2010-06-04

Walking along Patission Street (part 2)

Continuing from my previous post, here are some pictures from the buildings one sees along Patission St. (and most of Athens for that matter). Many people who come here for the first time, having some vague, preconceived notion about "Athens" and "Greece" (notice the quotation marks?) are in for a big shock when they see these images.


Planning- and architecture-wise, things can be summarized as follows: Most buildings are about 6-storeys high, due to the zoning / planning regulations and are blocks of flats. This type of multi-storey residence, which to many US visitors may bring back memories of the "projects", is called "polykatiki'a" (meaning 'multi-residence') and has prevailed since after WWII. In central avenues, main streets, etc., like Patission, the ground floor is usually occupied by retail shops or other similar services (accounting offices, banks, gyms, betting shops, dry-cleaners, bakeries, pharmacies, etc.). This pattern of mixed-uses makes Athens and most other Greek cities, built along the same general criteria and perceptions, very lively! I still remember the sound of kids voices, merchant yells and all kinds of conversations when I came back from the States a few years ago. Even though I had only been away for 2 years this whole soundscape was totally fascinating to me! I think it's even more pronounced in (central) Athens than in other towns.


Unfortunately, here's where the good news stop. From your hotel room, mixed with the traffic noise, this can easily be perceived as noise even though outside things can be very interesting. However, there is no one prevalent architectural style, since this whole building frenzy and growth of Athens has taken place only recently, after 1950. Planning regulations have changed a few times (although not dramatically differing from one another), remnants of the old one- or two-storey houses can still be found here and there (some of them as 'preserved', historical buildings) and design guidelines practically don't exist. So, you get a mishmash of images and styles, usually not blending nicely with each other (see below...). On-street parking is free, and therefore a huge problem, as some populist politicians repealed the requirement for parking spots in each building years ago, and when they changed their minds it was too little, too late. Even today, parking spot requirements for buildings are occasionally violated and the current government just recently passed a law that will allow these violations to be settled with a small fine!

An attempt for a modernist office building at Odos Patission, with polykatikies right next to it.






Plateia Amerikis (Amerikis Square) at around Patission 170. A small urban square, recently renovated and fairly good looking, always busy with people, mainly African immigrants who inhabit this area in large numbers.


One of the streets crossing Patission, heading up towards the Ano Kypseli neighborhood and the Tourkovounia hills.



Shops and familiar logos. In some parts of Patission, the polykatikies form an "arcade" above the pavement, which is very welcome when it's raining.





A typical bus stop near Plateia Koliatsou (Koliatsou Square), another small urban square at Patission 241. The yellow sign mentions which trolley-bus lines make a stop here while the blue sign is for the "regular" buses. You have to signal the bus to stop, extending (or half-extending) your hand out, otherwise the driver may just move along. You can see the signs of urban decay throughout Athens these days, exemplified by the graffitti and the ever-present stickers, advertising or otherwise, stuck on every structure imaginable...





An abandoned(?) neoclassical building at a corner, a shack-like furniture shop and a 1980's(?) glass-covered monstrosity of an office-building, with a polykatikia at the edge of the picture.






The University of Athens student dorm, recently re-painted it seems, at Patission 277.




The entrance of an open-air, summer cinema which has closed and is now being offered for rent. The sandwich shop next door may have to change it name!... Oh, and the poster is from the 1953 film "Roman Holiday" with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.





A pharmacy at the corner of Patission 300 & Grigoroviou.



More polykatikies at the corner of Patission and Galatsiou. Another Starbucks lies on the opposite corner (not pictured).



The "Fix Park", at the same intersection as above. Its name derives from an old factory that used to stand here.


Chess players. I seemed to have caught a... decisive moment!




An old, worn down but surprisingly still occupied 2-storey, neoclassical residence at the corner of Patission and Laskaratou.



The last part of Odos Patission with the Ano Patissia Metro Station (Metro Line 1) seen far in the background.



A small park / yard of an old mansion called Villa Drakopoulou at Patission 358, currently under renovation.




End of journey. The Aghia Varvara (St. Barbara) church at the end of Patission St., right next to the Ano Patissia Metro Station (Metro Line 1).



Why don't you follow me on twitter?

15 comments:

  1. can you please tell me the complete address of the Aghia Varvara church? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Glad to be able to help you. The address is:
    Aghias Lavras St. & Patission St
    111 41 Athens
    Greece
    Tel: +30-210.211.4844

    ReplyDelete
  3. thank you so much!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello - We are travelling to Athens this May. We have booked an apartment close to Koliatsou square. Could you tell me how far it would be from the centra of town - say Acropolis ? The exact address is 51, Naxou Street, Patissia 11255. Thanks. Debabrata Gupta / Mumbai, India.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Debabrata Gupta: You are very close to the city center. Just walk across Patission St. and hop on a trolley bus (preferably No. 5, 11 to get to the Plaka neighborhood) or (No. 3, 13 and bus 608 to get off at the National Garden / Syntagma Square). From all these stops you can easily walk to the Acropolis. No. 5 is the best option as it makes a stop at the beginning of Sygrou Avenue (near Acropolis Museum and the pedestrian walkway that leads to the entrance of the Acropolis).
    All these bus rides should be about 15-20 minutes long and then another 5-15 minutes walk, depending on where you get off.
    Feel free to ask me anything else you want.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, my parents have an apartment in a polikatikia in ano patssia close to plateia Amerikis which we will be using as a base when we travel around Greece this year. We have two young kids and people have told us it is not safe in Ano Patissia with lots of crime and you cant walk around after dark etc. We will only be staying there for a total of 6 nights over 6weeks and its a good base to visit The Acropolis etc.... Is it true that its not a safe area? There has been some stuff on the Greek news recently about shoot outs with police and a drug addict being found bashed to death close by.....Should we be looking at a hotel somewhere safer?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi "Anonymous". This is kind of hard. Just to make things clear, Plateia Amerikis is in the Kato Patissia neighborhood (not Ano Patissia), and that makes a difference.

    Ano Patissia (at the end of Patission St., as you go from south to north) is "safe".

    My take on Kato Patissia (close to Plateia Amerikis): I have trouble labeling it as an unsafe neighborhood but I understand why some people don't feel at ease walking there. I wouldn't recommend it as a hotel stay, but since you have an apartment in the area consider the following facts too: There has been some occasional crime (at night) and there are... "girls" at Patission St. at night, though they don't bother anyone who doesn't want to be... bothered.
    My perception (and my wife's) is that the area "below" Patission St. and Plateia Amerikis (to the west / left as you look at Google maps) is kind of shadier than the part "above" Patission St. (to the right).
    However, you need to remember that
    a) During the summer there's light till about 9:00pm (9:15pm in June) and
    b) if you don't feel comfortable with the area you can always get a taxi cab when you return home at night and you will be dropped off right outside your door. Taxis are quite cheap compared to other countries, almost same as bus tickets for 4 persons, and bus routes can be more scarce in the summer anyway, so getting a cab at night is a good idea either way, if you have small kids. I hope all this somehow helps you make a decision.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Athens Walker, thank you for the information regarding the safety of Ano and Kato Patissia. My parents apartment is on the right side of Patission street in I.Drosopoulou higher up close to Leforou Galatsiou. My parents go there every second year and stay for a few months and will be there when we visit Greece. They have had absolutely no problems and love the area being so close to everything. We look forward to visiting and I can't wait to walk around the streets of Athens and take in the 'varied' architecture. We definitely wont be 'bothering' any girls on Patission street. Your response and your blog and pictures of the area have made me feel much better, Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
  9. Glad to be able to help. Yes, I think the area you'll be staying is more or less fine, though basic precautions should always apply. Just to complete the picture, there are people who don't feel good about the presence of very large numbers of immigrants there (who are sometimes loud), but I haven't heard of something bad happening in this neighborhood. Enjoy your trip!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kalimera! I found this site by accident yesterday and I'm so glad that I did! I lived for 18 years at Patission 313 near the "Fix Park" and it's lovely to see your photographs! Thanks very much indeed - I shall be following your blog:-)!

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Eltheza: Thanks for following. I have also been contacted by another former resident of Patission St. in the past! There must be something about it!

    ReplyDelete
  12. HI AthensWalker.I am an physical therapy student me and my 3 friends we are going to an internship from July to September this summer.We really liked a house which is on the Kato Patisia.The spesific adress is:5 Argropoulou Street Kato Patisia 11145.I saw that it isnt a safe place.We are 4girl students so we want it to be safe.So is it a safe place?Thanks for eveything...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ayşegül! The area is indeed not the best of Athens but your address is practically next door to Kato Patissia Metro Station, so I think that you should be fine. However, I will delete your comment after you read this. I wouldn't want this information (your specific address) to be public. Call me a security / privacy freak if you want! :)

      Delete
  13. Interesting post! I wonder if you could provide an address for the open-air cinema now closed? Or a name in English? Would be greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi and thanks. Yes, the cinema was called "Elektra" (pronounced "eel-e'ktra" in modern Greek). It's written at the top banner above the entrance).

      Delete

This is where you leave your messages / comments. Any and all feedback is most welcome and appreciated!