athens burns!

July 14, 2010

No city I’ve ever been to has had the same anarchic energy that I experienced in Athens. It’s a free-for-all. Chaos. It’s completely unorganized, crumbling, polluted, hell—hot, crowded, vandalized, teeming with empty lots, rubble and ruins, both ancient and modern. It’s crawling with stray animals, junkies, illegals, and whores. The entire place feels like it’s teetering on the edge. Volatile. Explosive! And I mean that all in the most endearing way. It’s places like this whose potential energy breed the creativity and innovation that inspires the rest of us to get off our asses and make something of ourselves.

From the airport to the crowded metro and then into the 90+ heat, I slugged my way up Ipokratus street with my bags, sweating, sweating, sweating. The sidewalk is barely wide enough for a single person and every 50 meters there’s some kind of obstruction— stoic riot police with plastic shields and dark shades; construction site; a café’s tables exceeding their designated space; a man driving a motorcycle up and INTO a storefront! You find yourself jumping over, around, into the street. The way people navigate this space is so dynamic and reactive and energetic.

Upstairs at Olga’s, I’m welcomed and over a refreshing glass of water the first thing she asks is if I know anything about snails. This is the perfect testament to her character: she’d been keeping a snail as a pet and it recently slimed its way from the plate of dirt she made for it and wedged itself behind the bookcase. It had been there for a few days when I arrived, and each day she would dribble water down the wall in hopes of keeping it cool and comfortable, in case it was still alive. She’s so giving and generous with such an enjoyable disposition. We got along easily and well– she’s just goofy and always giggles and you can’t help but just want to laugh and have fun while you’re around her! I was thrilled and lucky to have found such a lovely host that was willing to talk about art, travel, boys!, and life with. AND she’s a master in New Media and moving to Amsterdam in the fall for her 2nd Master’s! Clever, gorgeous, silly Olga!

Each day I walked all day in the sun, ducking into the Athens Contemporary Art Museum to escape the heat; combing the tourist shops of Plaka for necklaces and souvenirs; exploring colorful Exarhia; cooling off in the sprinklers in the National Gardens; not taking the subway (strike!); eating piles of spinach pies and little cookies from the bakeries; the FUCKING PARTHENON!!!!!!! The half-ruined or burnt-out buildings offer a very visual confirmation of the collapse of the economy and the government here…overgrown, unused, outdated. But in it’s place the youth and art culture here are really trying to make things happen (stay tuned for photos from CELEBRATION ROOM #5 in a rebuilt park in Exharia…..)

But the best part about a long day in the summertime blaze is the severely enjoyable summer night. When the heat’s worn off but the air and concrete still radiate. Olga and friends took me out to several Athens establishments via metro, bus, and SCOOTER!– an awesome bar covered floor to ceiling with toys, lamps, doodads and stuffed animals; gallery/bar combination in and old building courtyard; another reclaimed building courtyard bar projecting old Chinese movies; a neon green rooftop bar with a view of the illuminated Acropolis. I love the glass of water they serve with your drink (!!!) and the little crackers or chips or snacks for the table–the hospitality is incredible!

Thanks to Olga, roommate Efi, Nico, Thodoris, Vasilis, and all their friends that gave me such a warm Greek welcome and shared their drinks, time, tips, thoughts, ideas, and characters with me. I am so grateful to know such vibrant people in a city with so much potential. Can’t wait to see where Athens goes from here…….OPA!

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2 Responses to athens burns!

  1. Teresa on July 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Love these photos! They make me miss traveling. Greece is definitely one of my next destinations!invasionista

  2. thodoris on August 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    hey rebecca, I didn't know you had a blog..! great..!keep travelling, re!

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