I’m off in Athens for five days. I planned on only two, but two can so easily become five in Greece. Not that I’m complaining mind you, as I’m staying with friends who are genuinely more like family, and offer me my own maisonette and garden in which to contemplate and write. It’s a perfect setting, and I’ve finished most of my books in that garden.
This year, though, it’s my first visit. Not sure why I haven’t spent much time in Athens this year; perhaps because I subliminally wanted to avoid more up close and personal exposure to the tragic toll the financial crisis continues to extract from the day to day lives of so many innocents.
Nowhere on Mykonos can you find a realistic measure of the painful impact those recent years have had on the Greek populace. Most of Athens offers a contrary vision, though my “family’s” neighborhood—only an eight-euro taxi ride from the center of Athens—is not one of them.
But this isn’t about any of that.
I had several meetings scheduled over two days (the two that morphed into five) that had me travelling to Solonos Street. Solonos lay at the heart of Athens’ university area and is the place (in front of the law school) where most student demonstrations against [fill in the blank] form up to march on Parliament. It also happens to be the center of Greece’s publishing and literary world.
|Government Literary Office|
To get there we passed through Athens equivalent of NYC’s Upper East Side (Kolonaki) into Exarchia, an area that reminds me of NYC’s East Village in pre-gentrification days.
I was amazed at what I found there.
The place is awash in bookstores, every conceivable kind of bookstore. Block after block of bookstores! I can’t recall ever seeing so many in one place, anywhere. These photos are less than half of those I passed by. And forget about the graffiti marring the buildings, as that’s a curse haunting all of Athens
I’m told this area stays alive selling books. I’m also told it’s the “big bookstores” that are taking it on the chin. Here’s hoping they all do well, but Athens, you really impressed me with how, in the depths of a cursed depression, you’re sustaining your literary balance. Then again, what less could we expect from the country that so significantly contributed to bringing the play, the novel, and the poem to the world.
Now for a quick Greek taxi ride.
You’re coming in from Athens northern suburbs; passing by the US Embassy, Megaron Mousikis (Athens’ equivalent to NYC’s Lincoln Center), the Hilton, the Byzantine Museum, the National Gardens, the French Embassy (that one’s for you Cara), and turning right by Parliament at Syntagma Square across from the Hotel Grande Bretagne (featured in TV coverage of demonstrations at the square); driving by some of Athens most beautiful modern public buildings (including Athens University and the National Library); and taking a right turn onto Hippocrates Street into Kolonaki followed by a left onto Solonos.
Enjoy the ride. And I've already paid the fare.
|US Embassy and Music Center on far right|
|Hilton Hotel on right (reverse travel)|
|Parliament left (really right), Grand Bretagne straight ahead|
|Greece's National Library|
By the way did you notice that this week was BSP Free!
|Okay, I'm stretching it, but how could I resist this photo?|
Can’t say the same for next week as my new book, Sons of Sparta, comes out October 7th.