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.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