Green Athens

This is an article about green Athens. People from the Greek capital might react here:
– What do you mean „green Athens“? Athens is not green.

Concrete Athens„Green“ Athens

Well, it’s not. It is gray and white – from all the concrete of the dense buildings. You could easily see that from Google Earth: Athens looks like a huge bluish-white stain with very few green spots. What’s even worse, the fires a few years ago (which were most probably started on purpose) have left the hills around the city without any trees.

Burnt mountain, AthensSome typical Mediterranean mist here but you can still recognize the cliffs that used to be a forest before

At first, I didn’t quite understand what people meant when they told me one of the reasons for the protests last year was the destruction of nature. Now you can see. It looks like some people in Greece have been very effective in burning and cutting as many trees as possible. And some other people are getting very pissed off by the first group of people. I hope this gives you an idea about the dissatisfaction and the situation I’m going to tell you now.

Walking around the neighborhood of Exarhia (a downtown district of Athens that became famous as a starting point for many of the protests) I saw a group of people gathered in a small park. I tried to find somebody speaking English and I ended up speaking in Bulgarian with one of the guys there. That was actually my first interview with a foreigner in Bulgarian. Anyway, let’s go to the story.

Damage from the riots, ExarhiaA burnt computer store, Exarhia

I understood people in the neighborhood wanted to have a park for more than 10 years. They complained they had no place to sit in the open air, no place to take the kids out to play, no trees around. Nobody helped them.

Now the action part. These people organized themselves and made a meeting on March 7 this year. They gathered on the corner of Zoodohou Pigis and Navarinou Skoufa and destroyed the walls of the car parking that used to occupy the space. Everything you see on the following pictures is the result of what they did together. They removed the pavement from the ground, they planted the trees, they watered them, they made the the kids’ playground. And they stay there all the time, keeping an eye on their creation. The authorities still haven’t decided what to do with the place.

A big posterA big poster at one side ot the park

The officeThe „office“ of the local community and the kids’ playground behind

Young people in the parkIn the afternoon, the improvised park is full of young people, mainly students

The parkOne more look at the place

I asked a few people what kind of political views they shared. We’re anarchists, some of them said. The anarchists worked together with the other citizens to create and protect this little park.


2 responses to “Green Athens

  1. Политическите възгледи нямат никакво значение. Важното е, че са се организирали и са направили нещо от обществена полза. На Балканите очевидно в повечето случеи по „каналния ред“ нещата не стават.

  2. What do you mean Green Athens? Athens is not green!
    OK, now we have gone through this compulsory step, let’s be happy about this rare piece of good news from Athens.
    And, surprise – surprise! Coming from one of the doggiest places of Downtown Athens, Exarchia!
    A crossroad where you can meet Metalheads and Aristocrats, Lawyers and Heroine Junkies, Students and Concerned middle-aged locals, sometimes sitting or lurking or whatever a few metres away from each other.

    So, there is this square which had been used as a car park. End of leash period. What does the municipality of Athens decide to do with it? Well, sell it to the highest bidder, I presume. That’s the point the locals step in and say: /’Hell No! Let’s make it into a park, organise concerts and green spaces for the kids to play!’

    It takes balls to stand up against the authorities and say No! Most times you get squashed. But if you are a group of people that like organising things, if you love your area for what it is and not for what the multinational companies would like it to be, there are high chances that you will make a (small) change. There are high chances that you will affect everyone around you. Look! So and so managed to pull his weight and change things positively, so why not we also?

    And guess what? A large number of small changes can slowly make a great difference!

    One of the few times recently that I have felt proud about my home town.

    P.S. The poster reads:
    ‘Their car parks – our parks’
    And underneath:
    ‘BabOOshkas of the world, join us!’

    So what are you waiting diginannies of the world?
    Get up from behind your hi-res screens!
    You can make the difference in your own neighbourhood!

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