2015-12-27

Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.3)

This is the third and final part of my phooto walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. Here are part 1 and part 2.

Above and besides the Megaro Moussikis Metro Station, you'll see a park called Parko Eleftherias. The main feature is a bronze statue of former Greek Statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, seen here with the Hill of Lycabettus in the background.

Eleftherios Venizelos statue, constructed by sculptor Yannis Pappas in 1969 - Parko Eleftherias - Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece; Lycabettus Hill in the background.

Right next to it you have the building that lends its name to the metro station and is one of the major modern landmarks of Athens. The Athens Concert Hall (literally 'Mansion of Music' in Greek) which was inaugurated in 1991, after almost 40 years of planning and works. Ever since, it has become the main place for classical music concerts (and more) in Greece. A "sister Concert Hall" was created in Thessaloniki in 2000. A few years ago, the Conceret Hall's building was complemented with the restoration / creation of a park in the surrounding landscape, in the form of a garden that is referred to as Parko Eleftherias (the second half of it) or simply as the Garden of the Athens Concert Hall.

Panoramic view of the Athens Concert Hall, Vassilissis Sophias Ave., Athens, Greece. The US Embassy stands to its right.

I don't have a photo of the US Embassy as, quite frankly, I avoid taking a picture of it for fear of being black-listed as a dangerous element or something...  I will however, post a photo that does not belong to me (for the first and last time) and which comes from the 1960's when it was first built. It was a really beautiful building at the time, in full harmony with its surroundings, but now it has become something of a concrete monster and a fortress, due to the continuous upgrading of security measures. [Do contact me if you know anything about the source of this photograph].
U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece in the 1960's. Corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Petrou Kokkali St. Source unknown.
After "the Embassy", there's the small Mavili Square which for many years had been an Athens after-hours hang-out. Cafeterias, bars, a pastry-shop and the most famous sandwich shop in late night Athens.
The last part of Vassilissis Sofias gets increasingly impersonal and dissolves into the Ambelokipi neighborhood which stands for “vineyards” but is now one of the most densely built areas of Athens.

Buildings along Vassilissis Sofias, right after Mavili Square (to the left).

The entrance of a most characteristic block of flats, at the corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Xenias St., Athens, Greece



Hippokrateio Hospital, 114, Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece

The grand exception to this are the “Athens Towers 1 & 2” which were built in 1971. Athens Tower 1, at 103 meters (28 floors) tall has been Greece’s tallest building for the last 45 years. One could see it as a metaphor for the country’s “agrarian conservatism” and resulting stagnation of the past decades but that’s a different kind of discussion…


Athens Tower 1 and Athens Tower 2; Athens, Greece

Athens Tower 1 (left) has been Greece's tallest building since 1971.


The construction of tall buildings in Greece has faced a red light for the last 40 years.

After the towers you come to a major intersection. The continuation of Vassilissis Sofias is called Kifissias Avenue, as it leads to the northern suburb of Kifissia. To the right you have Fidipiddou St., and to the left you have Alexandras Avenue, which I have presented in a similar post years ago.


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2015-12-11

Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.2)


This is part 2 of my photo walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, in central Athens. For part 1 go here.

After Evangelismos Metro Station, the first thing that stands out is the Athens Hilton to your right, behind a major triangular intersection of Vassilissis Sofias, Vassileos Konstantinou and Vassileos Alexandrou. In the middle of this intersection there's an iconic, modern Athens landmark: the statue of Dromeas (the Runner) that used to sit on Omonia Square (from 1988 to 2000) but was relocated here due to the Metro works. Coincidentally, its new location sits right on the path of the Classic Athens Marathon (the Marathon-Athens Marathon) about 1.5km before the finish line.
 
'The Runner', in front of the Athens Hilton hotel, Athens, Greece

'The Runner' sculpture, near the Athens Hilton hotel, Athens, Greece

After Hilton, Vassilissis Sofias makes a left turn and its buildings gradually take a less upscale character, but not before you come across some interesting architectural creations.
At 77Α Vassilissis Sofias, you come across this small memorial sculpture. It comemmorates a sad page in Greece's modern history; the assassination of Greek diplomat and conservative politician Ion Dragoumis, in 1920, by a group of political opponents, who suspected him of having orchestrated an assassination attempt against then prime-minister Eleftherios Venizelos. On the side looking at the street there's a short poem written for the memorial, by Dragoumis contemprary, poet Kostis Palamas.
 
Ion Dragoumis memorial, Leoforos Vassilissis Sofias, Athens, Greece

An apartment building of the 1950s, with a mermaid adorning its front wall, at 79 Vasilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece. The building is c creation of architect Panagiotis Michelis and today houses the "Panagiotis & Efi Michelis Foundation".


Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece

On the right hand side you have a typically dense urban area (Ilissia) with Parko Ilission (Illissia Park) reaching up to the foothills of Hymmetos Mountain.   

Iridanou St., to the right of Vassilissis Sofias, with the Agios Charalambos church and Ilissia Park in the background; Hymittos Mountain in the far back, Athens, Greece

 
Flats at Iridanou St., vertical to Vassilissis Sofias, and Hymittos Mountain in the background, Athens, Greece

The interesection of Michalakopoulou St. w/ Vassilissis Sofias, Athens, Greece


A block of flats with a most unusual division in two parts, forming something of a residential tunnel; Corner of Michalakopoulou St. & Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece
The major landmarks of this area come right after Megaro Moussikis Metro Station. But we'll get to those in the third and final part of our walk!
 
Entrance to the Megaro Moussikis Metro Station; Athens, Greece


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2015-11-28

Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.1)

Previous posts presenting Athens streets have proven to be quite popular, so here is a short (photo-) essay in three parts, presenting one of the central avenues of Athens. Vassilissis Sofias (Queen Sophia’s) Avenue, is one of the largest and oldest avenues of the capital of Greece and probably the most beautiful one. Travel guides often refer to it as Museum Lane due to the high concentration of museums nearby. There are four museums along it (Theocharakis, Benaki, Byzantine & Christian, War) and another two on adjacent streets half a block away (Cycladic Art and National Gallery). As a mostly wide-paved, tree-lined boulevard, it is much more pleasant to walk than the average Athens street. Here are some of the main spots of interest, starting from Syntagma Square, with the Grande Bretagne Hotel on your back and walking upwards.

The start of Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece - The Greek Parliament to the right, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the left and Hymittos Mountain in the far background. The Grande Bretagne hotel is behind me.

On your right hand side there’s the city’s largest block, with the building of the Greek Parliament (initially built as a Royal Palace in 1843) standing prominent over the city center. Look carefully and you can spot the largest concentration of Stalinists, Maoists and Hitler-lovers in the western world! 

Flower-shops right next to the Parliament building, Athens, Greece; they have been in operation in this same location since around 1930.
 
The side-entrance of the Greek Parliament, on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.
Tourist bus in front of the National Garden

Right after the Parliament, in the same block, is the National Garden. It’s the most interesting urban park in Athens and you’ll come to appreciate its shade and calmness if you walk around this area in the summer. One of its entrances is on Vassilissis Sofias, right across Sekeri St.. Continuing on the right, at the corner with Rigillis St. you’ll see the Sarogleio Mansion, built in 1932 to house the Greek Armed Forces Officers’ Club. Soon after, you’ll come across the Byzantine & Christian Museum and the War Museum before reaching Evangelismos Metro Station (Metro Line 3). 

The Sarogleio Mansion - Greek Armed Forces' Officers Club

Byzantine & Christian Museum, Athens, Greece
The War Museum, with old military aircraft in the front-yard, Athens, Greece

Going back to the beginning, on the left hand side of the avenue this time, Vasilissis Sofias starts with various buildings of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in various architectural styles, and a large mansion housing the Embassy of Egypt, the first in a long string of foreign embassies all along, or near, Vassilissis Sofias. At the corner with Merlin St. sits the Theocharakis Museum of Visual Arts while two roads later you have the main building of the Benaki Museum (at the intersection with Koumbari St.) and the Cycladic Art Museum at 4 Neofytou Douka St. These are all part of the -still partly upscale- Kolonaki neighborhood.
 
The Embassy of Egypt is the first one in a long series of embassies along and near the avenue

One of the entrances of the Cycladic Art Museum

You'll also see various old mansions or upper-class apartment buildings which are for the most part well maintained. Most of them are occupied by foreign embassies, law offices, doctor’s offices, maritime companies and the like.

A sculpture adorning a front-yard, at the posh Kolonaki area, along Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece

The only eye-shore in this otherwise pleasant route is the building housing, among others, the Embassy of the fellow-bankrupt Republic of Argentina, right after Evangelismos Metro Station.

The building housing the Embassy of Argentina (and some other offices)
Athens Metro sign, marking Evangelismos Metro Station, Athens, Greece - less than half-way along Vasilissis Sofias Ave.
But, let's make a pause at Evangelismos Metro Station and come back in December for part 2 of my photographic walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.



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