Wednesday, 26 September 2007

ON THE STREETS OF ATHENS

The first thing that needs to be understood about the streets of Athens is that many of them - particularly those in the Plaka - scarcely merit the term 'street' at all, having pavements that are little more than eighteen inches wide and comprising a succession of hazards including pot-holes and dead pigeons...


There are also dodgy arrangements of steps down and up to concealed doors and even the odd, small but hardy tree...

Incidentally, coming down this particular road is an Athenian taxi. These angry yellow beasts rush and roar through the city, impatiently and excitedly honking their horns whenever they don't have clear and open access for their busy-busy rushing and roaring.

Curiously, they are also almost always EMPTY and will never, ever stop for anyone who might conceivably be a tourist since, as one driver explained to David - before NOT taking us where we wanted to be: "Tourists never want to go far enough!"

All Greek taxi drivers are, presumably, retired shipping magnets who don't need to worry about earning any money and just enjoy treating the streets of Athens as a stock-car race track!

Common features of the streets of Athens include: ancient ruins...


And buildings not so ancient, but equally ruinous...


A lot of ugly and unsightly graffiti...


And quite a bit of wild and fantastical graffiti...


There is also plenty of evidence of the handiwork of Master Bill Stickers...


A lot of street slogans, one of the most popular being: Free your mind and your ass will follow...


Controversial exhibition posters - sometimes (daringly) in close proximity to the national flag...


And, of course, useful messages that have a universal familiarity...


Images: © Brian Sibley, 2007
[Buttons' fans can read part 1 of his what i did on my hols report.]

8 comments:

Boll Weavil said...

I hope you didn't expose Buttons to all those unsightly things.Is there a stuffed toy equivalent of Nikos ?

Brian Sibley said...

GILL comments...

I am intrigued by the thought of a shipping "magnet". I assume the taxis [or possibly the drivers] automatically attach themselves to the correct ferries at Piraeus?

Perhaps if one is a tourist one should carry iron to attract them?

Elliot Cowan said...

I think it's Bill Posters, isn't it?

LisaH said...

I came across the most inappropriate incidences of graffiti last week. I was in Auschwitz in a barracks for women, in the bleakest of condition. I came to a wall covered in graffiti and assumed the messages were scratched out of the surface by the poor souls who had lived and more than likely perished in that place.
But no, it was more recent than that.
Messages like 'Barry from Brighton was here' and love hearts containing girl's and boy's names.
Incredible how some people can be so insensitive and inured to the suffering of others.

Rob Cox said...

Your description of Athens has put me off going there ever!! I can get dead pigeons, potholes, rude cab drivers and graffiti in London thank you very much!!!

John said...

Bravo Brian, I could post nearly identical images from public bathrooms of the US. Graffiti, dead pigeons, dilapitated homes, inefficient roadways, and hostile taxi drivers are not only encountered in Athens. Before making a mockery of the city, which is need of development, I hope you considered it is an ancient city that was not only constructed eons before the automobile was invited, but also did not modernize until recently in lieu of the decades of political instability. I do agree that the Athenians have not sufficiently addressed the concerns you have aired, but there are obstacles in place that hinder political action--namely, the large fiscal deficit and the social climate.
For Greece, money is a large issue, but how about for cities in the US with more horrid plagues and problems...Consider the homeless in NYC...
I bid you to be more considerate before you convey Athens as the mecca of graffitee, inefficiency, and death.

Yianni said...

Bravo Brian! You are conveying Athens to be an undesirable city offering only graffiti, dead pigeons, inefficient roads, and hostile taxi drivers. I would like to cast light on your sampling error and to say that ofcourse you can find instances where you encounter images of bad taste in a city inhabited by 5 million people. It is fairly easy for very few individuals to destroy the aesthetic appeal of various areas of the city. Unfortunately, the Greek government cannot allocate the necessary funds to thwart the hooligans from engaging in their actions. Likewise, the State cannot develop the roadways with insufficient funds. Yes I admit that the Greeks are not culturally akin to "more tidy" nationals such as the Austrians, but the crux of the problem lies with funding and logistics. I hope you understand the daunting task of redrawing the streets of an ancient city--thousands of years old and under the yoke of sultan overlords and military juntas for much of its modern history. Before you make a mockery of another city, please take into consideration the historical, economical, and social context. I would like to bring you to the slums of NYC or I would like to show you unfavorable photographs of fair London to provide a comparison. Then we can decide if Athens is worth visiting or not. (And perhaps, we can pursuade the commentator above me otherwise...who may not be aware of the role Athens and its citizens has played in the evolution of humanity)

Brian Sibley said...

John and Yianni - I accept all the points you make, and appreciate you both drawing my attention to some of the historical, political and financial problems faced by Athens and her citizens.

However, you are reacting to only one of a number of posts I have written about Athens. In another, for example, I wrote that the city has "...the best metro system imaginable with a spotlessly clean, light, airy underground network with full disabled access to every platform level and archaeological excavations on permanent display..."And you might like to look at some of my other posts written from Athens over a period of a couple of years to see that I have also written about the beauty, grandeur and antiquity of the city.

I am very "aware of the role Athens and its citizens has played in the evolution of humanity" and respect and admire that role. To say, therefore, that I have portrayed Athens "as the mecca of graffitee, inefficiency, and death" is simply not the case.

Incidentally, if you look elsewhere on this blog, you will find that I have written critically of aspects of Paris, Venice, New York, Los Angeles and my own home city, London.

Nevertheless, I'm saddened to have offended two sons of a country that - whatever criticisms I may have - I love.