Thursday 2 August 2012


The Exarheia area in Athens is notorious. It is portrayed as a hotbed of anarchist radicalism, an area where the very fabric of society is threatened every minute of the day and an area that should be avoided at night.  Any 'trouble' that happens in Athens is always presented as having started in Exarheia not just by the Greek media but internationally too. There are riot police stationed at strategic entry points to the area at all times and more tear gas is thrown here than anywhere else in Athens.

So, how close is this portrayal to reality? It is true that an awful lot of students live here as it is very close to the University and the Polytechnic and a large majority of them are anti-establishment and very radicalised - just looking at the posters around the area is testimony to that. A lot of the resistance that Athens has witnessed in the last years has started in this area. It is here that the school boy Alexis Gregoropoulos was murdered by the police last year, and this sparked off large demonstrations in the streets of Athens.

There are a lot of wrecked, dilapidated buildings like this one

and an awful lot of graffitti, everywhere.

But, there are also an awful lot of quiet, residential streets like this one, and the abundant cafeterias and tavernas have tables outside which are always buzzing with life

You don't find many residential streets like this in Athens anymore. Athens is full of apartment blocks and what these spell out is the end of community life

There is a real sense of community here, of people using the area and living in it - a real medley of people, grungy youth, trendies, old ladies wearing twin sets and pearls carrying their shopping, older men, newspaper under the arm, walking to their favourite cafeteria for a coffee and a read.

Community life is apparent everywhere

Navarino Park is testimony to the community spirit that characterises the area. This used to be a vacant lot that the local council wanted to turn into a car park. The local residents, not the political activists even though I am sure they contributed, occupied the space two years ago announcing that the area needed a park - every weekend they would be there, digging, planting and this is the result. The press screamed their disapproval but the residents got what they wanted and needed.

This poster is advertising a free screening of the film 'Punishment Park'  in the 'self-governing park of Navarino' on 24 July.

There was another poster advertising a free screening of the film 'The Artist' in Exarheia Square.

The shops are also interesting. There are lots of cafeterias and tavernas as well as small grocery stores. The rest are publishing houses


book binders


graphic design. Basically everything to do with books and reading.

and record shops.

There are posters everywhere:

Solidarity with Syria: this poster is advertising yet another free screening of a film on the Syrian situation to be shown in the Square

Reclaim the streets: a poster about rape

against fascism

against fascists 'because they make the air we breathe stink'

       We want:
       Albanian fellow pupils
       Afghan colleagues
       Pakistani neighbours
      Out with the fascists

We found this delightful taverna in a pedestrianised side street. The food was traditional Greek, delicious and very cheap: we had a salad, two main courses and two glasses of wine and paid 18 euros. We had lunch early and were the only people eating but the three delivery motorbikes were constantly busy and every two minutes another local would come and pick up a take away. I bet it is packed at night.

And what I want to know is this: how do the residents cope with all the tear gas?


  1. "a hotbed of anarchist radicalism, an area where the very fabric of society is threatened every minute of the day "

    doesn't sound like such a bad place to me!

  2. ha! ha! ha! very good!

    On a slightly different matter Mick, a while ago you asked me if I could recommend any reading on the Greek junta. I have not been able to come up with anything that has been translated in English yet, but I thought you might find this article interesting:

  3. Thanks Eirene. I'll follow up on your suggestion