Omonoia square at night
It is funny how lucky I can be sometimes when I become more adventurous. This happens usually when I am working on fixed ideas. Like, I wanted to add some night photos to the day ones taken from Omonoia square, the traditional heart of Athens city. So, I took a taxi at 9 p.m.
The taxi driver’ s wife was sitting next to him, as I found since he got pleasantly talkative; this is a quality of Greek taxi drivers not much praised. However, they have been a source of inspiration for me, even at the times we, Athenians, were fighting over a taxi and were happy to squeeze in one with another 3 unknown people going at abstractedly same routes; this changed too. In taxi stations they now wait for hours forming long yellow cues. We started chatting when I asked him to go to Omonoia square and stop to wait for me, while I would be taking photos. He told me that he is a blogger and he has been a sailor for years.
This is the spirit or the soul of a Greek deriving from Odysseas or Ulysses, who throughout his long return to Ithaca had to prove his abilities, to be cunning, in the sense of ingenious, flexible, clever to find solutions and solve problems. This is what I remember from my school years. The sense of a crafty, tricky Greek is rather recent. But I assure you, if you sail in uncomfortable waters you have more chances to meet the Ulysses type.
Omonoia square in the morning
The light was beautiful, over the night the temperature had dropped from 18 to 12 degrees Celsius. Once upon a time this neighborhood has been part of my daily routine. Today is unrecognizable! Pity I was not taking photos at that time. But photos is a sign of nostalgia, as Susan Sontag writes at her ‘On Photography’; when I was younger and completely absorbed, when Athens was younger too and engaged us, there was no time for photos.
I do not know how to approach the subject, so I decide just to share the photos of “Christmas/tising” Omonoia ‘square’: as I put quotations marks it occurs to me that perhaps here dwells the root of the existential or identity crisis of the place. Once upon a time Omonoia ‘square’ was round, with a fountain at its centre and 5 main streets springing, like the legs of a star. Cars were swirling around all day; it was the headache of the new drivers about the priority while entering and exiting the round.
In recent years they tried to “square-lize the circle”, if translating literally the Greek expression. By the time its shape changed all the evils fell upon, one on top of other. Many old civilizations, like Egyptians or Ancient Greeks, had very strong opinions about geometry, the power of shapes and numbers. It seems, as I am looking now at the shapeless ‘square’ of Omonoia, that the city has also lost its shape, its logic; the base of its power.
Here I photograph the workers from a department of the Mairie putting some green to cover the Waste Land that any citizen or tourist sees everyday of the year, along with drug dealers, junkies, homeless, a crowd of unlucky people who have lost direction and faith.
When passing from here, the life and vivacity of other times gone make people sad. Around Omonoia there were hotels, stores. There were shops to sit and eat a plate of warm loukoumades, fried dough balls swimming in honey and cinnamon. We used to come here in the early morning hours after a brief supper in the typical tavernas of Varvakeios Agora nearby. The Central Athens market (open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is still inviting with the strong odors of fish or spices mingling with the colorful vegetables and meat, while the vendors and locals go about their daily transactions.
So, I am back here now sipping my soup and traveling back in time.
omonoia, a noun, in Greek means reconciliation, concord, peace.
IFurther readings on Athens and in the category “Athens for your eyes only” http://to.ly/j7zP http://to.ly/gPpa http://to.ly/kKaJ http://to.ly/hRm8
Archaeology, Athens http://to.ly/kvJs Eng/Gr: http://to.ly/pcfJ http://to.ly/pcow http://to.ly/j7zY http://to.ly/h1op 2012 © Copyright. All rights reserved
Ηistorical photos of Omonoia (7) are borrowed from http://www.sansimera.gr/articles/324 - ‘Αφιερώματα – Η ιστορία της Πλατείας Ομονοίας’