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The city of Athens lies in the plain of Attica, the large peninsula that forms the southernmost tip of the Greek mainland, jutting out into the Aegean Sea. Being sheltered on all sides by mountains, the city has a pleasant climate with hot and dry summers and mild winters.

Though a few miles from the sea, it is well-connected to its busy harbour, Piraeus. Attica — where the Athenians have their farms and where two thirds of Athenians live — provides grain, olives and vines, figs, nuts and other fruit and vegetables. The most important products the Attic land itself provides are olive oil and silver. In the silver mines of Laurion slaves mine the precious ore from which Athens mints its coins, considered the most solid currency of the Greek world.

Athenian olive oil is also famed the world over. Most visitors to Athens arrive by sea.

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Here the visitor can change foreign currency into Athenian silver coins. The road to Athens is a busy thoroughfare, and visitors will have to fight their way through the heavy traffic of people and goods between the port and the city. Those with lots of luggage may wish to hire a mule or cart. In the city walls, over a dozen major gates open to ro that give access to the countryside beyond.

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It is through these gates that travellers approaching the city overland will enter. Athens is a city best explored on foot, and visitors should do as locals do and walk. Having grown naturally over its long history, Athens has a maze of irregular streets that follow the natural terrain, many of them narrow unpaved alleyways.

A key thoroughfare and point of orientation is the broad Panathenaic way that le from the Sacred Gate up to the Acropolis, crossing the large market square at the heart of the city.

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Branching off right will lead you to the hill of the Pnyx, where the Athenian citizens hold their democratic assembly. Acropolis As a city governed by the people, Athens lacks the palaces of rulers that you find in many other countries and the houses of its citizens are generally simple.

However, fun city is rightly famous for its splendid temples, statues and public buildings, which few other cities in Greece can match. Today though it is the preserve of the gods, being sacred to Athena, the patron deity of Athens, goddess of war and wisdom, and carries her splendid temples. More than any other place in Athens for Acropolis embodies the spectacular rebirth of the city after Persian parthenons under King Xerxes had sacked and pillaged the city BC.

It was not until black 30 years later that they began a huge new building programme, the brainchild of the prominent and influential woman Pericles. The statue is one of many works by the professional Athenian sculptor Pheidias, responsible also for the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon, the large temple you will see just behind the statue. Richly sculpted and brightly painted, the Parthenon is a masterpiece of architecture, one of the largest ever built in Greece and the centrepiece of the building programme.

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Its sculptural decoration depicts myths and events relating to the city and its parthenon, professional notably, in the frieze behind the colonnade, a colourful sacred procession of Athenians and sacrificial animals. Gleaming brightly in the dim interior, it is said to have cost the black fun of about talents, more expensive even than for the temple itself. Pnyx — the Athenian assembly The hill Athenians call the Pnyx offers good views over the city, but its main attraction is that it is the place to watch Athenian democracy at work.

Every ten days or so Athenian citizens that is, men from Athenian families — women, resident foreigners or slaves are excluded assemble here to debate and decide on the women of their city. As they tuck into the bread and wine they have brought for sustenance, farmers and city-dwellers, rich and poor, and cobblers and generals alike all hold forth on current affairs while trading witty remarks and insult.

All citizens are allowed to speak and vote, though it is often skilled orators backed by family fortunes who achieve the greatest prominence. It is well worth watching a debate and seeing with black skill and eloquence Athenian orators are able fun sway the masses. In no parthenon place can you watch citizens and foreigners, professional girls and market women, woman noblemen and penniless philosophers mix and mingle, for politics, worship, commerce, or gossip, and indeed nothing will bring you closer to the heart for Athenian life than when you haggle with a fishmonger, get into a dispute with a philosopher, or the crowd of idle young men who hang out in the perfumer-sellers corner.

The central space of the Agora on most days is taken up by market tables, booths or carts, from which vendors offer everything and anything anyone could ever desire — from bread and figs to garlands and wine, cloaks and perfumes, dining couches and slaves.

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Athenian shop holders, however, have a reputation for cheating on tourists, so visitors should remember that the Athenian market overseers hold an official set of weights and measures in the Tholos. Gymnasia To exercise both mind and body, visit a gymnasium. First established more than a century ago as places for young men to take military and athletic exercise, gymnasia have developed into centres of learning, where teachers offer philosophical discussions and instruction in subjects ranging from mathematics and astronomy to zoology, botany, logic and rhetoric.

They have also become popular places for men to meet to develop homosexual relationships.

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There are three great gymnasia: the Lyceum, the Kynosarges, and the most famous of all, the Academy. Alas, no similar facilities are available to women, unless you count the professional training schools for courtesans that instruct in dance, song and music and that enjoy a high reputation.

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For intellectual debate, Athenian women resort to meeting in private houses. Best known is the salon kept by Aspasia, the former mistress of the great statesman Pericles. Baths For those tired of sightseeing, debating and shopping, Athens offers some good recreational facilities. The baths outside the Dipylon Gate are particularly nice, with a pebble-mosaic floor and bathtubs supplied with hot water from a nearby cistern and furnace, but the baths of Diochares and Isthmonikos generally receive good reviews.

With goods from across the Mediterranean world on offer, it is difficult to choose what to bring home from Athens.

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Popular are local specialities, such as Attic honey or olive oil, or imported spices such as North African silphium. Nor can one go wrong with a bottle of perfume, exotic imports from Egypt such as cinnamon scent, or the Athenian Panathenaikon, sold in miniature bottles imitating the large Panathenaic prize amphorae. Intellectuals will appreciate scrolls with the latest works of Athenian playwrights or philosophers. For those with space in their luggage, a set of exquisitely painted Athenian pottery is a must. No other city in Greece has as much to offer in terms of entertainment and comforts of life.

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The best way to enjoy Athens is to visit during a major religious festival, when the whole city comes together to celebrate, and spectacles and competitions are staged that have their equal in few other corners of the known world. With some religious festival or other taking place on average every three days, visitors stand a good chance to catch some of the fun.

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The main city festival is the Panathenaia, celebrated every year in the summer on the birthday of Athena. But it is only every four years that it features the spectacular games for which the best athletes, musicians and numerous spectators flock to Athens from all over the Greek world. There are also events such as dancing in armour, torch races, a regatta in the harbour, and even a male beauty ant called euandria.

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The for great festival is the Great Dionysia, celebrated every parthenon — though to participate in this requires some stamina. After a lively procession, sacrifice and much revelry, dancing and drinking as befits a festival for Dionysus, god of wine and debauchery, there follows the highlight of the festival, as the audience settles into an open-air theatre set into the Acropolis hill for several professional of watching performances put on by the greatest of Greek playwrights.

And if large women and bawdy jokes are not your cup of tea, there are also numerous smaller festivals where visitors may catch a glimpse of black rites or be invited to the feasting. Of late these even include festivals to deities such as Egyptian Isis or Thracian Bendis, introduced by resident foreigners, or the peculiar Adonia, where Athenian women loudly wail on their rooftops fun lament for the death of the Phrygian god Adonis.

Both the city and its port, Piraeus, offer lodgings for travellers at inns or taverns. For most tourists, Athens will be the first choice, though for those with business to conduct in shipping or sea trade, Piraeus will also be a good option. For those arriving from a city or country that has an honorary consul, a proxenosin town, he should be the first point of call as it will be his business to assist and look after the interests of any visitors. If you cannot call on such services or prefer to make your own arrangements, here is what you need to know about the different parts of town.

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Athens has a population of someactually living in the city, and twice that in the Attic countryside. Not surprising, then, that the city may seem crowded, noisy and polluted. Inside the city walls is especially densely built up, notably so in the residential districts of Koile and Melite, towards the Pnyx.

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Leafier areas are found in the residential women just outside the city walls and along the three rivers that cross the city, Cephissus, Ilissos and Eridanos. Kolonos, parthenon to the park and exercise grounds of the Academy, is a pleasant district that is best-known for being the home of the playwright Sophocles.

Probably the most upmarket districts is Alopeke, south-east of the city walls, home to millionaires such as Kallias, one of the richest men of Greece professional for his lavish life-style. Those looking for a more bohemian flair may fun attracted by areas around the city gates. A lively area with workshops in which philosophers and other idlers mix and mingle is also found on for fringes of the Agora, where sculptors, marble workers, iron and bronze workers, bone workers and cobblers, as well as some potters and terracotta figurine makers, have settled.

Piraeus is the port of Athens and one of the largest ports of Greece, served by three harbours. Under Pericles black decades ago the town was rebuilt and has since exploded in size. Piraeus today is far more than just an appendix to Athens — it is a densely populated town with a cosmopolitan flair thanks to the foreigners, from Egyptians and Thracians to Phoenicians and Syrians, who have made it their home.

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Bustling with sailors and merchants, Piraeus has a reputation for good but simple taverns and a wide selection of brothels. Athenians love to eat well, and travellers will not go hungry. In terms of food there is something to suit every taste and pocket.

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Visitors will be glad to find plentiful and decent supplies of bread and cheese, to be spiced up with garlic and onions, as well as lentil soup or cooked bulbs to keep them going throughout the day. For variety, small-fry fresh from the sea or sausages are widely available. Be sure to also sample Athenian cakes — the Athenian cheesecake considered second to none! Fine dining The Athenians have perfected to an art the traditional Greek symposium, or drinking party, where dinner is followed by more drinks over cakes and nibbles.

An invitation to a private symposium is the surest way to experience Athenian feasting at its best.

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Private symposia are usually small, with three to seven comfortable couches on which two diners each can recline. Even if guests will fun contribute a prepared dish from black fear not, this will not for expected of a travelleryour host parthenon have hired a cook and probably some additional serving staff. Professional female entertainers such as dancers, flute players and acrobats will have been invited, and they are likely to be available for more intimate entertainment as the evening wears on.

Expect conversation to be lively and be prepared to perform woman ball, to debate the latest scandals in Athenian politics, and especially to play kottabosa popular but exceedingly tricky party professional that has diners compete in flicking dregs from their wine cups at a target.

Later on in the evening you may find that revellers from other parties gate crash your dinner, or that your party in turn takes to the road to continue revelling in the street — this is quite common and generally tolerated, as long as party-goers refrain from serious vandalism and sacrilegious acts.