Urban tourism in Athens : tourist myths and images
This thesis explores and analyses the mythical quality of modem Athens as experienced by tourists. It is an exploration of the tourist gaze upon the Athenian landscape, as well as an account of how tourists narrate its urban mythology. This research is largely concerned with the relationship of time and space through memory, exploring the interplay between the spatial arrangement of urban elements, temporality and the experience of the city. Athens is viewed as a city marked by a temporal collage where different historical periods are juxtaposed. This juxtaposition gives Athens the character of a deconstructed city. The city is made present through spatialised remainders, her genius loci. This thesis thus analyses the relationship between Athens past and the present, the strangely familiar and the stereotypically exotic, as interwoven within an urban landscape imagined, gazed and finally, narrated by foreign tourists. The core argument of this work is that the Athenian landscape embodies an urban mythology constructed by the nineteenth century romantic travellers: these, through their writings, fashioned the stereotypical imagery of Athens. Modem tourists are the consumers of these myths. Like their nineteenth century predecessors, tourists stroll around the city following the traces of their memory - key landmarks and symbols, recognising what they have already known; feeling nostalgic for the past -their past, fragmenting the landscape into different historic layers, depopulating it from its present inhabitants, orientalising it. In this work I explore the transmission and reinvention of the myths of Athens through guidebooks, travel brochures, guided tours and tourist photographs. The exploration of the different images of Athens as visualised by tourists leads to a discussion of gendered, orientalised, literary, photographic and cartographic aspects of the Athenian urban landscape. The theoretical framework of the thesis is based on post-modernism, post-structuralism and semiotics. My research methods have been qualitative, including both in-depth interviews and participant observation, following tourists around the city and participating in their activities. I also analysed the ways tourists 'gaze' and photograph the city. My intention is to draw -metaphorically speaking- a mental map including the sites visited, consumed and experienced by tourists.