I love Athens, always have. It’s one of the most interesting cities in Europe. I have travelled; I’m not a novice when it comes to cities, I’m a city person who can’t live in any other part of Greece, not even Thessaloniki, not big enough, not noisy enough.
I have been to all the western and northern European capitals and I love some more than others, but Athens is very special. It is full of surprises and they are not hard to find as they are everywhere. I don’t like the Athens suburbs as they have no character. There is nothing special going on there except that the Athenians are trying to escape the city. They are building more high rises and creating more problems for themselves.
I particularly like the very centre of Athens, all the old areas around the Acropolis; Plaka in the winter; Monastiraki on a Sunday, where you can spend a whole day exploring all the old wears laid out in the streets, το Giousouroum, as it is called in Greek, which extends itself all the way into Thissio; and Gazi on Sunday. The exciting Keramikos which takes in the Gazi area, called this because of the old gas works that has now been turned into an arts centre with concert halls, exhibition halls and art galleries with some of the best cafes and restaurants in Greece. And here sits my personal favourite eating place, ‘Sardeles’.
Next time you’re in Athens please go eat there, I promise you will not be disappointed. Then there are the surrounding areas of Metaxourgio, Petralona and, of course, my geitonia Psiri, with its paved streets, its cafes and tavernas and with magiria, a type of restaurant that is getting scarce these days, and 5-6 doors up from my home there is a two Michelin star restaurant.
In Platia Psiri sits my favourite, zacharoplastio, which serves my favourite sweet, Kazan Dipi, a rare treat in Athens that is more common in Thessaloniki. My street is made up of shops selling old furniture, a groovy little mini bar that is open almost 24/7, and an ouzeri downstairs – these are almost at my front door. There is also the human factor which is almost unique in Psiri.
I am not sure how long it will last as it seems that all γειτονιές absorbed into ‘modernity’, be that good or bad, tend to loose this very Greek warmth. For example, I had forgotten to get money from an ATM one day and had to pay 100 euros for a delivery. As I was debating what to do when the neighbours came to my rescue. Lilly, who was witness to my dilemma, gave me 50 euros and the other witness did not have it on him and suggested I ask Niko (a real estate office) which I did. It was given to me without any questions asked.
When I walk in the neighbourhood people talk to me even if they don’t know my name, nor I theirs, but we know each other’s faces. I know Bella the dog, Kirio Yorgos who sometimes brings out his violin, and his wife Kiria Soula who plaits garlic strings. The local eating places by now even know what I like to eat and I have been given lunch without paying on occasion. I see lots of faces from the theatre and TV world as for various reasons people in the arts hang out in Psyri. But most of all I love the immediacy of the city and the fact that in my home I have the Parthenon looking straight in at my lounge room.