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The Town of Glyfada, Attica

Glyfada is situated at the southern foot of mountain Hymettus; and it is extended in the whole area down to the beach, at Saronicos Bay. The modern town covers the territory of the ancient Athenian demos of Aexoni, located at a distance of some 16 kilometers far from the city center of Athens. Nowadays Glyfada is a nice suburb of Athens, densely populated with wide streets and intense development both on the economic and on the settlement ground. The market of Glyfada is great and well known, comprising a lot of modern department stores, banks and various agencies for services. The coastal zone is full of restaurants, bars, cafés and nightclubs; it is one of the beloved places of young people and there are several youth hang outs, cinemas, as well as athletic amenities. All these attract many people ad Glyfada has always a mood of youth and a permanent atmosphere of amusement, fun and nightlife. According to the last census its population, getting constantly increasing, reaches the number of 100.000 people.

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History and Tradition

As the rich archaeological finds evidence, the area of ancient Aexoni seems to have been settled since prehistoric times, as early as in the Neolithic period; ever since, inhabitancy is continuous up to nowadays. In ancient Greek the word “Aexoni” seems to mean “market of goats”.

Several remains of every day life, dated back to the Neolithic times (6000-3000 b.C.), have been brought to light at the small peninsula of Punta. At the southern coast of Punta there has also been found a tomb of the Early Helladic era, dated in the 3rd millennium b.C. Based on this evidence, archaeologists suggest that a coastal Early Helladic settlement had flourished in this area.

Eastern to Punta, at Alyki, it has been detected a Mycenaean settlement that flourished mostly during the Late Helladic III period (circa 1300-1150 b.C.). Traces of the Mycenaean era had also been found in older surveys at the low hill above the church of Aghios Nicolaos, but unfortunately all this evidence was lost, due to the intense building activity developed in the area. Numerous finds of the next periods testify that inhabitancy of the place was continuous and the area started to develop rapidly when the residents, encouraged by the measures of Peisistratos in favor of agriculture, established the intense cultivation of the almost barren soil.

After 508, following the transformations of Cleisthenes, the “demos” of Aexoni made part of the coastal “trittys” of the Kekropis tribe. Strabo, the famous geographer of antiquity locates Aexoni between the “demoi” of “Alimous” and “Alae Aexondides”. According to archaeological evidence and written sources, Aexoni was a very rich “demos” of Athens and extended from the feet of mountain Hymettus to the sea and from the cape of Aghios Kosmas, up to the actual organized beach of Voula. The place was famous for the small red mullets, known in antiquity as “trigli aexoniki” (“the red mullet of Aexoni”), but also for the profane, satiric and scornful spirit of the locals.

During the Classic period, the center of the town had been transferred to the inland and the coast served only for the port, which was situated at the bay northern to Punta. According to Christian tradition, it was at the port of Aexoni that disembarked Apostle Paul, when he came to Attica in mid 1st century A.D. From here, following the ancient road, he arrived in Athens to preach Christianity at Pnyx. The ancient road that connected Athens with Sounion passed just beside the Byzantine church of Aghios Nicolaos; the actual Vouliagmenis Avenue follows almost exactly this route.

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Several traces of Roman and Byzantine buildings show that, during these periods, the settlement was expanded in the whole area, up to the coast. After the Byzantine period the settlement declined; it was inhabited by few people who were occupied only in agriculture. During the Ottoman domination, until early 1830s’ the area formed two properties, belonging to Ottomans. When the Ottomans left Attica the area was sold to various wealthy Greek families.

In early 20th century, the area started to develop in a summer resort for the residents of Athens. At the beginning, there were only temporary constructions of wood which served as bars and taverns, but soon after there were constructed also summer residencies. Several wells were opened, for water supply. It is said that as the first well had brackish water, the whole area was named after this characteristic (“Glyfada” in Greek means “area with brackish water”). After 1920, new buildings appear, to serve as summer residencies and tourist development became more systematic and rapid. In 1925 the whole area southern to Hymettus Mountain, from the coast of Glyfada up to Aghios Ioannis Kynegos, close to the actual town of Dafni at Vouliagmenis Avenue, formed a separate community. After several administrative changes, in 1945 it became a Municipality with the name Municipality of Glyfada. The development of the area was impressive and Glyfada was a modern summer resort with villas, tourist facilities and public transport as early as before the World War II.

The war affected much the development of the town; the arrivals of people in summer decreased and the transports became difficult. This situation got worse during the German domination, but the residents of Glyfada were luckier than the rest of Athens as they did not suffer too much from starvation, thanks to the fields and gardens that still existed and were suitable both for stock grassing and for cultivations. As the older residents of the town cite with nostalgia, in this period of time Glyfada had very nice gardens, which, unfortunately, do not exist today. Being very close to the military airport of Hassani (later the international airport of Athens), Glyfada suffered from bombings during the whole period of the war. The quarter of “Bosporus”, where there had been settled some 100 families, refugees from Asia Minor, was totally destroyed, due to its vicinity to the airport.

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Later on, after 1970s’, development also affected Terpsithea, the upper part of the town, also known as Ano Glyfada. Apartment blocks and modern villas were built in the place where only sheepfolds existed up to then. However, Terpsithea is possibly the unique area in Attica that rapid development did not lead to the destruction of the environment; on the contrary, the bare and barren area with the difficult access and no public transport, was transformed to a nice suburb of Athens, green enough and offering all facilities of a modern town.

Today Glyfada is crossed by Vouliagmenis avenue, a noisy wide street that divides the town in Ano (“upper”) Glyfada and Kato (“lower”) Glyfada. Ano Glyfada still retains some of the characteristics it used to have in the past; it is a rather quiet place, with nice quarters and several detached houses, situated just at the feet of mountain Hymettus, with a nice view of the Saronicos Bay. Kato Glyfada, on the other hand, with the impressive plaza, the luxurious department stores and the amusement and sport centers, is a totally modern, noisy town always crowded.

Access to Glyfada

The town is very easily accessible by all means of transport. There are several bus lines, some of them local and others that connect the town with Athens and Piraeus with quite frequent service. The bus line connecting Athens or Pireaus with the International Airport of Athens passes from Glyfada and runs all day round. Vouliagmenis Avenue and the coastal Poseidonos Avenue connect Glyfada not only with Athens and Piraeus, but also with all the coastal suburbs from Neo Faliro, up to Sounion. The tramway, constructed in 2004, before the Olympic games of Athens, has recently (in 2007) been extended and connects the area with the neighboring town of Voula.

Glyfada is also accessible by taxi, as the distance from Athens or Piraeus is short and the fare is not too high.

For those having a yacht, Glyfada has four well organized Marinas, which can accept hundreds of boats and yachts, both small and bigger ones. One of the marinas is the place of mooring of some 30 small fishing boats, which every day supply the local market, but also the public with fresh fish, continuing the tradition of Aexoni, which, in antiquity, supplied Athens with fresh fish and sea food.

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