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DECEMBER 16

Athens Travel Guide

Modern History in Athens



Modern Athens was built only after 1834, when it became the capital of a once more independent Greece. Otto I, first king of the Hellenes (1832–62), reconstructed much of the town, and the first modern Olympic games were held there in 1896. The population grew rapidly in the 1920s, when Greek refugees arrived from Turkey. The town's inhabitants suffered extreme hardships during the German occupation (1941–44) in World War II, but the town avoided damage in the war and in the country's civil troubles of 1944–50. In the 1960s and 1970s, countless 19th century neoclassical constructions were torn down to make way for the infamous concrete apartment blocks that characterize much of the town today. The town also expanded outward through rash development, particularly towards the west, as its population grew by absorbing job-seekers from the provinces. With the onset of the automobile, public officials reduced the town's public transportation services, without foreseeing the traffic gridlock and smog that would menace the town by the 1980s. Certain areas of the town center, such as the Pláka and Thissio districts, retained their charming 19th century architecture, but fell into decay.

Recently in the 1980s and initial 1990s, the town's reality led to a rude awakening among local and national officials, and coupled with the country's new found prosperity huge scale projects started to slowly regenerate the town and as much as possible undo the damages of recent decades. Over the course of the next 15 years, millions of euros poured into new transportation infrastructure projects, the restoration of surviving neoclassical buildings, the gentrification of the town's historical center, and the renovation of several former industrial areas and the city's coast. The restoration of charming neoclassical constructions in the town's historical center has been accompanied by the construction of attractive post modern constructions in newer districts; both of which have started to improve the aesthetic essence of the town. Athens nowadays is ever evolving, forging a new identity for the 21st century, and gradually making up for the damages of the 20th.

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