CULTURE

New city guide decodes mad Athenian life

If you think you know Athens inside and out, try answering the following questions: Where can you buy objects dating from antiquity without getting into trouble with local authorities? Who will fashion a pair of made-to-order evening shoes to match your favorite garment? Answers to these and many more questions are to be found in «Athens Guide 2003 – Your Guide to Enjoying the City» just published by Desmi Publications in Greek and English. The 500-page edition features extensive coverage of a city in a constant works-in-progress state. Edited by the pioneering staff of Athinorama, the established Athenian weekly guide, the edition takes advantage of 27 years of experience. «The guide was developed in order to aid Athenians in getting to love their city,» said its director, Tellis Samantas, at a press conference earlier this week, while its publisher, Annie Iliopoulou, pointed out that it’s a tool for «decoding the city and city life» as well as being «the metropolitan way of life, going against the easiness of the Mediterranean rhythm of living.» With the Greek EU presidency and heavy deadlines for the Athens 2004 Olympics, the capital faces some serious challenges, yet appears to maintain its southern schedule for having a good time. For the Athinorama team, work was divided into no less than 18 chapters – going from the obvious to the less obvious, for practical to off-the-beaten track information. In the opening Life & Style section, readers will find a portrait of the city’s past and present, while in Views of the City, editors suggest a number of walks in different parts of Attica, from morning strolls in Plaka and dinner in hot-spot Psyrri to global brand-name shopping therapy in suburban Kifissia. Athens’s imposing 5,000-year history is traced in the History & Monuments section, which also offers guidelines to five historical walks in the city center, while in the museum section, rich local treasures are noted by theme, along with a listing of the year’s key exhibitions. The capital also emerges as a mini metropolis of shopping in the next chapter, with information on locating designer labels, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Emporio Armani, to local favorites such as Michalis Aslanis, as well as stock houses for stylish deals. The city’s gastronomic boom is evident in Eating Out, where editors pick the finest crop of restaurants, ranging from Greek to global and from affordable to exclusive – the team’s experience is obvious here, given that in the last nine years, Athinorama has presented its much coveted, annual Chrysi Skoufi Awards (Golden Chefs Hats) to the city’s top restaurants. For a city that doesn’t get much sleep, the Night Life section is useful in deciphering Athens’s multi-disciplinary entertainment scene, ranging from alternative pop-rock and dance clubs to live shows – the section also includes a mini directory of Greek performers. Theater is next, with choices including ancient drama and contemporary theater, the National Opera and some information on the popular Hellenic Festival. The city’s colorful music scene is featured in Shows & Music, where jazz clubs mix with the authoritative Athens Concert Hall (also in this section is the city’s pick of indoor and outdoor cinemas). There is also plenty to choose from for children too, with museums, puppet and shadow theater, as well as information for party organizers and tips on outdoor activities. Tableau Vivant, is how the editors describe the city’s current state of affairs in the art scene, ranging from contemporary art shows to permanent exhibitions, as well as the development of cultural centers, art festivals and events and art shops. For those planning a visit, Rooms With a View of 2004 offers choices from five-star hotels and resorts to budget accomodation, while a chapter on local beaches suggests well- or lesser-known seaside places under the sun as well as how to get there. In Leisure, tips include a list of the rapidly developing city spa milieu, traditional and alternative gyms, centers for Pilates, massage and beauty consultants, hair stylists, but also swimming pools, tennis clubs and riding facilities. For those staying in Athens for a limited amount of time, top local delis and cellars might not be a priority. If you are interested in finding out who is the exclusive representative of Fortnum & Mason in Greece, however, not to mention who stocks cool Petrossian Beluga caviar, check out the Gastronomy section. Information on quality caterers, home chefs and reception planners is available in Services, together with tips on business organization, bodyguard hire, florists and even renting sailboats. Anyone looking to get out of the city will find some help in Excursions, with ideas on planning short visits to obvious places and sites such as Olympia, Mycenae, Epidaurus and Delphi, but also Hydra and Aegina. A chapter on the upcoming Olympic Games might come as a surprise, yet it fits in with the rest of this detailed edition, recording progress in public works and a small map of where some of the events will take place. Practical information, including public transport, hospitals, road assistance and taxi services, embassies and a little bit of first aid vocabulary appear in the last section. Following in the footsteps of Desmi publications’s Alpha Guide on Greece (already in its third year, it features the best in hotels and restaurants), the new guide aims to give readers plenty of information for living the city to the fullest. As far as the English edition is concerned, one point that future editions must see to is the matter of language. Correct, natural English is essential when targeting foreign readership.