This offers a real visual feast. In a somewhat awkward vertical format of 9 by 4 1/2 inches, its 450 pages cover not only Athens, but Piraeus, Sounion, Delphi, Corinth and much of the Peloponnese (though not in the detail that Athens is covered)
The first 100 pages of the book are interesting essays and pictures dealing with: natural flora and fauna; history, mythology and language; traditional costumes; food and celebrations; architecture and excerpts from the work of painters and writers. This is followed by 150 pages devoted to Athens sites from all eras. There is an interesting and slightly defensive essay from Manolis Korres about the theory and practice for restoration of the Parthenon. The guide moves beyond the obvious: there is also coverage of Roman Athens, 19th century mansions, the national university and other aspects of the city.
Visually it is stunning, using its slick paper to advantage to offer such items as some small reproductions of representative paintings by Parthenis, Tsarouchis, Ghikas and Pierrakos; several photos of old time Athens and Piraeus; and a number of religious works. Many pictures of sites, ancient works, and maps are present, including some of 3-D maps to orient you to sites.
The editors are to be congratulated for their choices: for example, even the few pages on Nafplio convey a surprising amount of information and give a feel for the texture of the city.
There is some coverage of hotels and restaurants, but nothing the average tourist guidebook wouldn't cover in more depth.
For an interesting review of this guide as it compares to the similarly-formatted "Eyewitness" series, see Bill Newlin's comments at: http://www.moon.com/tm/tmearly/00dkvsknopf.html/
This book says nothing about hotels or restaurants, and is proud of it. What this is, is a sort of one volume archeological guide to the entire city and region. For almost every location, not just the tourist biggies, this guide gives info on ancient ruins, cemeteries, notable historical sites, etc., etc. While you will find more on a given site in a book specializing in that area, I don't know of a book with as comprehensive a coverage.
Bookstore folk can deny that a "Blue Guide: Athens" exists, but it does. The "Athens" version has 230 pages on Athens proper and another 50 on day trips to Sounion, Lavrio, Dhafni, Marathon among others. By contrast the "Greece" edition has just 35 pages on Athens proper.
This sounds like a gimmick, but is a surprisingly useful guide, especially given its compact size and low price. The concept of the top 10 list is used to organize information on the most important or interesting things to see. For each item on the top 10 there is a brief paragraph and a marker on a tiny map.
The book is useful for two reasons. First the little paragraphs are well written, giving you key information in a small space. Secondly, they use the top-10 concept in creative ways, so you get the top 10 for Athens of which the Acropolis is number one. But then they give you a top-10 for the Acropolis that allows them to drill down to fairly specific items. Nor are the lists just limited to sites. You get 10 Philosophers and Writers, ten Athenian Legends and ten Greek Inventions among other lists.
The guide also covers items in various Athens’ neighborhoods, and the area around Athens. The last section of the book covers a number of travel practicalities.
This guide works well in combination with a much more detailed guide or a series of guides. Use this book to orient you and to stimulate your interest in some specific site, then drill into the details either online or with a specialty guide.
|Last modified 9/24/08; posted 3/13/2000; original content © 2008, 2000 John P. Nordin|