When George Whyte was elected mayor of Athens Borough, Pa., he probably never dreamed that he would one day take part in a ceremony with the mayor of Athens, Greece (foto).
Yet that’s exactly what Whyte as well as a number of other government representatives from various Athens communities throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world did earlier this month when they participated in the “World of Athens” event in Greece.
“There were participants from Athens, Germany, Athens, Canada, as well as six towns in the U.S.,” Whyte said about the event. Those six towns included, Athens Borough, Pa., as well as areas such as Tennessee, Wisconsin, Illinois, Athens, Ga., and New York.
“I didn’t even know there was an Athens in New York,” Whyte explained. “It’s located along the Hudson River in Greene County.
According to information provided by Whyte, the event was organized by the World of Athens organization in Greece to “create a network of all ‘Athens of the World’ of all the cities that have the name of the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.” The purpose was to allow representatives from various cities named Athens to meet “and exchange their experiences, ideas, and cultures.”
Whyte explained that he was contacted by Tatiana Karapanogioti, the president of the World of Athens. After filling out the necessary paperwork and completing some preliminary arrangements, the mayor said, he and his daughter Debra Chisbak left JFK Airport in New York at 7 a.m. on Dec. 10 and arrived in Athens, Greece at 9 a.m.
“It was a seven-hour flight,” Whyte said, explaining that they appeared to arrive so soon because of changes in the time zones.
The day they arrived, Whyte said, the group took it easy and had dinner at the hotel where they were staying. The next day, he said, the group took a bus tour of the city that cumulated with a ceremony with Nikitas Kaklamanis, the mayor of Athens, Greece. Whyte said the ceremony included the representatives each being presented a medal and a parchment document by Kaklamanis. Whyte said that he in turn gave Kaklamanis a seal of Athens Borough, a key to the city, a U.S. flag from state Rep. Tina Pickett’s office, and photographs provided by the Athens Business Association of the town clock and Teaoga Square.
Having been to Athens, Greece, Whyte said he can now see why Athens Borough, Pa., took that name when it was incorporated in the 1800s.
“Greece has rolling hills that look almost identical,” he said, explaining that Athens, Greece is located on a peninsula of land in a similar fashion to Athens Borough.
After the ceremony, Whyte said, the group was invited by the American ambassador to Greece to an employee Christmas party at the U.S. embassy. The following day, he continued, they visited the Acropolis and the Parthenon, which included a tour of the Acropolis Museum located at the base of the hill. This, Whyte said, is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to archeological digs, housing many historical items that have been uncovered over the years.
“It took us two-and-a-half hours to tour the place, that’s how big the place was,” Whyte said.
Another attraction was a tour of the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon.
Later that day, Whyte said, they had dinner at the “Ithaca” Restaurant.
“Although over there, they spell it ‘Ithhaki,'” Whyte explained.
While at the establishment, Whyte said, he observed a large oval sign with Greek letters which looked very familiar. He said the mayor of Athens, N.Y. also commented that she had a sense of deja vu when seeing the sign. It turned out that the design of the sign is the same as the one used by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., Whyte said.
The group also attended a Christmas tree lighting festival attended by 5,000 people that included fireworks and a performance by the city band. Whyte said that part of the activities included a speech given by Kaklamanis.
“I asked what the mayor was saying,” Whyte said about the event. “I was told that he was talking about us.”
The event included discussions by the representatives about what they hoped to accomplish. Whyte said he spoke about the importance of getting even more people to participate in the World of Athens organization, pointing out that there are 22 communities in the U.S. that bear the name “Athens.” He said he spoke about what government is like for Athens Borough, Pa., and what challenges the community has recently faced – such as the Maple Street Sewer Project, and the community having to conform to the Chesapeake Bay guidelines.
Whyte said that the World of Athens organization is making plans for another meeting of Athens representatives, but nothing specific has been determined at this point. He said they’ve been tentatively discussing holding the event in Athens, Ga. in 2011.
(source: the daily review)