ATHENS: FASTER, ABOVE, STRONGER
Athens is the oldest capital of Europe. Here is the beginning of our civilization, the birthplace of democracy, the origins of philosophy. But among the orange groves, broken columns and armless statues, new cultural sprouts are constantly sprouting – and after the eurozone crisis, they are stronger than ever
The future Greek capital received its spectacular name as a result of a dispute between the gods. Kekrops, born to Gaia, half-sums and the heroic founder of Attica, started a competition between Athena and Poseidon: whoever gives the king the best gift will be the patron saint of the city.
The first was Poseidon – the lord of the sea hit the rock with his trident, and a source was hammered out of the stones. In the summer in Athens it is really hot and thirsty all the time, however, the water of Poseidon did not pass the sanitary control, being salty. But the offering of the goddess of wisdom – the fruitful olive tree – in Greek, the practical Kekrops was impressed.
The settlement, entrusted to Athena, was located on the shores of the Aegean Sea, in a picturesque valley. The low mountains around the Athenians provided protection from the land, and some of the city’s distance from the coast protected from attacks from the sea.
In the bowl formed by hills, fig trees, date palms, pistachios, cistus and myrtle grew – fragrant plants from ancient Greek frescoes depicting the idle life of the lucky ones who were lucky to be born in the earthly paradise.
But today, the Greek capital is not up to the myrtle: in the days of the public utilities strikes, you will not always notice it behind the mountains. When did it all go wrong?
There is a formal date. In 2009, the new Greek government, appointed as a result of early elections, announced that the country’s public debt exceeded 300 billion euros, and the budget deficit was 12.5 percent of GDP – almost twice as much as previously stated.
After such news, the sovereign credit rating of Greece collapsed, and foreign investment hastily spilled over to other places. Caught on the verge of collapse, the Greek economy demanded huge financial injections, and then the government received the largest loans in the country’s history.
But lenders put Greece in a tight framework: they had to cut expenses, cut pensions and social benefits, raise taxes. The average unemployment rate soared to a record 27 percent, and in the capital, two thirds of the population lost their jobs. Today, the most difficult period is over, but frustration and moral fatigue still hover in the thick and sultry air of Athens – along with aromas of overripe figs and local asirtiko wine.
For air, by the way, you need to climb Lykavitos, a green hill in the very center of the capital. On its gentle slopes, the beautiful Kolonaki area stretches along beautiful terraces. Here are the mansions of the wealthy, prosperous Greeks, who for some reason did not wish to leave the city for the villas in the northern or coastal suburbs.
On the hill, it is really easy to breathe, as in the Greek province: the sea breeze cools the old Kolonaki stone and gets tangled in its olives, bent under the weight of useless berries.
The most important place of Kolonaki is the square of the same name, where local social life boils up. Boiling over, it shimmers over the edge of the four nearest streets – curtailed, but energetic, Milioni, Skufu, Tsakalof and Anagnastopoulu.
At the corner of Tsakalof and Kolonaki Square, the most famous cafe of the Peros district works: during the day politicians and managers of surrounding offices, dressed in jackets, sit at a pile of ouzo, local anis brandy, and in the evening there are smart young people, customers and owners of nearby boutiques. For well-heated, politicized conversations, there is no better place than Peros.
And there is something to talk about: half of the fashion stores in Kolonaki, once popular with Gucci and Prada lovers, are empty. The elderly bourgeois had to move in with relatives in the provinces, young people were looking for a better share in the village, where they could keep chickens and grow their own cucumbers. The population of Athens is declining, almost a quarter of the apartments in Kolonaki are free. Yes, the area is still prestigious: all gallery owners and club promoters want to be here. But what is the shelf life of a local business? The country’s economy is undergoing a systemic crisis, and beautiful ivy creeps on walls that have long been in need of repair.
Skufa Street, passing into Navarina, leads from Kolonaki to Exarchia – the center of Athens “leftists”, a bohemian-student district, where you can eat very cheaply, listen to alternative music and take a look at street art.
Kolonaki and Exarchia despise each other sincerely – in Athens there are no two more unlikely places, although both took root in Lykavitos hill. There is no clear boundary between the two areas. Locals usually say, “See the graffiti? Lot? Then you are already in Exarchia. ”
In 1973, a significant event took place here – students of the Polytechnic Institute revolted against the military dictatorship of the so-called “black colonels”. The houses on the streets adjacent to the Athenian Polytechnic are completely covered with anarchist slogans – old and fresh: “Down with the military”, “No Internet”