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Summer trips: Greece




Olympic volleyball




USA men’s volleyball team will be one of many teams competing in

this summer’s Olympic Games.


Olympic Games

Greece is the place where the Olympics began in 776 B.C. For more than

1,000 years, the games were held as a religious festival every four years

in Olympia, until an antipagan Roman emperor suppressed them in A.D. 391.

Greece revived the Olympic tradition in 1896, and it’s continued every

four years since, with the exception of World War I and II.

With such a grand tradition to


it’s no surprise that history will play a starring role during the 2004

games scheduled for Aug. 13-29.

The ancient Olympic Stadium

at Olympia will be used for the shot put, both men’s and women’s. Competitors

will travel from Athens on Aug. 18 for qualifying events in the morning

and finals in the afternoon before a crowd of up to 15,000 spectators.

The Olympic marathon race will follow the original route to Panathinaiko

Stadium in Athens, which was constructed for the 1896 Olympics using marble

from the same quarry as the Parthenon. Competitors will run 26 miles from

Marathonas along the ancient route that a Greek herald ran in 490 B.C.

to announce a Greek victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.

Getting there: From New York’s JFK airport, a nonstop flight to

Athens takes about 10 hours. Departing from Washington Dulles airport,

you’ll have to change planes in Europe, which adds an additional two or

three hours to the journey. Wherever you change planes in the European

Union will be the place where your passport is stamped.

Getting around in Greece


Calos/Richmond Times-Dispatch


sun sets on the Greek island of Santorini.


city has two new Metro lines with museum-quality exhibits in some stations

to display artifacts unearthed during construction. A the new airport

runs efficiently on the outskirts of the city, where a new limited access

roadway whisks cars into the city’s center. A tram linking the city center

with the Helleniko Olympic Complex, along the waterfront in the former

location of the Athens airport, is


to be finished just before the Games begin. An existing local line reaches

the Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex along the waterfront east of the

Piraeus ferry terminals.

Around the base of the Acropolis, streets connect at all angles and the

names don’t seem all that important. What appears as a straight line on

a map suddenly turns into steps and wide sidewalks for cafes, no cars


English is widely spoken as a second language among young Greeks. Within

the European Union, it’s the language for common communication among the

French, Germans, Italians, Greeks and multitongued others. So, if you

get lost, there’s usually someone who can send you in the right direction.

Where to stay

The five-star Divani Palace Acropolis ($240-$450) is conveniently

located within blocks of the Acropolis on Parthenonos. Similarly convenient

is the small three-star Hotel Austria ($100) on Mousson. On the other

side of the Acropolis, the three-star Hotel Plaka and Hotel Achilleas

($130-$170) are closer to the Plaka and Syntagma Square. At Syntagma Square,

consider the classic five-star Grand Bretagne ($350) or four-star Elektra

Palace ($235). All Athens hotels are booked for the Olympics period.

Where to eat

An early dinner in Athens begins about 9 p.m. Find a rooftop view

of the Parthenon at Taverna Strofi on Makrigianni near the Acropolis or

sit at a sidewalk cafe such as Ambrosia along Drakou, which heads down

from nearby Filoppapou Hill. For a quick lunch, try the pasta made to

order at Neon cafeteria. Others have recommended fried calamari at Taverna

Vizantino or home-style cooking at Platanos Taverna in the Plaka.

About security

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on American soil

and the March 11, 2004 attack on Spain, security at the Athens Olympics

has taken center stage. A Greek anarchist group claimed responsibility

for a May 5 bombing of a police station in Athens, the same day the city

was acknowledging the 100-day mark before the Olympics opening ceremony.

The Greek government says the security budget for the games is $1.2 billion,

with advice coming from a seven-nation task force that includes the United

States. NATO patrols will help secure the sky and shoreline. About 70,000

police officers, troops and firefighters will work the games.

A network of 1,400 closed-circuit television cameras, sensors and computers

will allow police, military and fire personnel to continuously monitor


Greece poses particular security challenges because of its location on

the eastern edge of Europe and its long winding coastline with hundreds

of islands.

Historic sites to see

The Parthenon, the marble temple to Athena. It was built atop the

Acropolis more than 400 years before Christ. It remained largely intact

until 1687, when a Venetian mortar set off gunpowder stored in the building

by Turks. Archaeologists are painstakingly repairing marble rounds that

have fallen, so that they eventually can be stacked again into columns

to complete more of the structure. Some significant pieces are missing

– the most controversial being the frieze and sculptures removed by Lord

Elgin in 1801 and now housed in The British Museum. Lord Elgin also raided

the Erechtheion, a separate little temple on the hill, and took one of

the six Karyatids – columns in the shape of women – that held up the south

portico. The others were removed for safekeeping and replaced by copies.

The Acropolis Museum. There you’ll see what’s left of the friezes

and four of the original Karyatids, as well as statuary that includes

an oddly charming portrayal of a man carrying a calf from about 570 B.C.,

archaic statues of maidens (Kore) and the Kritias Boy, one of the earliest

examples of the Classical style. Walk to the edge of the Acropolis to

appreciate the view of Athens. Twentieth-century construction is mostly

block after block of cement-box apartment buildings. In the fairly compact

area around the Acropolis, though, stands the old town called the Plaka,

the Roman forum, the National Cathedral, the Parliament Building, the

National Garden, the ancient Agora, the stadium where the 1896 Olympics

were held, the Roman temple of Jupiter and the theaters of Dionysios and

Herodes Atticus.

The National Archaeological Museum.

For more information: For the Greek National Tourist Organization

in New York, call (212) 421-5777 or visit www.greektourism.com.


Under construction: Athens Olympic sites” by Katherine Calos, travel

writer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 23, 2004

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