Not Your Average Athens Guidebooks

Travel Tips — By Paige Moore on July 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Rough Guide and of course, your trusty NileGuide… these are some of the first places you’ll look when you’re planning your descent into the multi-millenial tourist destination of Athens. If the selection at {enter large chain discount bookseller here}makes you dizzy, then check out Athens In Your Pocket which has just provided a rundown of current guidebook reviews. Once all of that necessary,  bread and butter research has been done, it’s time to dig a little deeper; get to the meat.



Imagine if someone spent years going to old, dusty bookshops, hunting in the back, behind the counters, collected all of the forgotten stories of a city, then compiled them into a book divided by neighborhood. This is exactly what the English academic, John Tomkinson has achieved in his book, Athens.  He’s combined myth,fact, urban legend, and historical accounts of some of the most interesting events that have ever happened in Athens and her suburbs (as far south as Glyfada and as far north as Kifissia) from ancient until modern times. Read about how the Greek resistance fighters sabotaged Nazi invaders during World War II, demanding guests of the Grand Bretagne, loathable queens and bohemian heroes of grungy Psyrri, just for a teaser.

Includes a map in the back and tips on accessing the places. Available in several major bookstores and tourist shops in Athens, amazon.co.uk, and on the publisher’s website, www.anagnosis.gr where there are also timelines, folklore, lists of festivals and other interesting tidbits.

If you’re a) a walker, b) a reader, and c) curious about city planning, statues and architecture, this is the book for you. “Peripatoi” is the Greek word for walks, and David W. Rupp, teacher and historian, has detailed out three, full day walks that cover all of the most significant parts of the city center. Clear directions, bullet-pointed facts about the surrounding area, and excellent use of maps and photographs make this an indispensable book for knowing where you’re going and what you’re seeing. He’s also included degrees of difficulty (subjective, maybe) and recommended pausing points, though depending on the version the specific cafeneios and restaurants might be out of business.

Available at Eleftherodakis in Athens and Amazon.com

And for someone who needs to have their history with a little humor, Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak gives all of the necessary details to Athens tourists who have planned their trip well after the hiccup with the Persians but prior to that with the Spartans (roughly the year 400 BC.) This is a great book for immersing yourself in the life of what might be easy to dismiss today as stones and ruins.

Small and surprisingly thin for having such a wealth of information, it includes a “Meet the Athenians” chapter as an introduction to some of the architects of modern Western civilization as well as colorful illustrations and fun facts.  Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

You’ll know so much that you could be accused of being a pirate tour guide, brandishing all of your knowledge out loud without a license, but such is the burden of the enlightened.

Tags: Alternative, Athens, Guide Books, History, Walking Tours

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