Athens Gallery 1—Wednesday and Thursday, September 21–22

  • The Pláka Hotel
    The Pláka Hotel
    The Pláka Hotel's entrance is on narrow Kapnikaréa street. The hotel is named after the neighborhood, which has been continuously inhabited since the city’s earliest days.

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  • Up Kapnikaréa street from the hotel
    Up Kapnikaréa street from the hotel
    The ancient neighhborhood called the Pláka is located just north of the Acropolis. At the end of Kapnikaréa street you can see the temple called the Erechtheion on the edge of the “high city.” Quite a bit more of the Acropolis is visible from the hotel’s higher floors and its roof garden.

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  • Kapnikaréa Church
    Kapnikaréa Church
    This very small church—you can judge its size in comparison with the people sitting on the low wall—was built in the time of the Byzantine empire, most likely the 11th century. Kapnikaréa is most often said to be the name of an imperial tax imposed on cloth merchants, many of whom did business around the church's small square. An alternative speculation makes it the family name of whatever local notable commissioned the building of the church. One clear sign of its antiquity is that the ground it stands on is now a few feet below the level of the square.

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  • Rebétika duo
    Rebétika duo
    Tipped off by the famous Matt Barrett's website, we found the little bar just off Kapnikaréa square where rebétika music is sung, and played on bouzouki and guitar every day from midafternoon until the bar closes at 8:00pm. This picture, though slightly blurred, catches the spirit nicely.

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  • Sitting in and out
    Sitting in and out
    A young lad came in carrying a baglamá (a smaller sibling of the bouzouki) and did a number or two with the guitarist. He even sang. At this point the bouzouki player was taking a break, perhaps so the baglamá could be heard better.

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  • The guest artist closer up
    The guest artist closer up
    The young musician didn't look more than about 11 to us (though kids around that age can often look older or younger than they are).

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  • Kapnikaréa commerce
    Kapnikaréa commerce
    We went for a stroll in the immediate neighborhood. The Pláka attracts a good many tourists, and local merchants are eager to satisfy their needs. This is Kapnikaréa street a short way south of our hotel.

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  • On the street
    On the street
    Dorothea took this picture of me as we browsed along Kapnikaréa street..

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  • An entrepreneurial oasis
    An entrepreneurial oasis
    The park where Kapnikaréa ends is a pleasant green oasis despite being completely filled with the chairs and tables of neighboring restaurants, each of which has (no doubt in return for payments to the city) its own section. Restaurant touts greeted us cordially, but almost nobody was eating yet, and they didn't try very hard.

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  • Hadrian's Library (closed)
    Hadrian's Library (closed)
    From the high ground where we were walking, we looked down on the excavated ruins of the library built for the city by the Roman emperor Hadrian. A few people were walking around down there, but the entrance wasn’t anywhere near us.

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  • Tower of the Winds
    Tower of the Winds
    This famous octagonal clock tower stands on the edge of what was once the Roman Agora—so called because the money to build a new market here was donated by Julius Caesar and later by his great-nephew (and adopted son) Augustus Caesar. A new place for doing business was needed because the old Agora had become something of a park, and the Roman Agora was strictly commercial. The Tower of the Winds (named from the anthropomorphic images of the eight winds on its octagonal frieze) is near but not in the Roman Agora, and some archaeologists believe that it was constructed at least a century before Julius Caesar’s time. It had a sundial on each of its eight surfaces, below the sculpted winds, and inside was a water clock—a type of clock that measured time by the rate at which water trickled into or out of a vessel.

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  • Below the Acropolis
    Below the Acropolis
    Besides its classical antiquities, restaurants, and tourist emporia, the Pláka contains some elaborate houses on quiet streets, especially up against the foot of the Acropolis’ giant limestone “mesa.” Athens was nearly empty before the brand-new Greek kingdom decided to make it the capital city in 1833, and the town suddenly filled up with royalty, courtiers, admirals, generals, merchant princes, and similar movers and shakers. The Pláka is where many of them built their mansions and set up housekeeping. Other, newer districts attract such notables now, but not all of the original elegance has departed.

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  • Roof garden view #1
    Roof garden view #1
    We returned to the Pláka Hotel as the sun was setting, and took the next few pictures while we took in the impressive view, enhanced by an interesting sky.

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  • Roof garden view #2
    Roof garden view #2
    I don’t suppose Athens is any cleaner than Boston, but local traditions regarding paint and building materials make it look a good deal whiter, at least from a distance. The way the city has spread around and between low mountains gives it a picturesque look in almost any direction.

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  • Roof garden view #3
    Roof garden view #3
    The Parthenon isn’t fully visible from here, being closer to the other side of the rock, but it was wonderful to see how the sunlight touched its recently cleaned white columns. (I'm not sure how recently, but certainly since we were here in 1988.)

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  • Roof garden view #4
    Roof garden view #4
    As the sun sank somewhere in the west where we couldn't see, the sky suddenly got even more interesting.

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  • Window shot #1
    Window shot #1
    When we went back down to our room, I couldn't resist trying one more photo through our window, in the fading light. What makes it a piece of deathless art, of course, is the spiffy roof hardware I managed to capture along with the Erechtheion. (By the way, if you're wondering why you can't see the famous caryatids that hold up the portico of that temple, it's because they (or at least the reproductions that have taken their places to shelter them from the effects of air pollution) are on the other side, facing the Parthenon.

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  • At the Platanas taverna
    At the Platanas taverna
    After an extremely satisfying meal.

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  • Window shot #2
    Window shot #2
    When we got back to our room, we saw the illuminated Acropolis and its temples from the window. I leaned against the glass, took a few shots through it, and got at least one that was halfway decent.

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  • On strike
    On strike
    Our flight was canceled because of a strike by the Athens air traffic controllers, here seen making a brief public appearance. They stayed off the job for only a few hours, but the delays rippled and reverberated, and we reached our Chaniá hotel at 1:45am instead of 4:00pm as we’d expected.

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  • The Rage of the Masses
    The Rage of the Masses
    We aren't sure this striker is expressing a political opinion (regarding, for example, American tourists or German Chancellors). He may just be reacting to a colleague's suggestion that they eat lunch at the McDonald's in the airport.

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