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The Greek Parliament. It started life out as the royal palace, and it is a stately, reassuring presence in the city, even if it attracts permanent aggravation from its citizenry.
In theory, the central point of Athens is the square that Parliament faces, Syntagma (Constitution Square, because King Otto was forced at gunpoint to adopt a constitution in 1843, and proclaimed it in the square that was his palace’s at the time.)
I get the symbolism: the people’s square, where the people gather to protest for their rights, takes priority over the palace, and the people still haven’t come to regard Parliament as the people’s house instead of a palace.
But that argument, prioritising the square against the building towering over it, never made sense to me. Nor to the tourist buses, which all gather on this side of the street.
Standing guard over the Parliament, the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, the statesman who defined the course for the country for the first thirty years of the twentieth century.
To the side of Parliament, the grand old lady of Athens, the Grande Bretagne Hotel. Lovely on the outside, even lovelier on the inside, though I haven’t ventured in this trip. I do remember it being a wonderful respite from the chaos outside. (I also remember the top floor bar being full of Russian oligarchs and blonde women seeking the… companionship of Russian oligarchs. Presumably there’s a bit less of that now.)
Greece in the 19th century translated everything, so the Greek name of the Grand Bretagne is of course the Megali Vretania. Greece also has a tradition of liberal translation of Hollywood movie titles. So when the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel came out, it was obvious to me that it should have been rendered as To Xenodokhion I Megali Vudhapesti, with a nod to the grand old lady of Athens. Only a literal-minded automaton, drooling in their braindead slavishness towards the West, and completely blind to the resonances of the name, would pass such an opportunity up.
So of course the movie was released as Xenodokhio Grand Budapest. There’s just 16 hits on Google for the more Hellenic rendering.
In front of Parliament—but still very much on the parliament side of the street—the Greek monument to the Unknown Soldier. Photo-op for every passing tourist with its rigid guards.
What’s always captured my attention is the Ancient Greek font rendering of all the battles the Modern Greek army has waged (and yes, the listing does go around the walls), including places that don’t quite fit with the Ancient Greek font, whether because they were bureaucratic (Hill 731, on the Albanian front), or because they’re not that Hellenic to begin with (e.g. on the Albanian front in WWII, Mt Morava; Korytsa = Korçë; Mpoumpesi = Bubësi massif; Fort Rupel on the Bulgarian front—the neighbouring Greek village had already been renamed to Kleidi in 1926, but the fort kept its WWI name; El-Alamein; Rimini. The Rubicon, at least, would have been familiar to Pericles).
The inscription next to the relief of the soldier makes a point of echoing antiquity by being run-in: no spaces for words, and words running over lines. Appropriately enough, it’s citing Thucydides’ Funeral Oration of Pericles: “An empty bier has been made up for the unidentified dead”; and “the whole earth is the funeral monument of famous men.”
Syntagma Square itself, and its subway station.
As with much of the very centre of Athens, a bit too crowded for me to just hang out in, like I do in other squares.