .

There is a conundrum with many historically significant cities. Guidebooks tend to send you off to every site with any potential historical significance, but leave out any mention of the modern attractions of the city. In the case of  Athens , slavishly following your guidebook is a very bad choice and you’ll be the worse for it.

As with any  city , there are two good ways to see the charms of modern day  Athens . The first is to get out and just start walking. The second is to befriend some local residents and let them show you the city. Either way, you’ll do fine in  Athens .

The charm of  Athens  is found in the hubbub of daily life on the streets. The city and residents exude energy and character. If you get off the tourist tracks, you’ll find little neighborhoods with outdoor cafes and no tourists. This is where the action is in true  Athens . Just plop yourself down at a café and start people watching.

One particularly good spot is in the Plaka neighborhood. A nineteenth century quarter, Plaka has a mix of Turkish and Greek influences. From Plaka, you can head to the shopping bazaars found throughout the city. The bazaars in Athinas and Eolou are a bit touristy, but no excessively. With a mideastern feel, you can sit down and drink tea with local shop owners while they hock their wares.

From there, the city is wide open. If you dare, grab a taxi and tell the driver you just want to see the real city. It will be the ride of your life.



3 Star Hotels in Barcelona Centre

Barcelona, as one of Spain’s most important and largest cities, offers the visitor an abundance of cultural things to see and do. Famous sights include the impressive Sagrada Família, the bustling Ramblas, several outstanding Gaudí buildings and a good selection of museums and galleries. Also, a rather unique characteristic of the city is the fact that it also lies on the coast and offers the rarity of sandy beaches and sunbathing; an ideal situation for those looking for culture as well as a bit of sea-side relaxation.

Of course accommodation will play a relatively large part in how much you enjoy your visit. A 3-star hotel will usually provide at least the minimum in the services and amenities expected for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Like many major cities, there is a good choice of 3 star hotels in Barcelona. They can be found all over the city, but for convenience it would probably be best to stay in a hotel in or close to the city centre, so that you can easily discover Barcelona on foot, even though the city’s public transport system is both cheap and efficient.

The centre of Barcelona is quite compact, making it viable to explore on foot. Furthermore, the centre is well connect via the city’s comprehensive metro network. In the centre you will find the Cathedral, Gaudí’s La Pedrera, the main shopping centre, some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes and many of the museums, such as the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Picasso Museum, the Maritime Museum and much more.

The following Barcelona hotels are well located in the city centre, one near Plaza Catalonia, one close to the Sagrada Família and the other directly on the Ramblas.

3-star Hotel Gran Ducat Barcelona: This hotel is a modern place to stay and run by friendly, professional staff. Located just off Plaza Catalonia, you will be close to where the Ramblas begin and where the city’s main shopping area can be found. There are 64 good-sized guest rooms in total, all en suite, air conditioned and well equipped with today’s mod cons.