Byline: LES REID
GREEK mythology would have us believe Athens was created after god of the sea Poseidon struck the rock of the Acropolis with his trident and goddess Athena's spear created an olive tree.
The Greek National Tourism Organisation is keen to promote modern Athens as having undergone another monumental transformation, minus the far-fetched divine intervention.
And with strong justification. There are aspects to the ancient city which make it unrecognisable from just a decade ago.
Most strikingly, the once omnipresent smog, which notoriously hung like a dark reminder of the filthy lifestyles of the pagan gods, has been completely removed.
This achievement, in just a few years, is something of a minor miracle of which king of the gods Zeus himself presumably would have been proud.
The Acropolis still timelessly dominates the city skyline, with the 500BC Parthenon temple cradled on its peak, standing as a jewel in the crown of the city's unparalleled ancient civilisation.
It is such majestic archeology and history which brings tourists flocking from all over the world, often as a weekend destination before they head off to the islands. .
But the city is rightly keen to spread the word that it has much more to offer, enough to provide a memorable holiday of a lifetime for young and old.
Recent rioting and social troubles, partly linked to the global economic downturn, should not put tourists off.
Lively nightlife quarters provide a cosmopolitan feast of food and drink to rival most truly international cities.
The most hip and happening of these is Psyrri, itself a symbol of the city's transformation. Its once seedy back streets have been renovated to create a modern, labyrinthine maze of quirky bars and restaurants.
Saturday night in Psyrri makes you feel glad to be alive. Its streets are bustling until sunrise with revellers of all ages. The Athenians take a siesta in the afternoon, and the party really gets going at about midnight. Their informality and joie de vive makes Athens notably friendly and welcoming.
For those seeking a more sedate experience, a series of fine restaurants have sprung up, offering modern international cuisine with a nod to traditional Greek cooking.
The Motivo Restaurant in the recently built neo-classical splendour of the Electra Palace Hotel is an excellent example. It offers romantic views of the beautifully lit adjacent archeological quarter. So too does the rest of the upmarket, cobble-stoned Plaka district, with its cafes, coffee shops and traditional tavernas nestling in the stepped foothills of the Acropolis.
The deluxe Hilton Hotel also boasts a magnificent nocturnal view of the illuminated Parthenon from its fashionable Galaxy Bar, as well as a selection of excellent restaurants. For superlative yet reasonably priced food and a sensational view of the whole of Athens, try lunch at the Horizons Restaurant on the Lycabetus Hill. …