Happy 2015 from Athens!

I leave you from a very cold and rainy Athens with 2 photos of a(n) -almost- full rainbow that I got to shoot from home this noon.



Somewhere, over the rainbow... 

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14 Athens photos from 2014

Following my pre-Christmas charity special, and as a way of saying goodbye to 2014 and to my loyal followers, today I am posting 14 Athens cityscapes from the previous year.

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An Athens pre-Christmas "special" : help for those in need

I am taking some time off from my Athens center walks this week, to present to you something perhaps more "substantial". Greece has been hit from a severe financial crisis in the past few years (no news there) and more people than ever have been left in a situation of need. No matter what you think about the politics behind this situation and of the Greek population's and government's response to it (and I'd have a lot to say myself...) the hard truth is that there are people who are in need. Like in real -no food on the table, no roof over their head- type of need.

Below you will find some well-known, established charities / organizations whose budgets are currently over-stretched and should need every Dollar, Euro or Pound of support that you may give them. Whether you're planning for a vacation to Greece or not this year, consider making a small donation to the extent your finances allow. (Disclaimer: I simply provide the links to these organizations' websites as a public service. I have no financial or other connection to them and I have not even contacted them for writing this. This is all public information that I am bringing together under one post).

Hamogelo tou Paidiou ("The Smile of the Child"): This is a well-established NGO that works in cooperation with state authorities and serves children in need. It provides housing and other forms of support for children that are either neglected or abused, it acts as a center for the "Amber Alert" service for missing children, it provides social services and psychological support for children with serious health problems, it operates a helpline, it provides material support (foodstuff, school supplies, etc.) for families with children. Checking out the statistics in their website (only in Greek) I see that the number of families served has more than doubled from 2009 to 2014.
Go to the bottom of this page and check out the 4 options they provide for making donations from abroad (via bank deposit (in Greek), via credit card (in Greek), via PayPal, sending a cheque). Also, if you can read their E-shop (for the moment only in Greek) they provide a range of options for Christmas gifts that you might want to check out.

dicins du Monde (Doctors of the World) - Greece: It's the Greek affiliate of an international network of medical, humanitarian, non-governmental organizations. They provide health and social services, in Greece and abroad (currently Uganda) including polyclinics in 5 Greek cities, focusing on youth, racist attack victims, immigrants, Roma, poor populations and overall groups that tend to be in higher need than the average population and who may be left out of the official health system.
If you go to this page (in English), you'll see two options to donate in the right hand column, including via PayPal.
Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Frontiers) - Greece: Again, it's the Greek affiliate of an international network of medical, humanitarian, non-governmental organizations. More of their work is focused in international missions but they also provide health and social services in Greece, to people that are most in need. If you come to Greece you may find their red-colored "pills for others' pain" in most pharmacies throughout Greece (check-out the map of pharmacies here). They are an easy, hassle-free vehicle for supporting their work as 1 Euro out of every pack (1.60€) of these sugar-free, honey-thyme pills goes to support MSF's work. If you visit the English section of their website, you'll see a "Donate" link at the top navigation panel, that allows you to donate via PayPal.

SOS Children's Villages - Greece: Operating in Greece since 1977, they provide abandoned, orphaned and destitute children with a new and permanent home, in a setting that mimics that of a regular family and not an "institution". This page provides a brief description of their actions and philosophy. At the bottom you will find their bank accounts (in Euro and USD) for bank donations, as well as a link for making online donations (via either Credit / Debit Card or PayPal (one time or monthly recurring payment).

Boroume! (We Can!): It's "a non-profit organisation that fights food waste by organizing the distribution of surplus food for charity throughout Greece." Their list of sponsors should serve as a guarantee of the quality of their work. You can also help from abroad by making an online donation.

I'm sure there are many more charities and networks of people doing equally good work, but the organizations above are long standing ones, that have established a solid reputation and where your donations are guaranteed to make a difference in somebody's life.

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Images from Kolokotroni Street, in Athens city center

Staying with the Athens city center motif in this post, with pictures from one of the main, narrow streets passing through the maze of the "historic triangle" of Athens with a West-to-East direction. Kolokotroni Street is named after Theodoros Kolokotronis, one of the main heroes of the Greek war of independence of 1821-29, who happened to leave in a house on this street (Kolokotroni St. & Lekka St.) towards the end of his life.

Just like its quasi-parallel "Karageorgi Servias / Perikleous / Athinaidos / Agias Irinis" Street (see previous posts), this is a street dominated by textile shops and small eateries. Together with the rest of the "historic triangle" (see a map of Athens neighborhoods here), it has gone through a relative renaissance in the past 4 years, turning from a dangerous place to pass though after sunset, to somewhat of a nightlife (and daytime) hub. To get a feel of this area see the photos and read the legends below them. Enjoy!

Bobbins and textile reels behind a shop window; Kolokotroni St., Athens, Greece

Tie store; Kolokotroni St., Athens, Greece

Fabric rolls, at 58 Kolokotroni St. & Nikiou St., Athens, Greece

Cars moving up at Kolokotroni St, during an August noon; Athens, Greece

Orange juice machine and various snacks, in one of the many small eateries dotting Kolokotroni St. in Athens, Greece

A blackboard for a traditional coffee-shop / mezedopoleio, at Kolokotroni St.,...

...leads you into this cool and peaceful little arcade, and the entrance stairs of a building.

Barley Cargo, a beer pub that has been around since 2012,  at the corner of Kolokotroni & Karytsi streets; Athens, Greece.

Another entrance to a secret spot, with some hidden stores offering...

...coffees, drinks, hot dogs, music and second-hand clothes, harmoniously hanging in there.

Last but not least, the rear side of the Old Parliament Building, at the corner of Kolokotroni & Stadiou Streets; Athens, Greece

The back entrance of the Old Parliament Building (1875-1935), now hosting the National Historical Museum; Athens, Greece

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Ariston: a snack food tradition in the center of Athens

Walk around Athens for even a few minutes and you are bound to come across a bunch of snack-food places selling tyropitas, a local favorite of a quick grab, often used by Greeks as a breakfast alternative or as something to eat on the go, when rushing from one appointment to the other. Tyropita stands for "cheese pie" but the combinations these 2 little words entail are practically endless. The cheese may be -and usually is- feta, but quite often it is also kasseri (in which case it may be referred to as kasseropita), or anthotyro or some combinations of these or various other cheeses. The surrounding pocket may consist of layers of phyllo dough or "regular" dough and can range from being very oily to dry, with or without sesame on top, and in various degrees of thickness. The majority of these snack places are unfortunately just selling points for food stuff produced in local workshops, that procure to many clients and don't really have a major interest in producing something memorable. Truth be told however, many foreign visitors are thrilled with whatever they can find, since the novelty of the taste and the lack of experience in their taste buds makes up for any shortcomings in craftsmanship.

The long introduction is to let you know that Ariston, at 10 Voulis Street, right next to central Syntagma Square is not one these places. Having being around for more than a century, as their entrance sign proudly proclaims, they rightly are one of Athenians' favorite snack food places. Come here on any week day morning / early afternoon and you're bound to find a number of locals grabbing their favorite pie on the way to some place else. Their dough is a really tasty, non-oily type, that can accommodate a large variety of combinations for fillings. 

A constantly refilled shop window at Ariston, 10 Voulis St., Athens.

Pans of pies behind a shop window at Ariston, 10 Voulist St., Athens

During times of religious fasting, their offerings include delicious pies with shrimps or vegetables, which are permitted or tolerated by the Greek Orthodox fasting tradition. You may also find pies you won't get to see anywhere else in Athens, such as ones with burgers, sausages, bacon, chicken, sweet red peppers etc, all of them produced on site and not in some anonymous workshop miles away.

The very simple, practically non-existent, decoration of the place should not deter you from entering the premises.

Ariston also offers various local pastries that you might want to experiment with if you have a craving for something sweet.

A smile goes a long way!

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Walking along Agias Irinis St., in Athens city center

Following the previous post on Perikleous / Karagiorgi Servias St., here are some more pics from the same street as it changes name, first to "Athinaidos" and then to "Agias Irinis" (don't ask me why...).

This must have been an architectural eye candy, before turning into an eye-shore

Curtains and linens, at Athinaidos St.

Looking back at Athinaidos, at the corner with Kalamiotou St., Athens, Greece

8 Athinaidos St. - Kids formal wear, tagging and graffiti ("S**t to Fascists!" reads the slogan), in a surreal ensemble!

The Church of Agia Irini, the first Athens Cathedral two centuries ago, at Agias Irinis Sq.

Agia Irini, Athens, Greece

Pigeons at the awning of derelict shop - Athinaidos St., across Agias Irinis Sq., Athens

Graffiti front with a block of flats in the background; view from Agias Irinis St., Athens

Fabric rolls outside a shop; Agias Irinis St., Athens, Greece

Gavriilidis Editions, housed here, have come up with an interesting and rather ironic response to the surrounding plague of tagging.

Corner of Agias Irinis St. (ending here) and the main, noisy, and full of smells, Athinas St., Athens, Greece


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Walking along Karageorgi Servias St. / Perikleous St.

Walking in Athens city center can be real fun, on a warm, sunny day. The city's "historic triangle" and its half part, called "the commercial triangle" is full of old little shops, that set a colorful tone on the urban landscape, even in these days of economic malaise. Here's a brief photographic presentation of one of these main, narrow streets, called Karageorgi Servias. The street, starting from the central Syntagma Square, is named after a late 18th / early 19th century Serbian leader and hero in their fight against the Ottoman Turks.

The intersection of Stadiou St.(right), Karageorgi Servias St. (straight) with Syntagma Square, not appearing, to the left.

Mopeds parked in front of the National Bank of Greece building, 4 Karagiorgi Servias St., with a sit-in protest behind them; the Greek Ministry of Finance is housed in buildings around Syntagma Square...

The minor but always busy intersection of Karagiorgi Servias & Voulis St., Athens, Greece

20 Karagiorgi Servias St. & Lekka St., looking towards Lekka St., Athens, Greece

Shop window with colorful beads at Karagiorgi Servias St., Athens, Greece
At some point, the street name changes to Perikleous St. (named after ancient Athenian general and leader Pericles) and then later to Agias Irinis (St. Irene, named after a local church), but its character remains just the same: Small shops, mostly old ones going back several generations and related to textiles and fabrics, together with some pastry shops, souvenir shops and ...closed shops!

Corner of Perikleous St. and Thisseos (pedestrian) Street, Athens, Greece

A neoclassical mansion, at the corner of 52 Perikleous and Thisseos (pedestrian) St.

Thisseos pedestrian alley, from the corner with PerikleousSt.
During this walk, I realized that the small textile shops in this area had probably sprung up at some point in the past, with the aim to "feed" the main fashion / retail clothing shops located in the central and very expensive Ermou Street, which runs parallel to Karagiorgi Servias / Perikleous / Agias Irinis. Of course, in the old days people used to mend their own clothes, and knit and weave and do all these things that sound so distant to us these days. So, these "marginal", specialized, "feeding" shops probably catered to retail commerce as well. Much more than today anyways.

Store selling textiles, at Perikleous St., Athens, Greece
Fabric rolls, close-up; Perikleous St., Athens

Still in Perikleous St., Athens, have no doubt.

58 Perikleous St., in case you missed it. Still more textiles and motorbikes!
After this point, the street name changes to Agias Irinis. Wait for the next installment of pictures in a couple of weeks.

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