I went to Athens for an academic event. I stayed at the ridiculously youthful 360 degrees hotel in trendy Monastiriki rather than the classic King George Hotel opposite Syntagma square and near the country’s Parliament, where the conference was being held.
Walking down Ermou Street between the the two hotels with an old friend, in the direction of the beautiful Byzantine Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, we stopped off at a bar for an omelette and iced coffee. It cost a few Euros. There are literally hundreds of such bars dotted around the side streets in this part of the city.
three hundred crooks and liars
You get a sense of the recent public protests against austerity as you walk down the street from Syntagma to Monastiriki.
Graffiti is everywhere. The streets are a crazy mix of fun and poverty. The thump of street music and images of young people dancing; and at the same time, portraits of aged men and women sitting on the side of the street, begging with paper cups.
This is a privileged part of the city. As the bus from the airport rounded the corner onto Syntagma square, the driver’s tour guide monologue to the youngsters on the coach switched abruptly from benign humour to a vitriolic outpouring. “And on my left, you see the home of the three hundred crooks and liars who have destroyed my country”.
Syntagma square is beautiful, especially at night when the fountains light up. Down the road in the more livelyMonastiriki square, the atmosphere is laid back, but music is banged out through the night. At midnight, when I got back from the academic discussions, the evening was just beginning. Most of the people milling around seemed to be locals. I got a sense that there was little money to spend, but that had led to strong friendships and a determination to enjoy life to the full. Austerity be damned!
From the dining room on the 7th floor of the ***** King George hotel, there is a spectacular view of the Acropolis and next to it the Parthenon. We had dinner as the sun set , tender veal medaillons glugged down with dry red Greek wine. I watched the same sight from a different angle at dawn from the nightclub attached to the 360 degrees hotel, drinking heavily sugared black coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.
I felt Athens was that kind of city: you could see it through a hundred prisms, and each time it would be different.