The New Athens
Those rewards are even greater now thanks to the many splendid features created for the city's 2004 Olympics. In 2000, Athens opened its new metro, many of whose gleaming stations function as minimuseums, displaying ancient artifacts found on-site (the new trains have blissfully cut down the effects of Athens's notorious gridlock and pollution). About a decade ago, the city unveiled Eleftherios Venizelos International airport, high-tech and efficient (affectionately called by many locals El.Vel.) New infrastructure blessings include a tram line running from the city center to the south-coast beaches; an express train running to the airport and far-flung suburbs; and a beltway and the repaving and expansion of most of the city's potholed highways.
Within the city, beautification projects took priority. The most successful has been the completion of Athens's Archaeological Park, which links the capital's ancient sites in a pedestrian network. The stone-paved, tree-lined walkway allows you to stroll through the city center undisturbed by traffic from the Panathenaic stadium, home of the first modern Olympics in 1896, past the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Acropolis, Filopappou hill, the ancient Greek and Roman agoras, Hadrian's Library, and Kerameikos, the city's ancient cemetery. Cars have also been banned or reduced in other streets in the historical center thanks to the introduction of odd/even plate-numbers traffic restrictions.
While various museums have received renovations, such as the National Archaeological Museum and the Benaki Museum, one new museum garnered headlines around the world when it opened in June 2009: the New Acropolis Museum, a spectacularly modern showcase for some of the most venerated ancient statues in the world. And the invigorating buzz that seized Athens pre-2004 has also helped newly transform entire neighborhoods like Gazi, Thission, Metaxourgeio, Rouf, and Psirri from industrial warehouse districts to hot spots of hip restaurants and happening nightclubs.
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