Athens: Not just nightclubs and Acropolis

In a recent survey of tourists’ impressions of post-Olympic Athens as represented in popular foreign-language tour guides, there was plenty of coverage of archaeological sites and museums. However, the city’s modern culture was almost completely absent, as if tourists were visiting a country that had only tavernas and bouzouki clubs. The only exceptions were brief references to the Greek cinema industry and directors such as Theo Angelopoulos, Tasos Boulmetis and Pantelis Voulgaris. The only Greek singers mentioned were Alkistis Protopsalti, Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Savina Yannatou. There was no mention of artists – after all, the Museum of Modern Art is not yet completed. Meanwhile, very few contemporary writers have been translated into foreign languages and become known abroad. Foreign visitors to Greece have been given no idea of what the country has to offer in terms of contemporary culture, and not much is done to enlighten them once they are here. Directors of three major hotels in the city interviewed here say that Greek cultural organizations – from the museums to the Athens Festival – have not developed an appropriate system for promoting their work. People on a two-day visit see the Acropolis and Ancient Agora and perhaps go to a nightclub. But if Athens is to be marketed more effectively, it will have to show that it has something more than the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian zone.