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My Cultural Experience in Athens

The population of the capital of Greece, Athens, is about 3 million people, which is about one third of the population of the whole country. It is a very busy modern metropolis with many archeological sites and museums.

When visiting any of the attractions it is always a good idea to start early in the day - you will find it less crowded in the mornings.

Visiting the "Sacred Rock" of Athens, the Acropolis, with all its monuments (The Parthenon, The Erechtheion, The Temple of Athena Nike, The Propylaea) will take most of the day. On the way back you can stroll down to Plaka. After a long walk you may like to sit and eat something in any of Plaka’s tavernas. If you are a "tourist on the go" you can take out Souvlakia (beef, lamb or pork meat served on a pita bread with tomato, lettuce, onions, and tzatziki), Tiropita (phyllo pastry filled with feta cheese) or Spanakopita (phyllo pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese).

changing guards in AthensOn Syntagma Square, next to Parliament Building (former Royal Palace) you can watch every hour the changing of the guards in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is an interesting performance of unusually dressed guards performing very unusual movements. Well worth seeing!

The businesses are closed between 2pm and 5pm for "siesta". One of the interesting things I noticed about Greeks is the fact that, like other Mediterranean nations, they take things slowly, and the Greek word "avrio" is the equivalent of Spanish "mañana" (tomorrow).

There are of course plenty of stores for shopping, but it is always interesting to check the city’s flea market of Monastiraki. The best time to check are Sundays before noon. Later it becomes too crowded…

Eating at night is typical of Greek people. It is a standard to start dinner after 9 pm. I suggest finding a good Greek taverna, trying a few dishes, and enjoying the atmosphere with Greek music in the background.

A good place of experiencing Greek culture and having good time is Buzukia. On the outside buzukias look like any other night club. When you get in, you will see Greek singers singing and dancing along with the guests. It is getting more interesting when you see flying carnations. In appreciation of the singers people throw carnations at them, and smash glasses and dishes. They buy the carnations, and the plates and glasses for throwing and braking them later. This was a totally new experience for me…

Greek people are always ready to help tourists. Most Greeks, especially the younger generation, speak English. While communicating you can be surprised with some Greek gestures:
• "Ohi" means No. Gesture for Ohi is moving your head upwards or moving upward your eyebrows only.
• "Nai" means Yes. Gesture for Nai is moving your head downwards.
• "Come here" gesture may be interpreted by a non-Greek as waving "good-bye" or signaling you to move back a few steps.

While visiting Athens it is A MUST to visit Delphi which for over 1000 years was the site of the most important oracle of ancient Greece. Delphi is located about 120 miles from Athens in a beautiful area facing Mount Parnassus. On the way back to Athens, it is a good idea to visit the Byzantine Monastery Óssios Loukás (St. Luke’s Monastery). You can make the trip in one or two days; rent a car, or get there by bus.

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