10 Craziest Facts You May Not Know About Athens, Greece – Aegean Sea

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Port of Piraeus, Athens, Greece

The chief port of Athens, Greece, Port of Piraeus is located along the Saronic Gulf on the western coast of the Aegean Sea. This is the largest port in the country and one of the largest in Europe in terms of passenger traffic and commercial activity.

Since ancient times, the Port of Piraeus has been Athen‘s main port. The Greek general Themistocles initiated its construction in 483 B.C. and created “neosoikol” or ship sheds. In the coming centuries, Port of Piraeus will be used as a base of the Byzantine (Roman) fleet and later occupied by the Ottomans (Turkish) who also invaded Greece.

Bombed heavily by Germany during World War II, this port was rebuilt after the war. Several industries like chemical and engineering products made Port of Piraeus prosperous including the development of shipyards on its outskirts. It is now the 3rd busiest port in the world.

About Aegean Sea:

Image of Aegean Sea between Greece (left) and Turkey (right) with the island of Crete in the middle, the largest of the Aegean Islands.

The seat of a great civilizations- Crete and Greece, the Aegean Sea is an elongated arm of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies in the middle of Greece and Turkey and of which provides an important trade route between Asia and Europe. This sea is one of world’s cruising and yachting areas due to its numerous harbors for sailing yachts and historical sites.

Aegean Sea covers an area of 214,000 square miles of which 1,400 islands dot the region known as Aegean Islands. It is the home of major tourist destinations like Santorini but Crete is the largest island in the region. In ancient Greece, the Aegean Sea used to transport Greek soldiers sailing to Troy and rescue Helen.

A Little Background on Athens:

Perhaps it’s one of the cities in the world with the longest history that originates back to 3,000 B.C. Athens takes pride of being the “cradle of civilization”. It gave us democracy, western philosophy, the Olympic Games, political science, western literature and countless mathematical theories.

If you are coming in from Asia particularly from the Middle East, Athens will be the first European city you will come to. And if you arrive from the west or Europe, what is noticeable in Athens is the influence of the east. This city has been under the Ottoman rule (Turkey) for centuries.

Located in Central Greece and also the country’s capital, Athens is named after the goddess of wisdom and war, Athena. While it suffered a decline under the Ottoman invasion, it re-emerged again like a phoenix in the 19th century after gaining independence from the Turks. It hosted the first “modern” Olympic Games in 1894 and after 200 years, again in 2004. Athens is the home of 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites : the Acropolis and the Medieval Daphni Monastery. These days it is a global city and one of the biggest economic players of Southern Europe.

Map showing the location of Athens, Greece.

I saw Athens, Greece in April 1996 while under contract with the crude carrier Knock Muir. We were at the Port of Piraeus for dry dock. As we all know, Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities and all I can say in my native Ilocano: “nagpintas nga siyudad uray kadaanan”. (an ancient but beautiful city) Rooted with intriguing history and action-packed mythology, Athens has many awesome facts to say but the weird ones which I’ve learnt stand out to me during my travel to this city. And so let me share to you 10 craziest facts you may not know about Athens, Greece.

1. Athens gave us the “marathon”.

A crazy fact you may not know about Athens, Greece but the world owes the marathon event from this city. Pheidippides, a Greek soldier ran from Marathon, Greece to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.

2. It has experienced all forms of political system.

Athens is the only city in the world to have undergone from all forms of government. A crazy fact you may not about Athens, Greece but it’s been with democracy, monarchy, capitalism, socialism and communism. A world record indeed.

Athens Highlight:

The Acropolis – this is an ancient fortress perched above Athens that contains the remains of Parthenon, a great historical and architectural importance.

3. Warmest city in Europe

It’s a crazy fact you may not know about Athens, Greece but this is the warmest capital in Europe. In July 1977, it has recorded its highest temperature at 48 degrees Centigrade.

4. The olive trees in Athens are about 800 years old.

Olive trees beneath the Acropolis.

A crazy fact you may not know about Athens, Greece – the olive trees were actually planted during the 13th century. They still produce the fruit at present time and that makes Greece as the 4th among the olive-producing countries in the world.(Spain, Italy, Turkey are the top three.)

5. On a full moon every summer, Acropolis hosts the longest theatrical performances.

During full moon in August, the Acropolis is opened until 2 a.m. A crazy fact you may not know about Athens, Greece, this ancient citadel hosts live music and theatrical performances every summer, for free.

Athens Highlight:

The Parthenon – a former temple located at the Acropolis which was dedicated to the goddess Athena and built between 447-435 B.C.

6. Birthdays are not celebrated here.

Birthdays in Athens are not big deals. A crazy fact you may not know about the city of Athena but the cause of a big celebration here is the feast day of the saint where you got your name. The name day celebration is more important and it is a tradition in Athens to congratulate someone on her/his name day.

Athens Highlight:

Temple of Olympian Zeus – a colossal temple located at the center of Athens dedicated to Zeus being the head of the Olympian gods.

7. Sneezing was thought to be a form of contraceptive.

At some point, Soranus, an ancient Greek physician attested that sneezing was actually a form of contraceptive. A crazy fact you may not know in Athens, Greece.

8. Never wave with the palm opened.

Waving with the palm opened and the fingers extended is considered an insult in here. A crazy fact you may not know in Athens, Greece but as much as possible when you’re on a visit don’t wave your hands when greeting the locals.

Athens Highlight:

The National Archeological Museum houses the richest collection of artifacts excavated from various archeological locations in Greece, from pre-historical period to late antiquity.

9. The best man shaves the groom on his wedding day.

At traditional Greek weddings, the best man will shave the groom on the day of the ceremony. A crazy fact you may not know about Athens, Greece but they say that this act is a symbol of trust.

Athens Highlight:

Daphni Monastery – an 11th century Byzantine monastery located at the outskirts of Athens.

10. Wearing of high heels is not allowed at the historical sites.

There is a law in Greece stating that wearing high or stilleto heels at the historical sights is prohibited. A crazy fact you may not know about Athens, Greece but they say stilleto heels will cause damage to the ancient architectures. The pressure of the heels on the surface of the sites is more dangerous than that of an elephant foot. Don’t bring your high heels when you visit Athens.

Athens Highlight:

Syntagma is the central square in Athens which is adjacent to the Greek parliament, hotels, museum of Vasiliscis Sofias and the shopping district of Ernou.

If you are planning to go to Athens someday, it’s important to know some tips as well as the crazy facts about this fabulous city. And then it’s high time to consider exploring this jewel of the Aegean Sea. Charoumeno taxidi (Happy trip).

Reference: Wikipedia