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Pláka - A walk through Pláka

Pláka - A walk through Pláka (15)

This traditional neighbourhood is the most popular in Athens and certainly a walk through its streets is one of the recommendations that any Athenian will give you. Here, tourists and locals meet, some fascinated by small Byzantine churches, museums or the winding alleys, and the others, looking for traditional taverns which, especially at night, are full of life.

When you take a look at their homes, there are few dating back beyond the time of the Turkish occupation but, nevertheless, Plaka is an important historical district of the city. Moreover, it has the honour of being the oldest inhabited area in Athens. "And what about the Acropolis?", you may think. Remember that the sacred rock was exclusively the abode of the gods. Therefore, we repeat: Plaka claims to be the oldest inhabited area of Athens.

On the origin of its name, several theories have been suggested. The translation of the Greek word "Plaka" is "slate" or "slab". Based on this, some say, in a nearby church, Ágios Yioryios, there is a large stone slab which gave the neighbourhood its name.

However, it is also believed that Plaka is derived from "pliaka" which is what the area was called by the Albanian soldiers who served the Turks , and who in the 16th century occupied these streets.

When walking around, you will notice that very different worlds collide. On the one hand, the usual residential district, with its authentic taverns and workshops, living out on their streets crowded with people from all the countries of the world. On the other hand, souvenir stores full of miniatures of the Parthenon, or the tourist restaurants with staff on the terraces trying to attract holidaymakers with menus that advertise themselves as "good, nice and cheap".

For this reason, we recommend that you walk with your eyes wide open and be selective. If you get the chance, follow the groups of Athenians who come here daily to go to traditional restaurants, or animated taverns, because if you let yourself be enchanted by the kindness of the first that offers a good menu for tourists, you have fallen into the trap.

This area is also a centre of religious painting of international fame. And in these streets there have always been artists' studios painting religious icons commissioned by churches in innumerable places around the world. Here, the craftsmen paint using the traditional Byzantine technique of egg tempera on wood. It is worth making a trip to the south of Mitrópolis Square, near the cathedral, because you will see, on easels, unfinished religious images. Various saints in different sizes.

Also, if you spend several days in the capital, you can order one of these icons for the spiritual corner of your house. In some workshops, they can copy the image from a photograph in a single day. Dare to replace the classic fridge magnet from the Acropolis by a craftsman like product like this and you will see how your success is assured.

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