Athens--the name brings to mind buildings with tall, white columns and statues of Greek gods and goddesses. Museums take visitors back to the time of ancient Greece. When visiting the city, visitors feel like they're in the middle of a history lesson.
Athens gave birth to Western culture. This is where the West's ideas of government, law, justice and liberty all began. Architecture, science, drama and poetry also flourished here.
The history of Athens is tied to mythology. The god that came up with the most valuable legacy for humans was to give the city its name. Poseidon and Athena each wanted the honor. Athena produced an olive tree-the symbol of peace and wealth. Poseidon offered a strong horse needed for war. The gods decided Athena's gift would better serve the people, and the city became known as Athens.
The Acropolis, or "high city," stands on a hill overlooking the city. Western civilization's most important ancient monument was built by Pericles, the leader of Athens from 461-429 B.C. He spared no expense when he constructed the buildings of the Acropolis. He used only the best materials, architects and artists. His artists created huge statues of marble and covered them with gold and jewels. Sadly, only ruins remain of this "high city" of temples.
More treasure of ancient Greece lies in the National Archeological Museum. Opened in 1874, the museum contains the best collection of Greek art in the world. It is crammed with treasures-more than visitors can see in a single visit. Visitors can view treasures from all the ancient civilizations that controlled the city throughout history. The vases, statues, carvings and other art objects show the life of those who lived in ages past.
But a visit to Athens is more than a lesson in ancient history. Modern Athens hums with activity. The city offers every modern convenience.
One thing that hasn't changed since ancient times, though, is Greek hospitality. Ancient Greeks believed that a stranger might be a god in disguise. Therefore, they always treated strangers kindly. Nowhere else in Europe will you find people who invite complete strangers to their homes for coffee or dinner.
If you do go to a Greek home for dinner, do your best to eat everything on your plate. Uneaten food insults the cook. Taking second helpings is the best way to show how much you enjoy the meal.