Building next to National Library, Athens

Greetings from Athens! Ellen and I are at the start of our Fulbright Library Road Trip odyssey. It seems appropriate that we start in Greece which invented the term “odyssey”. For those of you that have done international travel taking the big flight to Greece is a little like running a marathon (another Greek work). Exhausted and brain-dead when we arrived I was struck how much the setting for Athens reminded me of southern California. I was also impressed at how hot, polluted, crowded and fascinating this city is.

1st night dinner, Athens

We are staying in the Koloanki neighborhood on the edge of an anarchist neighborhood. The streets are filled with political graffiti. It’s all just edgy enough to be very exciting.  Our street is literally full of bookstores and coffee shops which are two things I love. We feel right at home! I am also aware of the deep history that is part of contemporary Athens. We stroll by ancient ruins and 700 year-old olive trees. The old National Library of Greece is very close to where we are staying. It is surrounded by buildings from the last 150 years that refer back to classical Greek history.Grafitti, Athens

700 year-old olive tree, Athens

Old National Library, Athens

We spend our first day of work at the new National Library of Greece at the breathtaking Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. This is our host library for this part of the Fulbright and we are graciously given a tour by Librarian Evgenia Vasilakaki. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, SNFCC is a world-class cultural, learning and recreational urban complex that includes the new National Library and the Greek National Opera. It is surrounded by one of the largest green spaces in Athens which is sorely needed in this crowded city. It also offers spectacular views of Athens and the sea. In the first year that it opened in 2017 over 3 million people visited SNFCC. Like everything else, the Library is amazing and by the time we meet the Director Dr. Filippos Tsimpoglou we knew our experience here will be a rich one.

Book Castle and hallway, National Library of Greece

After the first day here in Athens I realized that one day was gone but we had two hundred and thirty-nine days to go on our Fulbright Library Road Trip. This will be a journey where we can get beneath the surface and deeply explore what is the meaning of a library. Rather than a sprint we have started a marathon. Thanks for joining us on this occasional blog. Please send us any questions or comments.




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6 responses to “1 DAY DONE, 239 TO GO

  1. Harvey Smith

    Bob and Ellen,
    Sounds like you’re off to a good start. Timely for me to get this today. I spent yesterday afternoon at the S.F. Public Library doing some research on a WPA artist and am off to the Mill Valley Library this morning to tape a radio program on the New Deal.
    Viva libraries!

  2. Claire Peeps

    What a marvelous start! A marathon, indeed! And yes, it’s fitting to begin in Greece. Onward! Can’t wait to follow your adventures.

  3. What a wonderful initiation point for your own odyssey, indeed. Love you are chronicling it here and look forward to more.
    μεγάλες αγκαλιές
    Big hugs!

  4. Marcia Schneider

    Looking forward to hearing more!

  5. Dan Geiger

    Hi Bob and Ellen

    Thanks for the blog post and wonderful photographs. Sounds fantastic. Wishing you a wonderful trip and experiences!

  6. Lori S Maslow

    Looking forward to following your posts! What a wonderful marathon you are on! Thank you for sharing it!

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