What do greek anarchists do on sunday? Answers to that and other questions found here.
When you hear from multiple people how terrible a city is that you plan to go to how do you react? If you are a swashbuckler after my own heart it probably makes you more determined than ever to find the secret awesome places and stories that make the city come alive. One thing visiting capital cities in the Balkans has taught me is to not judge an ugly book by it’s cover so I was keeping an open mind about Athens.
Arriving in the Plaka (the old section of Athens beneath the acropolis) I immediately felt like I was suffocating. All tourists wearing white sneakers, oversized fanny packs and short jean shorts clogging the sidewalks, kitschy souvenir shops all selling same junk including vast collections of homoerotic vases and some seriously tacky teeshirts, and salesmen fighting to try to get you to sit down in their restaurant for an overpriced mediocre meal was enough to make me break out in a rash. My first instinct was to want to immediately hop on the next bus back to the safe obscure (and awesome!) Albania. I stuck with Athens, mainly thanks to a long time love of ancient history and the promise of off the beaten track neighborhoods to come.
The ancient sights were quickly covered and thanks to the Rick Steve’s free audio tour app (mad nerd love for my man Rick Steves!) My friend Steve and I were able to have great audio walking tours of all the major sights which really helped us squint and see the piles of old rock in new and interesting lights. We only had one pair of headphones so we got really good navigating everything like a pair of conjoined twins. I tried to take my pictures to make it look like we had the sights to ourselves which we definitely did not, but it was a fun challenge none the less.
But everyone visits the Acropolis, the museum and the ancient agora, where was the real modern Athens? Enter the Exarchia neighborhood, nicknamed the “New Berlin” of Athens. In 2010 during the riots in Greece this neighborhood was placed on the US state departments no-go list due to it apparently being filled with rabble rousing resident anarchists.
Naturally with this type of anti-establishment theme, I couldn’t resist it. Seattle girl here, anti-establishment is our bread and butter. Exarchia was everything the Plaka isn’t. It is defiant, artsy, covered in graffiti and full of life.
However parents have no fear, from my observations greek anarchists spend their sundays having brunch pushing their kids on swings in the park, selling homemade honey raki in the local square (She doesn’t have a business license or pay taxes – rebel!) and sitting outside of cafe’s smoking, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.
The most rebellious thing in the air was a bit of pot smoke and the smell of doughnuts that were almost certainly being fried in sneaky and evil substance known as trans-fat.
The graffiti was really some of the most incredible modern art I have ever seen. I just took some quick shots that really don’t do the feeling of the neighborhood justice.
It really was such a delightful little neighborhood. If there were not about 10 police men in full riot gear lingering in the zone between Exarchia and the richer more mainstream ritzy neighborhood of Kolonaki you would never know this was such a political hot spot.
We are island bound now and I have a feeling it is not going to get any easier trying to find un-touristy places. Luckily this swashbuckler enjoys a good challenge.