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Updated: 2004-08-04 14:34
The hidden pleasures of Athens


In front of a popular restaurant, a line of customers waits for taxis. And wait. Most of the cabs are full.

That's nothing unusual in this city of 4 million people. But it's 2:30 in the morning.

Visitors to the Olympic Games may leave disappointed if they see Athens only through the eyes of the typical tourist, who makes a beeline for the islands after the obligatory visit to the Acropolis and the quaint but predictable Plaka district.

To fully appreciate and discover Athens' many charms, do as the Greeks do: Venture out into the neighborhoods, find the packed nightclubs, eat at one of the innumerable restaurants tucked in the most unlikely places, or see Hollywood stars under real stars in a romantic outdoor cinema.

The Greek capital is named for the ancient goddess Athena, whose favorite animal was the owl. It's a fitting symbol for the city's nocturnal nature, which often culminates in summer with a bleary-eyed rush hour just before dawn.

As native Athenian Panos Demestiha observed: "Athens by day is unlivable, but it's magical at night."

Athenians cope with notorious traffic congestion , strewn trash, diminishing green space, ripped up and dusty streets and miles of drab apartment blocks. City officials are using the momentum of the August 13-29 Olympics to fix some of these long-ignored problems and make city life more bearable.

But the eclectic neighborhoods and intense nightlife -- along with lounging in cafes or on the beach -- show Athens to be more than its reputation as a sad modern city with a glorious past.

More than ever, it's now easier to see the hidden Athens with the extended subway system and new tram .

"In Greece, people have a quality of life. People here live beautifully," said Otto Rehhagel, the German coach of the Greek national soccer team that made history by beating incredible odds to win the European championship on July 4.














beeline: the most direct route(一直奔向,抄近路去某地)

congestion: the act of gathering into a heap or mass; accumulation(拥塞,充血)

eclectic: selecting; choosing (what is true or excellent in doctrines, opinions, etc.) from various sources or systems(自不同材料加以选择的)

tram: a four-wheeled truck running on rails, and used in a mine, as for carrying coal or ore(有轨电车)

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