The international Lyceum Club in Athens hosted the international event this year which included two days in Athens and one day on two Greek islands.
We started the cultural days with a cocktail reception at the Lykeion ton Ellinidon, home of the Greek Lyceum Club. Its elegant neoclassical façade and interior design is a testament to the architectural beauty of Athens, befitting the club’s mission to foster art, culture and education. There were more than 200 participants from all over the world : Australia, Germany, Belgium, France, Cyprus, Finland, Georgia, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom with London and Edinburgh, a testimony to the international dimension of the Lyceum Club.
Photo: Lykeion ton Ellinidon
On the following day we went on a bus tour of Athens which included a visit to the Acropolis. Each bus was marked with a colour according to the different languages (English, French and German). We were given a name badge with little cards matching the colour of the bus we were assigned to. How organised is that !
We left from the Hotel Titania located within walking distance of Syntagma Square, the central square of the city, home to the Greek Parliament and a bustling hub with luxury hotels, shops and cafés. We stopped at the Panathenaic Stadium, originally built in the 4th century BCE and refurbished in the late 19th century, a marvel of ancient sports architecture. The station hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and continues to be used for athletic events. We then headed to the Acropolis. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and its significance can certainly be felt with the amount of visitors, we had to queue up for more than an hour before being able to walk through the Propylaea, the monumental gateway to the Acropolis built in the 5th century BCE which served as the entrance to the sacred precinct.
We then stopped near the Erechtheion, an Ionic temple named after the mythical king Erechtheus and constructed between 421 and 406 BCE which is famous for its distinctive porch supported by the Caryatids statues serving as columns. We then went to the most famous and prominent building, the Parthenon dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos. Built between 447 and 438 BCE, the Parthenon served as a symbol of Athenian power and the embodiment of classical Greek architecture. The temple metopes depict various mythological scenes, while the frieze showcase the Panathenaic procession. With a little imagination one can picture the magnificence of the Parthenon in the 5th century BCE with its colourful metopes, frieze and shining white marble.
Time for a well-deserved lunch at a restaurant near the Acropolis booked for our whole group where we enjoyed some delicious Greek food with plenty of salads with feta cheese, Tzatziki, Gyros and Baklava for desert.
We ended this delightful and culturally enriching day with a Gala Dinner at the Eleon Loft to celebrate the anniversary of the creation of the International Lyceum Club and enjoyed some Greek folk dances performed by the women of the Greek club in their colourful costumes.
Saturday was dedicated to the Acropolis Museum followed by a choice of 2 excursions :Cape Sounion or the Kerasiani monastery.
The Acropolis Museum houses a rich collection of archaeological artefacts from the Acropolis and its surrounding areas. It was opened to the public in June 2009 designed to replace the old Acropolis Museum, offering enhanced exhibition spaces, modern facilities and astonishing views over the Acropolis ensuring the preservation and presentation of the ancient remains found during construction.
The building is raised on pillars, allowing visitors to observe the excavation site beneath, connecting the museum with the historical layers of the Acropolis. The museum consists of three main levels. The ground floor features archaeological excavations visible through transparent flooring. The first floor showcases the Archaic Gallery which exhibits sculptures and reliefs from the 7th and 6th century BCE like the Kore statues.
The Erechtheion , Athena Nike Temple and Propylaea galleries exhibit various artefacts and architectural fragments which were once part of these ancient
structures. The top floor displays the metopes, friezes and pediments of the Parthenon left after the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803, Lord Elgin obtained the permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove a significant portion of the friezes,
metopes and pediment sculptures detaching in the process the marble panels from the temple’s structure.
The “Elgin marbles” have been housed in the British Museum in London ever since. The ownership and display of the Parthenon sculptures remains a contentious
issue. Greece has long called for the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles, contending that they should be returned to their place of origin and displayed in the Acropolis Museum.
Half of our group went to Cape Sounion with its iconic Temple of Poseidon dating back to the 5th century BCE, its breath taking coastal landscapes with its rugged cliffs, deep blue waters and panoramic views offer a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the grandeur of ancient Greece.
The other half of the group went to the Kesiarani monastery, an 11 th century Greek Orthodox monastery which includes the main church with several chapels, a bell tower and a courtyard. It is located close to Athens, nestled amidst pine forests and offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere. The main church dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary features beautiful frescoes and iconography from the Byzantine era.
Sunday was dedicated to a private charter cruise to two islands : Hydra and Aegina, a delightful escape from the bustling city of Athens. Although we did not have time to go the pristine beaches of Hydra Island, we strolled through Hydra town, a captivating labyrinth of narrow alleys, quaint squares and picturesque harbour where most of us could not help but buy a little souvenir from one of the numerous charming little shops. We then proceeded to Aegina Island which holds significant historical importance as one of the major maritime and
commercial powers in ancient Greece. It was once a rival to Athens and remnants of its glorious past can be seen in the archaeological sites and ancient ruins scattered across the island. Strolling through the narrow streets of Aegina we encountered neoclassical buildings, traditional taverns and quaint shops selling local products such as pistachios
which the island is famous for. The water front promenade offers picturesque views of fishing boats bobbing in the harbour.
Aegina has an authentic feel to it with its restaurants full of Greek visitors offering a delectable array of local delicacies such as fresh seafood, including grilled octopus and shrimp and the famous pistachios whether in ice cream, pastries or as a standalone snack.
Hydra is a small car-free island ideal for those seeking a tranquil setting. Aegina on the other hand is bigger and provides a more varied experience with a blend of traditional and more modern elements.
On the way back most of us joined a traditional dance spontaneously initiated by our Greek guides, enjoying the friendly and relaxed atmosphere on board. Through these Cultural Days, packed with various cultural and social events, the Lyceum Club in Athens managed to foster a sense of community and inter club friendship. The events celebrated the incredible richness and diversity of Greek arts and culture inviting us to explore, appreciate and engage with the vibrant city of Athens and its surrounding area.