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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 December 2016
24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 DECEMBER 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Athens amongst top places to visit in 2017 A group of Athenians reveal to Neos Kosmos what they really love about their city! THEODORA MAIOS Presenting an intoxicating mix of history and edginess with equal measures of grunge and grace, bustling Athens has been voted amongst the top places to visit in 2017, according to Condé Nast Traveler editors, confirming what most of us already know: our Athens has it all. Long considered as the cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy, where whispers of philosophy, politics, and arts blend with modern-day stories, the city has transformed into a modern cosmopolitan metropolis and the financial, political, cultural and economic centre of Greece. With a population of over 3.75 million people, the historical capital of Europe is Greece's largest city, where arts and culture are encountered everywhere and iconic monuments mingle with first-rate museums, cosmopolitan cafes, al fresco gourmet dining, a thriving night-life scene, and beachside suburbs. The historic centre is an open-air museum, yet, the city's cultural and social life takes place amid these ancient landmarks with the magnificent Acropolis rising above the sprawling metropolis and eternally witnessing the city's transformations. With an average annual temperature of 18°C and excellent weather conditions, Athens always delivers a city break with plenty of sun and outdoor activities all year round. The stunning sunlight that flows softly all over the city, the view of the sea, the seven hills that surround Athens and the unique merge of ancient monuments with the contemporary cityscape form a scenery that exceeds even the highest beauty expectations. Despite the current financial crisis, postOlympics Athens is conspicuously more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than ever before. New freeways, ultra-modern metro stations, and an easily accessible and state-of-the-art airport welcome an astonishing 20 million visitors a year, almost double the country's population. Furthermore, to accommodate this inflow of visitors, Greece has one of the highest number of international airports of any other country and the comprehensive English signage makes the city welcoming and easily accessible to everyone. Stylish restaurants, shops, and trendy hotels, artsy-industrial new neighbourhoods and entertainment quarters such as Gazi, exhibit Ath- ens' ultra-modern face with food being treated as the new benchmark of ‘good life’. Welltravelled and internationally-trained young chefs offer a whole new way of thinking about gastronomic experiences whilst maintaining the authentic taste of Greek cuisine; all embraced by the everlasting Greek hospitality. "Athens has always been known as an old city; that's nothing new. Instead, what is new is its burgeoning status as a modern arts capital," says Condé Nast Traveler's Senior Digital Editor, Katherine LaGrave. "Look no further than the recently opened, Renzo Piano-designed, $623 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, which houses the National Opera and the National Library of Greece, rests on the largest park in Athens and is the first public building in Greece to achieve a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification. The National Museum of Contemporary Art also partially reopened in a renovated brewery after a 12-year closure, and in April, the city will co-host 'documenta 14', the exhibition of modern and contemporary art that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. It's the first time the host- ing duties will be split between two cities," explains the editor. The origins of Athens date back to 3000BC, making it one of the oldest and continuously habited cities in the world. With its long history dating from the first settlement in the Neolithic Age and the "Golden Age of Pericles" the city's values and civilisation are of universal significance. Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied Athens. In 1834, it became the capital of the modern Greek state and eventually an attractive modern metropolis with unrivalled charm. Athens' most famous and awe-inspiring landmark, the Acropolis, refers to the sacred hill where Greeks built many temples; the most important is the Parthenon, in honour of the goddess Athena, from where Athens gets its name. Athens is the most populated region of Greece, however, it is also one of the smallest regions in the country, being less than 1 per cent of the total area of Greece. According to Greek mythology, an olive tree was given to Athens by the goddess Athena. Greece is now the world's third leading producer of olives. Interestingly, it is thought that some trees planted in the 1200s are still ‘We are numb and afraid’ A Greek based in Berlin describes the atmosphere prevailing in the city, after Monday’s terrorist attack NIKOS FOTAKIS Sofia Stavrianidou It is definitely a sign of the times; every time some kind of disaster, be it a natural phenomenon, an accident or a terrorist attack, happens somewhere in the world, social media are there to alert people and help those connected to send a signal: "I'm safe". Sofia Stavrianidou was no exception; an expat from Athens to Berlin, she made use of Facebook's security check-in feature, to assure her friends and relatives that she's not in danger, after the shocking terrorist attack on Monday, when a truck drove into a crowded Christmas market, leading to the death of twelve and the injury of around 50 people. Five days later, the prevailing sentiment in her adopted hometown is one of fear. "We're numb and afraid here", she admits. "The media transmit images and information day and night, giving directions to people to avoid panic, but to be very careful at crowded places. All the hospitals were on stand-by on the first day. A friend of mine is a surgeon and they called him back to the hospital; he went straight to the operating theatre". As afraid as they may be, Berliners keep a high spirit, she says. "Berlin is a safe city and the German people are cold-blooded, they don't show emotions easily; they also show great trust to their law officers and their country's security system in general. Of course, they're shaken by what happened, which is only natural; they understand that they're not unbreakable". Many were those who believed that a terrorist attack in Germany was to be expected, after the events in Paris, Nice, and Bruxelles. "They've been writing about it, here and there, that Berlin is the next terrorist target, but we did not believe it", says Sofia Stavrianidou. Less than a week after the event, many questions remain unanswered: ISIS was quick to claim responsibility; the first suspect arrested by the police proved to be an innocent asylum seeker from Pakistan; and the whole issue is proving to be a trial for Angela Merkel's leadership. German citizens accuse the Chancellor of inaction, criticising how she put a black cover photo on her Facebook account, but stalled too long before making a public statement and when she did, confirming suspicion of a terrorist attack, it was her image and her policies that seemed to be at stake. "If the perpetrator is a refugee, things are bad", says Ms Stavrianidou, echoing the public sentiment and commenting on the critique that the German Chancellor receives both from the opposition and within her administration. Both sides seem to believe that Monday's attack was an after-effect of Merkel's "open border" policy, a daring, humanitarian, progressive response to the refugee crisis. "This is grotesque", says Mrs Stavrianidou, an experienced publicist and media professional. "If Merkel has done anything right, it is her open policy towards migrants. It's what European Union is all about, this is what we want. And now, she's punished for her only positive policy. Her party was defeated in the recent local elections in Berlin and this was attributed to her migrant policy. Europe can be contradictory like that".
17 December 2016
7 January 2017