Saturday 31 July 2021


Monday 12 July.

We were shocked today to see the signs in front of our neighbours' house informing us that it was due to be demolished. This is an altogether common story in Athens. In a country with a population of approx. 10 million, Athens has a population of 3 million and it has nowhere to expand: it's surrounded on three sides by mountains and the fourth side is the sea. So, the only way to expand is upwards. Consequently, houses are being demolished on a regular basis, giving way to apartment buildings.

Greeks don't like doing their houses up and renovating them. So, once a house gets 'tired', or in need of renovation the obvious solution is to have a new apartment building built. There are other reasons for this as well: most houses used to be two-storey, each floor belonging to a sibling, and once their children grow up and they in turn want somewhere to live, it makes sense to build an apartment building as more apartments will be available for each child of the siblings to have a home. The outcome is that a lot of these apartment buildings house extended families which is obviously very convenient and welcome.

This is how it works: a deal is struck where the owner(s) will own 50% of the new building and the developer will own the other 50%. The developer does all the work, and usually, a year later, the tenants can move in. The expenses for the owners are minimal: solicitors' fees, some tax, and expenses for any extras that the owners want to add to what the developer is providing. It's a deal that suits most people.

The house in question is two doors down from us and I have known the people who live there since I was one year old. It's always sad when another house is being demolished. Athens is a city of apartment blocks. When we moved in the area, when I was one year old, there were very few houses around and we were surrounded by fields. I remember my father going to the field across the road and collecting sheep dung to fertilise our garden. Ten years later, all the fields were gone, and our area was a pleasant neighbourhood, all with detached houses and their gardens. We used to play in the street and we knew everyone. Twenty years later the first apartment buildings started appearing. Now, there are very houses left, so that every time another one goes, it's very sad. 

With the advent of the apartment buildings, the sense of neighbourhood is gone. I, for instance, know all the people in our area that still live in houses, and talk to them as I walk down the street. In contrast, the people who live in the apartment buildings keep themselves to themselves, they are never seen in the street as they always use their cars and no one knows who they are. It's a sad change.

But, this will sound hypocritical, as my sister and I went down the apartment building road 14 years ago. We gave our house over to a developer, and now we live in an apartment building of four storeys, my sister lives on the 4th floor, we have the 3rd, my niece lives in the ground floor, and the other two apartments are owned by two families who bought theirs from the developer. 

I enjoyed designing our apartment, and everything is exactly as we want it. I am particularly pleased with our terraces which are much larger than what is usual. We sit on our front terrace all the time in the summer, this is where we lead our lives. But, we are the only ones who do so. Most people tend to sit indoors in the summer which seems such a shame, but it seems to be another consequence of living in an apartment building - why, I do not understand. 

Wednesday 14 June:

Work has started. The first thing the demolition team did was to take all the doors, windows and fittings out. That same evening and the two after that, the paliatzis (scrap metal merchant, rag and bone man, whatever you want to call him) came and loaded everything on his tricycle.

Monday 19 July:

Today, the real destruction has started.

This was taken three hours after the previous photograph, as we were coming back from swimming. This machine is ruthless - it climbs on the rubble and just keeps on destroying.

Meanwhile, we have to live with this. The noise is constant and horrendous. Some times our apartment building shakes. As for the dust... it's everywhere on the terraces. So, we sit indoors all day, with the windows closed (this is the summer!)  because we can't stand the noise. In the evenings, when work has finished for the day,  we do sit outside, but we have to clean the terraces and get rid of the dust first. It's a nightmare. 

July 31, 2021

Most of the rubble has been taken away, and the site has been sitting idle for the past week or so. Nothing more is obviously going to be done until September - all building sites, like so much else, shuts down for August. 

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Meanwhile, three houses up, at exactly the same time, another demolition started - this time two houses, which I presume will be turned into one single, large apartment building. 

It's basically going on everywhere at the moment. Apparently, because building work had slowed down given the economic crisis that hit Greece 9 years ago, combined with the pandemic, the government is giving the developers an incentive to build: a reduction in taxes for the next years. 


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My cousin Tilda's house is going down next month.

Thursday 29 July 2021

Both Sides of the Moon by Farida El Gazzar

Both Sides of the Moon by Farida El Gazzar at Kalfayan Galleries, Athens.

This work by El Gazaar, a Greek-Egyptian artist, was carried out during lockdown in Athens: slightly distorted cityscapes, with vivid colours and a dreamy atmosphere, they record the peculiar psycho-emotional state when our neighbourhood is the beginning and the end of our empirical world, and they emanate a feeling of nostalgia and euphoria at the same time. 

'During the long periods of working online and indoors, the need to 'move', to 'travel' as well as the need for a connection with nature prevailed even more. Luckily in my neighbourhood there is lots of greenery and space for long walks. My sense of space expanded and my feelings of confinement disappeared...

The roads are empty and the light is sharp. I pay attention to the architecture of the homes and gardens I walk by in this green suburb, and it feels like a rediscovery of a place so familiar. ..

In my paintings the lines are off and slightly distorted, creating the feeling of a naive and childlike place as seen in a dream'.

As you can see in this photograph, the paintings are tiny. This is the second exhibition of her work I have seen, you can see the previous one here


Monday 26 July 2021

Danil: Light, Physics and Metaphysics

Danil: Light, Physics and Metaphysics at Roma Gallery, Kolonaki, Athens.

Danil Panagopoulos was inspired by the revolutionary atmosphere of May 1968. Like his companion, Greek artist Vlassi Caniaris, he maintained his artistic independence throughout his career, using cheap materials like cardboard boxes, rags, wood and later burlap fabric, to create a world which, through its handmade clarity, resisted the dominant structures of overconsumption, overproduction and mass industrialisation.

This exhibition includes his cardboard compositions, the so-called 'Boxes' (Boites), and his monumental burlap creations.


Saturday 24 July 2021


Another visit to Antonello

and another beautiful flower display.

Little paper boats scattered in the middle of the flower displays

a corn display

In the middle of the shop

and the back.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Our beach

Our beach, The Beach of the Sun, is a five minute walk from the apartment

It's a pay beach, but we have passes because we're residents - it's a bit like the right of way in the UK: the idea is that everyone should have access to the beach, so if the powers that be decide to turn part of the coast private, the local residents have a right to get in for free. If residents want an umbrella and bed, then they pay one euro - again, the price is reduced for residents.

View from the top

After descending the first flight of stairs we come across this cat that seems to have made the beach its home. It's an extraordinary looking cat, all white except for the tail and a mark on the forehead; and look at the eyes

down another two flights of stairs and we come to bougainvillia passage

not as many flowers as other years, but maybe it's too early.

This stretch of green which we reach after we have shown our passes at the entrance is empty now but at weekends it's packed with people who were unable to find an umbrella and a lounger on the beach so they settle here.

We tend to come around 8:30 to 9:00 as we want to sit on the front row to have unimpeded view of the sea. This beach gets very busy, particularly this year - since lockdown ended Athenians seem to have gone mad, trying to make up for the time when they could not get out: the beaches are packed, as are the bars and restaurants, and as for the traffic, it's unbearable - there are traffic jams everywhere.

It's lovely coming this early: the beach is relatively empty, it's quiet and just wonderful

We like to look at this

rather than this, so first row is imperative.

Our beach is very long, taking up the whole of the bay. 

We saw a paraglider the other day

On the way back, we have three options: we can go the way we came, up the four flights of stairs, or we can take the east entrance/exit, or the west one. Taking one of the last two options is a good way of seeing what's going on on the rest of the beach.

Going out from the east gates takes us through this lovely, cool, shaded bit full of pine trees

a new sculpture

We have a shower here, making sure there is no sand on our feet as we don't want to get it in the apartment

we tend to leave around 12 and by then the beach is packed.

This cactus display is by the east entrance

and then the road is lined by pikrodaphnes which are in full bloom at the moment. I could not find a translation for pikrodaphne on google, but a literal translation is bitterbay.

If we take the west entrance on the way home, 

we walk past the kids' play area

the boats, canoes and pedalos that are for hire

The cage section, as I call it, a new construction aiming to draw in people who have lots of money - it costs 45 euros to sit here for the day

cages with cushions and bean bags

a water fall cascading down this granite wall

A bar and extremely luxurious toilets and showers.

I have never seen anyone using this bit, and there's always a young woman touting for business. She wanted to have a chat with me and asked me what I thought of this development. I decided to be honest since she had asked and I said that I was not very keen as one would be sitting in a cage at quite a considerable distance from the sea. 'But, you have privacy', she said. I re-iterated my point about sitting in a cage and we talked for a while. I honestly, can't see why people would pay 45 euros to be as removed from the sea as possible, sitting in what is effectively in a cage.

Next, is Bolivar, beach

and bar

They get bands to play here at weekends, and the place is heaving. In the pre-pandemic days, our street would be packed with cars and people walking down to Bolivar. 

There was a party here last week, and we read in the news that loads of people tested positive following this

It's all very grand, but all we want is to have a swim and look at the sea when resting

It's time for us to have a shower before heading home. We're not that bothered about the shower, as we will have one when we get home, but it's important to wash the sand off our feet

The shower area is in this lovely spot

past this quiet sitting area

and then we head towards the exit.

Halfway along the sea road, we pass an apartment building with this sculpture on the roof

The sculpture is the work of a local sculptor, and it used to be on the terrace of her house, the sculptress' house, we used to call it, before the house was demolished and an apartment building replaced it. My sister used to be friends with her daughter and I remember their garden was full of the artist's work.

Further along, and before we cross the sea road to get to our street, is this statue of Thukydides, the ancient Greek historian, who used to live in our area.