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Anafiotika is a picturesque and unusual neighborhood in Athens, well worth visiting. Whitewashed houses, narrow lanes and uneven steps on the slope of a hill, little gardens with geranium, bougainvillea and cacti: All these look more like a Greek island than like the Greek capital city.
This is explained by the origin and history of Anafiotika: built in a semi-clandestine way by immigrants from the Greek island of Anafi, who came to Athens following Greece's independence. They built their homes on the north slope of the Acropolis, in an area uninhabited since ancient times, according to the oracle's decree.
If you climb the north slope of the Acropolis from the Plaka you will reach Anafiotika, and it seems you are entering a different world. Besides the quaint houses and lanes, there are superb views over central Athens. And the Acropolis entrance is only 5 minutes away.
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Anafiotika - an island without a sea
The most interesting and surprising place between the Plaka and Acropolis is Anafiotika. It is located under the north section of the Acropolis.
The settlement of Anafiotika was created in the 19th century by migrants from the Cycladic island of Anafi. They built their houses on the steep slopes of the Acropolis in their traditional island style. Thus, they created a small village with white-washed houses and narrow paths between them. The village comes complete with a tiny church dedicated to St George. A closer look will reveal that the marble used for the construction of the church was taken from an ancient temple.
When you claim up to Acropolis from Plaka do not miss this one of the most beautiful parts of Athens.
I were in there three times and every time I found some new for me.
"Anafiotika" Feeling of being in a Greek island
For people visiting Athens and have no time at all to visit any Greek island, I suggest that they ask to be shown where the "Anafiotika" neighbourhood is.
It is on the top hill under the Acropolis.
When you come here you have a feeling that you are walking in a Greek island. The houses are small with beautiful little flowery gardens and very narrow alleys.
You have the most spectacular views of Athens below and you will love it.
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Anafiotika - and island without a sea.
The most surprising section in Plaka is Anafiotika. It is located directly under the north section of the Acropolis. It is said that the Delphic oracle forbade the entire area from being built, perhaps to protect the sanctity of the worship site. There were, however, those who sought shelter in this neighbourhood of Plaka, such as refugees from the Peloponnesian war in antiquity, or even Ethiopian slaves who hid in caves during the Ottoman period; followed by workers and craftsmen who arrived from the Cycladic island of Anafi after Greece gained its independence. This, in fact, is how the name Anafiotika came about.
This section of Plaka actually creates the impression of an island with its small white-washed houses built amidst the rocks, narrow meandering steep streets and steps, stone walls and gardens filled with flowers. According to tradition, the first builders of the area, during the modern era, were two homeless workers from Anafi who smuggled the necessary building materials and built two rooms for their families in a matter of days. When police arrived on the scene, they didn't have the heart to send them away. The same method was followed by the rest of the Anafi islanders as well as other newcomers, the majority of which were skilled craftsmen, builders and marble cutters who worked at the numerous construction sites throughout Athens.
These workers managed to build their simple and functional homes during the night, without copying the neo-classical structures they built during the day. The craftsmanship of the skilled workers, who paid special attention to the district's terrain and the endless horizon as seen from the northern side of the Acropolis, was responsible for the beauty of this small neighbourhood in Plaka.
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Agios Nikolaos Ragkava church
St. Nikolaos Ragkava is a byzantine imperial church in the heart of Plaka at Anafiotika area, 100m after Lysicrates Choregic monument. Its style is a four pillar cruciform domed edifice. I was touring Plaka when I stopped for a while and noticed a few people at the yard of the church. The priest was very helpful and gave me a leaflet with information about the church.
The name Ragkavas belongs to a wealthy family from Constantinople, the most well-known member of which was the byzantine emperor Michael A’Ragkave (811-813). The church was originally built in 9th century by the son of the emperor Theofylaktos but was destroyed and was built again in mid 11th century by Paul Xeropotaminos who later declared a saint by the orthodox church. At the beginning it was a private chapel that became a parish church and went through several extensions after 11th century.
What we see today is the result of the maintenance work that too place in 1979 when many of its original parts came to light (dome, roof, northern side). Although an old church it has only a few wall paintings, I guess the damages through the centuries caused the loss of them, most of the paintings are from Oto era (19th century).
During the Ottoman occupation the churches weren’t allowed to use the bells so they had wooden ones. After the revolution this was the first church that was allowed to have and use a normal bell. It was april of 1833.
Sunday mass takes place at 9.00am
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Anafiotika - Athens neighbourhood
Do not miss Anafiotika, just up the hill from the Plaka. Anafiotika presents a little taste of a country village, but right in central Athens. It is quiet and picturesque, but not without cafes and restaurants. It makes for a nice walk when returning from the Acropolis. We ate there one night at (I forget the name, Zeus -something? – helpful, eh?), but the restaurant highest on the hill. It was very enjoyable.
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