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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A VILLAGE WITHIN THE CITY: ANAFIOTIKA

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View of the Agora, from Anafiotika

The great city of Athens is made up of a lot of small villages that have melded together over the years.  Plaka is the original, oldest part of the city where most of the archaeological sites are located.  Just up on the hill in Plaka,  under the flank of the Acropolis ("the high city") there is a tiny village, unique because of how it came to be.

Some people came to Athens from the island of Anafi, after an earthquake destroyed some of their villages.  They came to Athens to find work, and decided to rebuild their village up on the edge of the hillside.  It is called Anafiotika.  The 'village' has houses built in the style of those that had been on Anafi island, with cobbled lanes no more than an arms width.  These little white-washed houses are one of the archaeological treasures of the Plaka and unfortunately a lot of tourists who visit here miss the experience of wending their way through the tiny lanes and enjoying the magnificent viewpoints across the red-tiled roofs of Plaka out to the vast expanse of what is greater Athens. 

Anafiotika house (George's house)

You can get to the Acropolis via Anafiotika. Just follow the signs as you climb up the hillside up from the Areopagitou behind Vironos Street, and make your way between the houses with their pot gardens blooming with red geraniums and bowers of magenta bougainvillea that spill over the stone fences.  A friend of mine had a house up there and when I first started visiting Greece I often stayed with him.  Unfortunately he was killed in a cycle accident several years ago, but his house is still there, without the brilliant display of marigolds and geraniums he used to keep on the porch.  I wonder if his Australian family ever come to stay there.  It seems sad that the house is deserted now.  Each time I come to Greece I pass by just to see if it's occupied or not.  Sometimes when these old Anafiotika houses are deserted they are taken over by the Archaeological society or National tourism. But George's house seems to be intact as it was before.


There are several very old Byzantine Churches in Anafiotika which are well worth a visit - some dating to the 1600's or even earlier.  And it is a quiet, mostly shaded walk up to the Peripatos walk along the base of the Acropolis hill.  From that walk you can go around to the Acropolis entrance, or keep going down to the Areopagitou pedestrian mall.  Or, as I often do, take the path down toward the ancient Agora along the Panatheanic Way, where there are still big marble paving stones along where the ancient Greeks used to walk in the processional up to the Acropolis to honor Athena.  All along this road are various digs including part of the East Stoa.  And I found an very interesting site the other day in a place where once it was unexcavated and I often would sit in the shade. I wrote a poem called "Under the Mulberry Tree" in that place. And now I have discovered it was a sanctuary to Hekate, queen of the night!  There is also the remains of a sanctuary to Demeter and Kore nearby.  At the foot of the roadway is the ancient agora. You have to pay to go into that part but the walk down the Panathianic Way is a free zone.  There is also a trail that goes along the fence of the Agora toward Thission and there you will find other partially excavated sites including the remains of one of the very first Christian churches and a stairway leading up to a treed area where I think the  Apostle Paul was supposed to have climbed.  (You can also visit the Aereopagus, the Hill at the top where he addressed the Athenians).

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