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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MEANDERING AROUND PLAKA

Plaka
Plaka is the old part of Athens, where the city began back in the ancient times.  And it is the most popular tourist part of Athens with lots of shops and tavernas.  The houses in Plaka are all old and many (if not all) protected by the Ministry of Culture.  The place is full of history -- and of the old ghosts that haunt the ancient streets.  Some of those 'ghosts' are dear friends of mine and others who once were part of my life when I lived in Plaka during the '80's and '90's.  So when I am meandering around I am doing a lot of reminiscing and recalling so many stories of events that happened during that time.  Actually my relationship with Plaka goes back to '79 when I first went to Athens on holidays and fell in love with the city.  There are still some people around from that time although when I went to look for Ari the waiter last night at the old tavern beside the Roman Agora, he wasn't there. Perhaps he's retired now or on holidays? I'll have another look in the next week or so.
Shadow Puppet Theatre


There are various places I have lived in Plaka and also in the neighbouring district of Koukaki where I am staying now.  The most memorable place was on Vironos Street (Odos Vironos) BYRON'S STREET. Yes, it was named after the poet Lord Byron, because right at the corner a few meters from my gate at #14 Vironos, there was an archaeological site we called "The Dirty Corner".  There is a choreogos tripod monument there, Lysikrattes monument that was awarded to a chorus for a performance at the Theatre of Dionysos just up the hill under the Acropolis.  This was once a theatre district and later there was a monastery built on the site where Lord Byron stayed and wrote his poems.  Right around the corner is Shelly Street named for is friend who used to visit.  And it connects with the Street of the Tripodons that was once lined with these tripod monuments.  Yesterday I went for lunch up at the Thespis Taverna just up the steps from the Dirty Corner near the Theatre of Dionysos.  This was the thespian district, the actors. 

The former "Dirty Corner" (now quite posh!)

In the evening I decided I should stop at the Dirty Corner for old time's sake.  These days it is the Posh Corner with an upscale establishment and a restaurant where Hilary Clinton ate dinner when she was here.
I sat at approximately one of my old tables and had an ouzo and pistachio icecream. 11 Euros.  We used to drink for a week when it was drachmae on that amount!  I sat there remembering all the scenarios, the dramas that unfolded on a daily basis, all the actors (I was one) and dear friends now gone from this earth.

I always touch the gate at #14 when I pass by. It holds so many memories for me. I wish I could look inside and see my old suite and the little spitaki in the courtyard where Robbie used to live, but it's locked and it looks like there is construction going on. I wonder if Kyria Dina still lives there?

As I walked out of Vironos Street, across the Areopagitou pedestrian mall, I saw a man that looked exactly like Robbie -- the long hair, beard, the way he was walking. He looked up suddenly and caught my eye and I felt sure it was Robbie's ghost. It almost made me burst into tears.  These are the kinds of moments I have here, remembering people and times dear to my heart.

Dancers in Plaka Square 
Today I was on a quest to photograph the old Byzantine churches in Plaka so I stopped round to see my friend Dinaz at the tourist shop where she works. I'll be going to stay with her next weekend.  Then I walked around doing my photo-journalist job (yes, this is partly a working holiday!) and later went back to Plaka. Right on the corner of Kidetheneon and Adrianou used to the what we called The Moroccan Chicken Shop.  They made excellent roast chicken which was popular with a lot of Moroccans and Ethiopians.  I used to go there often with Robbie and my Moroccan boyfriend Ali.  I sat at one of the now-fancy tables under the big old tree and remembered the fun times we used to have there. I had chicken salad for lunch and a cold Mythos beer and thought lovingly of my old friends.  Then I went up to the top of Plaka where not many tourists go and there are some nice old taverns (some with live music).  Took the photos of the ancient Churches,  walked along the Peripatetics walk alongside the base of the Acropolis, and showed two elderly tourist ladies how to go over the hill to find their tour bus.  I am comfortable enough in this city to feel as if I could be a tour guide,  I can find my way around easily and lately I've even been exploring some streets that I have never before walked down.  You never know what surprises await you, or what ghosts will appear.

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