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.

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