New Year in Athens
Critical to an understanding of our own modern culture is the city of Athens where democracy, classical art, architecture and literature germinated and flourished. This is the home of quintessentially classical ruins and an informed visit holds the key to understanding the whole of the Greek world. The city has changed considerably over the last two decades with extensive renovation and refurbishment and it is now possible to discern the layout of the ancient Greek city, and even the Roman one, while the Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis preserves traces of the Byzantine and Ottoman centuries. It is fascinating to trace the echoes of the original Greek polis set amongst the busy buildings of modern Athens. At this time of year, many of the sites are illuminated at night, with magical views and at New Year the city celebrates with an impressive fireworks display over the Parthenon.
Deposit: £500 Single supplement: £235
Day 1 - Athens
Fly London to Athens and settle into our hotel in the Plaka. The pedestrian rules and we shall be within walking distance of most of the sites.
|Hotel||Herodion Hotel, Athens|
Day 2 - Athens
Our first full day will be dedicated to the Acropolis and its Museum. We will walk through ancient Athens, past the Theatre of Dionysus where the original masterpieces of Aeschylus, Sophocles Euripides and Aristophanes were performed and on to the towering remains of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, one of the landmarks of Athens. From here we climb to the incomparable Acropolis which still dominates the city with a complex of religious sanctuaries, most famous of which is the Parthenon – ‘Chamber of the Maiden’ built in the 5th century to house a colossal statue of Athena, patron goddess of the city. The views from here are stunning.
After lunch in the Plaka, we visit the fabulous Acropolis Museum, consistently rated as one of the best museums in the world. Now 10 years old, the museum was designed by Bernard Tschumi, with local Greek architect Michael Photiadis, and houses the ancient artefacts found in and around the Acropolis including the superb Parthenon frieze – some parts original, some copies (we all know where much of it resides!). The top floor of the museum is designed on the same axis as the Parthenon so that it has the identical cardinal orientation and you can walk along the entire frieze of the temple, exactly as it would have been in ancient times. The museum has recently made available to the visitor the ancient underground neighbourhood.
Day 3 - Athens
We continue our exploration of Athens, visiting its ancient economic centre, the Agora where a wide range of goods were shipped in from the nearby port of Piraeus and members of the elected democracy assembled to discuss affairs of state. Buildings of note include the city’s arsenal, the Tholos and several stoas (the museum is housed in the reconstructed stoa of Attalos). Here we will also find the temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved of its type in Greece. Constructed around the same time as the Parthenon, the temple was built to honour the patron of metal workers, potters and craftsmen.
Next we visit Kerameikos , named in ancient times after the hero Keramos, son of Dionysus and Ariadne, where an extensive cemetery was excavated during the 19th and early 20th centuries. A usually peaceful site infrequently visited by tourists, this was a major crossroads in antiquity, and you can see remains of the massive Dipylon Gate, where most roads converged, and the Sacred Gate, where participants in the Panathenaic Festival gathered before heading through the Ancient Agora and ascending to the Parthenon. It is also the spot where Pericles gave what was probably his most famous speech honouring those who had fallen in the first year of the Peloponnesian War.
After lunch we visit the National Museum of Athens. Now somewhat overlooked by visitors flocking to the Acropolis Museum, it is worth remembering that this older museum is still home to one of the greatest collections of antiquities in the world. The museum was established in 1829 to protect antiquities from all over Greece and there are over 11,000 exhibits dating as far back as the Neolithic period through to late Antiquity. From the huge bronze statue of Poseidon (or is it Zeus?) to the golden mask of Agamemnon, the antiquities on display here provide the staple images of ancient Greece.
Day 4 - Athens
This New Year’s morning we have a leisurely start, making our way to the Pynx, outside the ancient city proper but now well within the landscaped, pedestrianised area that surrounds the Acropolis. It is at this site that famous orators such as Pericles, Aristides and Alcibiades spoke, within sight of the Parthenon, standing on the vema or bema, the "stepping stone" or speakers' platform, about 10 feet above the ground, surrounded by a balustrade as it is attested by holes in the bedding.
In the afternoon, we travel to Piraeus which once consisted of three separate harbours - Kantharos, Zea, and Munichia. The first was the largest and used for commercial activity, whilst part of Kantharos and the other two smaller harbours were reserved for military use to house the massive Athenian fleet. All three harbours are still used today but since the sea level has risen two metres since antiquity many of the ancient installations of Piraeus are now underwater. Excavations still continue, however, and notable finds have included several bronze statues, perhaps the most famous being of Apollo now in the Piraeus Archaeological Museum.
Today we also see the changing of the guard outside the Hellenic Parliament. The Greek guards or “Evzones” have become synonymous with the city of Athens and were originally founded in 1868 as a regiment of the Greek army. It is a high honour for a soldier to be selected to join the Evzones. The changing of the Greek guards occurs every day, every hour, on the hour.
Day 5 - Athens
Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium was constructed in the 4th century BCE and during its long history has seen major changes, having been abandoned and reconstructed more than once. In the late 19th century, the Stadium underwent major reconstructions and took its final form, entirely re-created from marble (the only one of its kind) quarried from nearby Mount Pendeli. Spectators gather at the stadium for the handover of the Olympic torch every four years and for the finish of the Athens Marathon held every year in November.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Professional Tour Manager
- Meals as per the itinerary, tea or coffee with dinner
- Entries to all sites as per the itinerary
- All taxes & gratuities
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single Supp.||Availability|
|29 December 2020||AANY201229||29 December 2020 (Tuesday)||2 January 2021 (Saturday)||Dr Rita Roussos||£2,295
|£500||£235||Call for availability|