If you are part of the global service economy and you (or your kids) have never set foot in a manufacturing installation / workshop the restored space of the Mentis fiber manufactury, in the neighborhood of Kato Petralona, Athens, offers you the opportunity to do so. Just to be clear, this is no major sight, but it is one of those "weird" little places that I like to introduce you to, and which give you a better, deeper feel of the real character of Athens than the major archaeological sights and monuments. Obviously, this is not the place for you if you'll only be staying in Athens for a couple of days, but that's what you have this blog for... If this post raises your curiosity you may combine with a visit at the Pireos St. Annexe of the Benaki Museum which is a very short walk away (400m-5min).
If you are walking along the popular Thission area you may divert to Thessalonikis Street, parallel to the tracks of Metro Line 1, and find yourselves in the boring, residential, but totally characteristic of Athens, neighborhood of Kato Petralona. Located at 6 Polyfimou St., an alley fairly close to Petralona Metro Station (Line 1), Mentis gives you the chance to take a peak at a miniature manufacturing, albeit sanitized, installation, and the various knitting / threading machines still quietly humming along.
Mentis, first established in 1867 in the town of Nafplio and soon after moved to Athens, had been the oldest commercial and manufacturing enterprise of Greece in operation, until it shut down in 2011, and had gone through various business cycles of expansion and contraction. Its last owners decided to donate the one remaining building and all its stock and equipment to the Benaki Museum and turn it into a center for the preservation of traditional textile techniques. In an ironic way, this move epitomizes the treatment of industry, and industrial entreprises, in the last 30 years or so: almost every time a Greek factory shut down, its building was either left to crumble or was turned into some kind of "cultural space". No question about a factory being an actual, you know, factory!
On the other hand, this is a rather separate case, since this small facility is still actually producing, at a small scale for various clients, alongside its educational programmes. During its times of glory it had manufactured cordons, laces, crests, tassels and other accessories I know little about, for the Greek army, priests and local and foreign dignitaries, including the Shah of Persia.
Entrance is free. Hours of operation: Tue-Sat: 10:00am - 3:00pm. Tel.: 210-34.78.792
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