Travel: Time to visit the new Athens
By Charles L. Mitsakos
If there ever there were an exciting time to visit Greece’s capital, Athens, it is now. Why? Because crisis breeds creativity. Athens is in the throes of an entrepreneurial, cultural, spiritual and physical rebirth.
A fresh generation of talented, young, Greek artists can be found at the very forefront of an exhilarating wave of creation that has seen a consistent flurry of activity at the city’s new cultural hotspots. Alternative, multi-purpose art spaces have opened up in the heart of the city in recent years, breathing new life into the historic center, day and night, as young, positive minds gather in these hotbeds of artistic thought for stimulating conversations in cozy surroundings. Despite the difficulties, these brave, young Greeks have decided to fight rather than flee abroad, and many realize the importance of creative synergy, having chosen to join forces and fashion something out of their true passions.
A bevy of fashion designers, musicians, artists, galleristas, photographers, chefs and other creative types have taken the leap and launched their own business, brand or creation.
In the new Athens, which is shaking off the psychological shackles of an international bailout and moving forward with an irresistibly infectious enthusiasm and positivity, this way of thinking has pretty much become the norm ~ particularly among young Greeks who are making an inspiring leap forward to independence.
Be sure to pop in to the Acropolis Museum for a behind-the-scenes view of conservators carrying out work on the Caryatid statues, the famed females who once graced the Acropolis.
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (emst.gr) makes a long-awaited move in March 2014 to its new premises, the iconic building located on central Sygrou Avenue that once housed the Fix beer brewery. The museum’s director, Anna Kafetsi, recently returned from London’s Frieze Art Fair with 11 works by three young artists, adding to the museum’s permanent collection of some 1,000 works that reflect the museum’s exhibition policy, which aims to showcase the country’s most innovative artistic forces.
A new cultural foundation center is in the pipeline, as well. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (snfcc.org), designed by Renzo Piano, is scheduled to open in 2015. It is being built south of Athens and will house the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera.
The place to stay has to be the historic King George Palace, with the Acropolis nearby. Plan on having dinner or a cocktail on its roof and toasting the Parthenon on one side and Parliament Square on the other. The hotel reopened in June, following an extensive renovation to the tune of 2.5 million euros. The property, built on the site of a mansion in which a wealthy banker from then-Constantinople lived, once served as an extension of the palace that now houses the Hellenic Parliament.
The King George Palace opened in 1930 and, over the years, hosted royalty, presidents and movie stars, among them Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and Frank Sinatra.
Relive more than 2,000 years of history and art with a visit to Athens.
Dr. Charles L. Mitsakos is emeritus professor of education at Rivier University in Nashua, N.H., and resides in Chelmsford.