There are areas in this city that seem to belong elsewhere. They are full of narrow streets, sometimes lit and sometimes submerged in the twilight. Electric lights are glitching, the city dust is settling slowly on the pavements. At a dead- end a door opens. Someone enters the low edifice, throwing a glance behind his back.
That could be a great opening for a detective novel, except not in Athens. Just a few streets away the main road would be buzzing with nightlife. A couple of neighbors would be loudly arguing about noise pollution. The mysterious man would have probably just entered the back door of a tavern, to start his shift. In a few minutes he would be dressed in a white T-shirt, inviting you to try the original souvlaki, without any tangible criminal intent.
Athens has a lot of different sides to it. The maze of shops, old and new, hit by the crisis and not as polished as you’d wish, may look shabby to some. The city center, hosting a few of the immigrant communities thanks to low rent cost and job availability can seem a bit erratic. There are dark alleys and there are red lights that are best avoided, like everywhere. We are not going to lie and put a pretty facade, because Athens’ is a straightforward city. What you see is what you get.
Yet, if you are feeling a bit adventurous and open to discoveries, you can try to lose yourself in the labyrinth of old workshops in Psirri. You can ask the Pakistani shop owner how’s life in Greece. You could enjoy the traditional song on the taxi radio, while stuck in midday traffic. You could haggle with the merchant on the street market and get a “local” price.
Even the most trivial neighborhood, even the most boring tourist shop, have their story. The clues may be subtle, you will have to embark on an asking quest to learn their how’s and why’s, but they’re worth it. In the end you will learn real stories about real people and that’s the only souvenir that’s unique in this world.
- Athens does not have ghettos. The new and old inhabitants of city ARE mixed gradually over the years, so there is no place absolutely prohibited to the visitor.
- There is a strong presence of middle eastern culture around Koumoundourou square, as well as Georgian and Chinese communities. Eastern European and African communities are spread alongside Patision avenue.
- Even in the midst of an area occupied by a certain community, you will find artistic lofts on the rooftops, elderly Athenians in neoclassical mansions and traditional shops.
- There is no map more efficient in navigating OF a new city than instinct. If a place feels odd or a conversation bothersome, just walk away.