Athens will be our temporary home for about two months. That is if it is going to keep up with perpetual travelers weather requirements of constant 25 °C. So far Greece is doing a great job keeping any signs of fall at bay. The only thing to get depressed about is the economic crisis but everyday strikes and street protests are supported by sunny weather and have been categorized under tourist attractions.
WHERE WE LIVE AND MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE
We live in the neighbourhood of Kypseli, close to Athens centre, where our life has been going up and down lately.
Kypseli is a hilly area of Athens.
Kypseli was once a distinctive bourgeois neighbourhood of Athens and has preserved its aristocratic character. Amongst modern blocks, stately neoclassical buildings and flats of the modernist period can be spotted and we are lucky to live in one of those.
In between 1930 and 1960 the architectural trend was reflecting modernist movement styles such as Bauhaus and ArtDeco. And I am loving this. Thank you world, for those short periods of architectural beauty. The only architectural gem I am missing after a high in Budapest is Art Nouveau, but the Greek’s nifty examples of neoclassicism make up.
Typical are marble façades, parapets and imposing entrances.
Houses of the modernist era have marble staircases and elevators.
Coming closer together and getting to know your neighbour are not just empty phrases inside those micro elevators.
Each house has an entrance hall mirror. The size of the mirror mainly mirrors the wealth of its tenants.
Almost each house contained a small reception, where residents would be greeted by a doorkeeper. WOW! There used to be a guy sitting at the house to… do what exactly? Wait for you or ring you, if you had a visitor coming. “Yes, Sir/Madam, I will tell Mr. and Mrs. Visitor that you are not home.”
Anyhow, welcome to our Greek home, which will host us until Christmas.
The entrance doors have wrought iron glass windows which you can open to identify your visitor. The prettier precursor to the peep-hole. The sight from our balcony view revealed that our opposite neighbours share similar interiors.
Our humble entrance hall.
The study. I love those old lamps.
Tomek prefers the couch to work.
The bedroom. Wooden floors and high ceilings are characteristic of the era. So is this bed, which is very sensitive and laments with loud cracking noises to remind of its age.
Proof that we are living out of our suitcases and that we have a living room. The balcony door is always open because it is sooo warm – I can’t believe we have November. (In some parts of Germany and Poland it’s snowing).
The thick and heavy curtains keep out the sun at day and mosquitoes at dusk. You are going to be surprised, if you think Asia is mosquito land. But Greek mosquitoes aren’t as clever and are easy to catch.
The bathroom has Gaudi-inspired blue and pink tiles (I am under the spell of our recent trip to Barcelona). The neat thing are the integrated ceramic hooks and soap/toilet paper holders. The Greek prerequisite of a window is hidden.
Sinks. The washbasin in the bathroom is neatly integrated, so is the dishwasher in the tiny kitchen. The flat is small but well organized.
The kitchen has a narrow entrance framed by a big fridge (with huge sticker dots) and many cupboards. Smart use of existing space. There is a big window above the sink. All Greek apartments are planned so that each room has a window and at least one balcony, which is very cool.
Not so cool is the black hole under the kitchen counter, which was filled with a nice modern and new washing machine in the advertised pictures when we booked. However, reality gave us a small old mouldy washing machine (even the cleaner couldn’t get all the mould off) packed into the bathroom behind the door. To which the lady owner replied: ‘This one is better’. She was right. For her it sure was. We had quiet a few Greek mentality distractions in Athens.
FAQs: We found our flat through Airbnb. Booking was done the Greek way, lady owner urged to screw the middleman. We pay under 20 Euros per night for the flat with 57 m2. [Additionally, the owner took a 130 Euro deposit which we got back on the last day of our stay.]
Our habitat. Although it is November a lot of Greeks prefer to stay shaded or are not bothered to pull up the blinds. See, if you can spot waiving Tomek.
We live next to Fokionos Negri, the wide ‘green boulevard’ build in 1937 and bordered with tavernas, cafés and bars.
Tomek makes for a great amateur character to create this believable outdoor scene at the ‘green boulevard’.
In the 1960s, Fokionos Negri was a meeting point for politicians and artists.
Today many shops and eateries have closed down.
Every day, we take on a (two minute) journey through our hilly Greek neighbourhood to the source of all wheaty greatness, the bakeries of Athens.
Most shops close early in Athens but one bakery will always be open to get fresh, still warm and soft bread at any hour.
This is the building of the once bustling municipal market which originated in 1935. Closed down locations like these are sadly very common in the whole of Athens.
Graffiti is part of virtually all buildings in Athens. In this case a largely unappreciated way to aid the disoriented.
TOMEK’S AUNTIE AND LIVING THE 70s
Before we found our flat, we stayed a few days at Tomek’s auntie, who really is his mum’s good old student friend from the 70s. And this era we experienced hands on.
Auntie Magda has a sunny bright flat with two rooms, each boasting a balcony, a kitchen and bathroom, which are of course equipped with windows, just like our flat. Original 70s furniture makes up interior design.
Colourful furniture and psychedelic bedsheets. Tomek at work.
Most of the time we were spoiled with auntie’s mezes – those small and tasty Mediterranean dishes and cooked Greek vegetables with feta and bread.
Auntie Magda explaining the secrets of her delicious phyllo pie made with spinach and feta cheese, called Spanakopita, a Greek classic.Too much refinement is generally considered to be against the hearty spirit of Greek cuisine. This tradition was continued at our flat (right picture).
Greeks love their coffee which is made using a briki (small pot with long handle to boil Greek coffee). The Greeks’ favourite coffee version seems to be ice-cold frappé. We are no coffee drinkers but somehow I am getting the hang of a good cappuccino.
“Do I really have to drink COFFEE?” “Yeah, let’s do something CRAZY!”
To get protection from the heat and the sun, everyone in Athens has got an enormous sun screen. And everyone claims to have a view on the Acropolis. See it?
Each neighbourhood has its Greek orthodox church showing off Byzantine architecture. 97% of Greek citizens identify themselves as orthodox Christians. The orthodox clergy’s salaries are being paid for by the state at rates comparable to those of teachers.
NEOCLASSICISM – ARCHITECTURAL GEMS IN ATHENS
Neoclassicism was the predominant architectural style from the 1830s to the 1920s, mainly found in the centre of Athens. Those houses give Athens the Greek splendour of ancient monuments.
The charming style was the result of romantic fascination with ancient Greek architecture.
Interestingly, neoclassical buildings were introduced by German architects, who planned Athens in the 1830s. And regrettably, a lot of examples are crumbling or have been demolished.
Athens is more about (awesome) modernist structures and fashionable European neoclassicism is beautiful but not as omnipresent as I thought it would be. I am biased writing this, having just arrived from Budapest, the city of elegant institutional and residential buildings, many inspired by ancient Greek architecture and monumental neoclassicism.
To discover Athenian neoclassicism, you need to wander into the city centre, go for long walks along its avenues and look around in its smaller streets.
The most prominent examples of Greek neoclassicism in Athens are the ‘Three Temples of Learning‘, three imposing buildings constructed by two Danish architects. The Athens Academy, the University and National Library standing next to each other on Panepistimiou Avenue.
Or the National Archaeological Museum on Patission Avenue.
There are some buildings that make me think ” I could live here”. But then there is this story…
The house on the left, boasting beautiful Art Deco style belongs to the famous Greek musician Vangelis. This and other houses stand close to the entrance of the new Acropolis Museum and are apparently spoiling the view from the Museum’s terrace to the Acropolis.
Therefore the houses were meant to be bulldozed. Vangelis was able to stop this through his successful campaign. It’s still an unresolved issue (and I hope the Art Deco wins over new age brutal design).
I also feel sorry for Vangelis (and other residents of the posh Acropolis neighbourhood) because they have to put up with obnoxious tourists in strange dress, fascinated by their homes.
So far, we have been in Athens for about two weeks and are getting used to the Mediterranean way of life, where ‘laissez faire’ is a celebrated motto. But more on the crisis in other posts (that is me witnessing the crisis and examining the fall of Greece).