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Russ Goes Where Democracy Began

This story was originally broadcast on Nov. 7, 2008

The election of Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president is the latest historic development in the great experiment known as American democracy.

And on The Early Show Friday, news anchor Russ Mitchell

to the cradle of democracy -- Athens, Greece.

Russ was plucked from the show's set Thursday and whisked away to head overseas as part of the series, "Destination Unknown." All the show's anchors are on notice that the same could happen to them at any time -- and they have to show up for work each day with their bag packed, ready to depart to their own "Destination Unknown."

Julie Chen was first up -- she headed to Paris last week.

In Athens, Russ toured ruins, visited a museum, and of course partook in traditional Greek cuisine and dancing!

He showed views of treasured ruins that he said, "cut deep to the core of Greek pride and national devotion" -- those of the Parthenon, and the 2,400-year-old Acropolis -- which Russ called "symbols of ancient Greek civilization, its art, literature, and passion for democracy."

Russ spoke with Prof. Dimitrios Pandermalis, director of the New Acropolis Museum, created to contain and reflect those grand ideas. It's been 30 years in the making and is due to open this spring.

Pandermalis discussed continuing disputes over, and efforts to retrieve, artifacts stolen over the centuries that other nations, including Britain, now claim as their own.

Russ also spoke with architect Cathy Paraschi and engineer Evi Papaconstantinou about the difficulties involved in

: Their design was amazingly intricate and hard to duplicate -- and air pollution is ravaging the ruins.

Alexia Alexiadou -- chef, cookbook author, and publisher of Real Food magazine -- the top-selling food magazine in Greece -- showed Russ a thing or two about local fare.

Dancing is a huge part of Greek culture, so his trip wouldn't have been complete without attempting to learn a few Greek moves. Maria Cotsou, of The Lyceum Club Of Greek Women, along with a dancer there, Stavros Stavropoulos, did the best they could with Russ, as did Thanassis Polykandriotis.

The trip was arranged by luxury travel network Virtuoso and, while in Athens, Russ stayed in the Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection hotel. He flew both ways on British Airways.

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