What if I tell you there is an island breeze that blows at the foot of the Acropolis?
White-washed cubic houses built of stone with flat roofs and brightly painted doors. Narrow alleyways, little gardens, potted plants and bougainvillea over their walls. It looks like a piece of the Cyclades got detached and put down roots in the center of Athens- in that high point- so as to overlook as far as possible in the horizon, constantly seeking the Aegean Sea.
From the first time I visited “Anafiotika”, this tiny isolated neighbourhood, situated next to very well-known Plaka and the ancient Agora, it went straight to my heart!
Everytime, I follow the signs up the hillside from Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street next to the Theatre of Dionysos, I pass by Aghios Georgios church, and continue through the narrow laneways and the white-washed steps.
I like getting lost there, in the tiny paved streets, to clear my head and feel sheltered from the cacophony of the city.
In this place, time seems to have stopped. It’s an escape into a different era.
I feel like I have all the time in the world to sniff the little pots with basil, admire the path with the colourful graffiti or play with the innumerable lazy cats lying in the tiny windows of houses with the white embroidered curtains.
This picturesque neighbourhood was created, as indicated by its name, in the 19th century by workers from the Greek island Anafi in the Anafi. They arrived in Athens to work as builders, rebuild the city and construct Otto’s palaces. When the King told them to choose where they would like to live, they decided on the foot of Acropolis, because it reminded them of the Castle, the heart of their island. They built their houses as they knew, according to Cycladic architecture. The building there was, certainly, illegal but they had on their side the tolerance of the authorities.
Unfortunately, in 1970, the Greek authorities demolished twenty “Anafiotika” houses and expropriated the rest. Today sixty houses are leftover. Fifteen of them scrutinised by the Archaeological Service and forty-five are inhabited by sixty residents and four children. Most are descendants of the original immigrants from Anafi. Luckily something is left of this beauty of the past!
If you want to make a trip back in time, let your footsteps lead you to Anafiotika. The lack of tourist facilities provides an authentic neighbourhood feel… If you meet a resident, he will tell you “Kalimera” like you are a fellow-villager.
Get carried away by jasmine essence in the air and the relaxing island breeze. You won’t find it difficult to forget that you are in the center of a crowded city.
Anafiotika is the island dose we need when holidays are far away…
*All images by Polina Paraskevopoulou