Urban travel tales

In the town I was born: Athens

For Greek: http://to.ly/pi65

The clash, the stone-throwing, the tear gas started around 10:30 o’clock in the evening on Saturday September 21st not far from the centre of Athens, at the Stadium of Alexandras Avenue, home of the football team of Panathinaikos. The riot police was descending from the narrow street adjacent to the Stadium.

The green fans had preceded; I had already seen them few blocks before, on the Avenue, walking in groups, chatting quietly.
I was glad actually for the lively atmosphere and I recalled the good times, when the roads were full of life. Nothing like the last years, when I saw the centre of the city becoming dead after 9:30 pm as the main streets of the centre (Academias, Stadiou and the University Road) were gradually evacuated; shops, businesses, offices closed down, some buildings and cinemas were burned down. Finally pedestrians and drivers do not feel like circulating. 

Within seconds the tear gas was bursting on the asphalt, stones were flying passing over the windshield of my car.
“Now the game has started” shouted a very angry man, his fists clenched. A rift had opened in front of me, the preceding cars were further away, while a hesitant driver in a white car just in front was blocking my way.
I found myself surrounded by men, most of them seemed young guys and they were holding handfuls of stones, while other stones were already traveling in the air. At that moment I did not wonder where they found the stones in the avenue. My car was just rolling; they nodded to me to stop the car.

Then abruptly I stepped on the accelerator and I crossed over. I reached the preceding cars flashing my lights and ‘pushing’ the car in front to move at last.
At the next traffic light life was flowing normally. The cinemas, the cafes, the Saturday night stroll. Once again I was experiencing the absurd split in the continuum in Athens, with the smell of teargas still in my nostrils and my blood swollen from the adrenaline.

Just a month ago, still summer, on a Saturday night, same time around 10:30 pm I was coming out of the cinema at Plaka, the historic centre of Athens. I mingled with locals and tourists in a joyful feast.
And then, as I was ascending on foot towards Stadiou street, the city was becoming more and more deserted. They multiplied the homeless, the impoverished immigrants, the beggars, the addicts with their members in bandages, ghostly from weakness, young people most of them. And above Academias street was extending a vast land, the waste land.

This is how I experience Athens today; small oases prosper in islets dispersed in a desert of dark empty streets and avenues. Islets with no bridges to connect them, where I can not find the thread of continuity. I miss the feeling of security. I miss the cleanliness, the hospitality of Athens the way I have lived it, the way I have walked everywhere in the wider centre and discovered it, inch by inch, for some decades now, as an Athenian, as a woman.

Of course not every person dwelling, staying or passing from Athens will agree with me. It depends where you walk, which are the images you keep from Athens.

At any rate Ι will feed off the nostalgia and memories.

The city of Athens is still here, and it is just going through a crisis of identity, a depression. And I agree with what psychologists say, that the  crying of depression is the fuel to move forward, to become better.

The cry of the city, the grief for losing so many young and beautiful people, those who ‘leave’ without any hope of return, and others who immigrate, this crying we turn it into a song.

urban travel tales, Athens, city center 2013

Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος, Plateia Klafthmonos 2013

 
urban travel tales, Athens, city center 2013 Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος
 
urban travel tales, Athens, city center 2013, Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος
 
urban travel tales, Athens, city center 2013, Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος
 
urban travel tales, Athens, city center 2013, Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος
 
urban travel tales, Athens, city center 2013, Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος
Posts and photos from Athens you can find in my blog pressing the tags at the end of the page under the relevant names, also by writing the key words, like ‘Athens’ in the ‘search’ space at the side of the page.
Some of the articles are showing here: Silences of Athens    Omonoia square at Christmas   Exarxeia & graffiti   Athens National Garden   The weeds of Athens  
Archaeology: The Princesses of Mediterranean   
Bilingual posts Eng/Gr:  In memory of Aunt Lena   Privately Public   Lost Homelands
2013 © Copyright. All rights reserved 

2 comments

  1. paris49

    Hey Lisa! Thank so much sharing this touching and sad story with us. We have never visited in Athens even though so many times have thought about it seriously. Our love to Greece is for my wife from 80’s and for myself from 90’s and it contains many beautiful islands. Crete and Santorini are our favours, but there are so many islands which we really like so much;) The story of Athens 20 century is so tragic and so unfair for Athenians, but who would be know how bad things have gone in Greece!;( I still believe, that your history tells how strong and hard minded people Greeks are and that is your strength to rise up again. It needs time and co-operation of all you Greeks. We foreigners and lovers of Greece do our own share by traveling in there and spending money to buying local things, not imported items from China.

    Sincerely enjoying reading your stories and half on heart greek man Matti aka Paros

    Lähetetty iPhonesta

    Urban travel tales kirjoitti 30.9.2013 kello 0.31:

    > >

  2. Hi Matti, your response is touching! Your feelings about Greece and Greeks comes through in great sincerity. Personally I appreciate your support and I am sure having friends like you and your wife is a strong asset at the difficult times we go through in this country. Finland is well known for the high level of education and I am sure Greeks have a lot to learn by meeting Finish people. Thank you for supporting my writing. I am interested to know if you enjoy my stories, please feel free to share your opinion, like you do. Enjoy the autumn!🙂

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