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VIEWS IN ATHENS. 1, The Erechtheium ;. 2, The Propylsea; 3, Mars Hill and the City; 4, Tower of the Winds; 6. Temple of
The Piræus–The Long Walls-A Wayside Inn-Modern Athens-Fifty Years ago-Plan of the City-Costumes—The Palace
and Gardens-House of Parliament-University-Academy-Education - The Metropolitan Church--St. Theodore-The Kapnikarea-Bazaars-Public Funerals-A Curious Custom-Ancient Athens-The Olympieium-Gate of Hadrian-The Ilissus-Stadium-Monument of Lysicrates—Theatre of Dionysus-Odeum of Herodes Atticus—The Acropolis-Propylæa -Temple of Athene Nike-Erechtheium-The Agora-Mars Hill—The Pnyx-Monument of Philopappus-Tower of the
Winds-A Buried Cemetery-Temple of Theseus–Lycabettus-Academy of Plato-The Colonus-Eleusis-Athens and Edinburgh.
HERE else in the world is there so much “ to see” in the same
area, or so much to “feel,” as in Athens ? The very "dust you tread once breathed," and every tree and valley and stream, every road and street, every mound and grotto, every broken
column and ruined shaft, has a story or a memory associated with the most glorious period in the history of the ancient world.
There is a railway from the Piræus to Athens, but as the station is some little distance from the boats at one end of the journey, and from the hotels at the other, it is usual for travellers to take a car
riage from the port, and drive into the city. There is nothing to see at the Piræus except shipping, and modern houses, commodious stores, and a number of cafés more or less respectable; nevertheless, this harbourtown is interesting from the circumstance that only fifty years ago it had practically ceased to exist in fact, as it had actually ceased to exist in name At that time a few miserable huts of fishermen stood by the harbour, which bore the name of Porto Leone, from a sculptured lion which the Venetians carried off in 1697, to adorn the arsenal at Venice. Now, the Piræus has resumed its old name and its old activity, and is rapidly increasing in population and wealth, its inhabitants numbering some 10,000, and its trade developing
The road from the Piræus to the city is four miles and a half in length, very dusty, and not more interesting in itself than dusty roads anywhere else. Yet this road was once a long street leading from the port to the city, with houses on either side; and today may be traced the course of the Long Walls, one built by Pericles and the other by Themistocles, 456–431 B.C. These old substructions of solid masonry are twelve feet thick, and have been used as the bed of the carriage-road and the railway.
It is unfortunate that this road does not command one really startling view such as is obtained when approaching the city from Daphne by the Sacred Way. There are not half a dozen houses along the road, nor is there anything in the immediate surroundings to assist the traveller to realise that he is only a mile or two from the fairest city in the world, as he looks round upon dust-laden hedges and a few olive plantations and vineyards, while the more distant views everywhere present the outlines of hills and valleys, but wearing a brown and barren look, without a tree to relieve the monotony.
It is usual to balt at a wayside inn, ostensibly to water the horses, but really to sip
“Hymettian honey in Falernian wine,"
if the vile resinous fluid can by any stretch of the imagination fulfil the dream. The signboard, painted in flaming colours, represents two angry warriors in armour, and might appropriately bear the inscription,
“When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war."
While the buckets of water are being brought for the horses the first thrill of contact with antiquity is experienced, for that water has been brought in pipes underground beneath the bed of the Ilissus from the famous fountain of Callirrhoë, close under the substructions of the Temple of Zeus Olympius!
Soon the modern city is reached—a wonderful brand-new city, with well-paved streets, and handsome shops fitted up as tastefully as those of Paris or Vienna ; wine-shops, cafés, and tobacconists' shops abounding everywhere.
The hotels at Athens, the best of which are in the Palace Square, are really very excellent; every comfort and luxury may be obtained, the service is good, the tables d'hôte are bountifully supplied with every delicacy of the civilised world, and of better quality than is obtained as a rule in Switzerland or Italy. At breakfast real honey from the real Hymettus is always to be found on the table.
Modern Athens is not only interesting from the associations of the past, but for what she actually is and for what in all probability she is destined to become. Notwithstanding the fact that the capital of the realm of George I., King of the Greeks, is not in a favourable situation ; that it lies too far off the great thoroughfare of traffic to do much in commerce or manufactures, and that the land is unproductive; notwithstanding the uphill work that had to be undergone in her heroic struggle for independence; notwith
standing that her claims have been ignored in high places, where they ought to hive been recognised, Athens is a wonderful city.
Fifty years ago, when Dr. Hill, the American missionary, settled here, there was not one habitable house to represent the ancient metropolis of Greece, and for some months he had to live in a ruined tower. Now, there is a population close upon 70,000; there are handsome streets, well paved, and well lighted with gas, lined with substantial houses built of brick and stone, and adorned with shops which might vie with those in any European city.
A German architect planned the city, and he did it well. The road from the Piræus leads straight up to the Railway Station, where it is united to the Hermes Street, and leads directly to the Palace Square. This main street is intersected in the centre of the town by Eolus Street, the other chief artery of traffic, while from both the main thoroughfares numerous streets and lanes diverge. Palace Square, at the east of the city, forms the nucleus of a network of streets; and two large thoroughfares, Stadium Street and University Street, lead to the Place de la Concorde, at the north of the city, where another centre is formed. Many of the broad straight streets in the best parts of the city are planted with trees, and bear favourable comparison with those of many older modern cities. The houses are built of undressed stone, which is plastered over and painted white, or with a tone of colour such as light yellow, pink, or blue. Interspersed among these, but standing detached, are to be seen the residences of wealthy citizens, with Ionic or Corinthian columns and balconies in which a profusion of choice flowers bloom.
The busiest part of the city is where Æolus Street intersects Hermes Street, and here, and in the Bazaar close at hand, the costumes of the people may best be studied.
One of the great attractions of a stroll through modern Athens is to note the variety of costumes. The most curious and most striking is the Albanian, which the Greeks have adopted as their national dress. It consists of a blue or black jacket, cut away, with open sleeves, and rich embroidery ; a red waistcoat, and a white embroidered shirt. The breeches are of blue, close-fitting; stockings of white or blue; red gaiters, and red leather shoes without heels, pointed, upturned, and long. Round the waist is a leathern girdle from which protrudes an alarming display of pistols and knives such as are affected by the Bedawîn; the head is covered with a high fez, or pointed red flannel cap, terminating with a long silk tassel, which sways about as the wearer walks. The principal part of the dress is the white “fustanella,” a kilted skirt of linen, starched, and worn over the breeches. Sometimes as many as sixty yards of white linen are used in a “fustanella," and the effect is rather that of a burlesque on a ballet dancer's costume. It is a curious sight for foreigners to see a Highland regiment march out, but it is a far more curious sight for an Englishman to see the Greek National corps parade in this feminine, but picturesque and extravagant, costume.
The Greek artisan wears a costume not unlike the Turkish, consisting of a short dark jacket, red waistcoat, very wide calico trousers, worn short, and generally blue ; bare legs, and buckled shoes. This is also the dress of the Cretans, with the exception that instead of wearing shoes, they have high boots, which hide the bare legs and give a better appearance. Sometimes ladies may be seen wearing the national red cap, or the Thessalian head-dress-a tiara of gold and a veil thrown back-but as a rule they dress in Parisian style. The peasant women almost invariably wear the Albanian costume, and very striking it is, consisting of a long embroidered petticoat, and a white woollen dress over it, while on their heads and necks are chains of coins.
It is to be regretted that the picturesque dresses of Greek women are not set off by pretty faces; but you may stay a month in Athens without ever seeing a face to remind you of the beauty for which they were once famous. The men, curiously enough, are singularly handsome, and seem to belong to a different race from the women,
Without attempting to describe the order in which the public buildings of modern Athens may be best seen, it will interest the reader to know something about the buildings
The Palace is a large quadrangular building, 300 feet long by 280 broad, and is not a thing of beauty. It was designed by Gaertner, built in 1834-8, and the front is of white Pentelic marble. But it is large and plain ; imposing and unattractive. It is, however, very pleasantly situated. Immediately in front is a
large garden, and LENTUN FESTIVAL IN THE OLYMPIEICH.
beyond is Palace Square, a fine open space with a pavilion in the centre, while at the back of the Palace is a charming garden laid out by Queen Amalia, on a piece of ground that was utterly barren. In one part of the garden there are fine palm-trees, and near to them a rock, from which there is a view to the Olympieium and the sea. Shady groves, a tasteful pond, a large Roman mosaic, and a small museum of relics are among the attractions; but to the majority of visitors, who are admitted to the garden in the afternoon—the chief attraction is the shady walks, Athens being almost destitute of trees.
The Greek House of Parliament is not in itself much, but it is interesting as the theatre of many stormy scenes in recent times. The Greeks are hot politicians, and fiery debaters. They talk over matters of non-vital importance with a marvellous enthusiasm, fervour, and violence of gesture, so that if the visitor chances to be in the House for the first time when a subject is under discussion relating to some very trivial matter, he would be under the impression, from the vehemence of the speakers and the excited