I had another interesting day in Athens. While searching for a restaurant, I stumbled into Monastiraki neighborhood again – THE place to watch people, and observe the epitome of Greek diversity and inclusiveness!
While eating lunch at an outdoor café, I saw – all body sizes, shapes, colors, homeless, subtle and not so subtle butt watchers, nose pickers, young, old, middle-aged, beggars, artists, grouchy babies, drug addicts, street kids, super jocks, couples quarreling and in love, leg and foot shakers, police in riot gear eating lunch, elegant Greek locals, college kids, sorority girls, gypsies, tourist families with eye-rolling teenagers, rich ladies with small fluffy dogs, foreign immigrants and refugees, harried food servers and cooks, Orthodox priests, robust New Yorkers (?), all color of hair in the rainbow, skin-tight shorts and miniskirts, jealous husbands and those with roving eyes, pigeons fighting over scraps, flirts, motorcycles where they shouldn’t be, and stray cats! Even with smaller street crowds during August break, at time when most Athenians head to the islands, it was mind-boggling!
So wish I’d been able to capture some of the incredible faces in the crowd – but that would take a more skilled photographer with a powerful zoom lens. It’s awkward photographing strangers, and could turn into an unpleasant situation. Just the same…
As an astonished observer trying to be inconspicuous, I sat quietly blending with the crowd, wondering how I fit into the landscape? International travel out of your comfort zone in an unfamiliar environment is humbling, and at the same time, indescribably energizing!
“There aren’t many places like Monastiraki Square, that perfectly showcase the multi-layered mix of cultures which we call Greek civilization.” athensinsiders.com
Buildings and Shops
Monastiraki displays an enormous diversity of buildings as well as people. There’s a mixture of Ottoman-era mosques, orthodox churches, ancient ruins, cultural icons, temples, streetart, graffiti, neoclassical buildings, and monuments. The splendid Acropolis, one of the most important monuments in Western civilization, stands ever-present as a backdrop. Monastiraki is described as “an architectural representation of the melting pot of cultures that pass through Greece, the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia, and Africa”.
Athens shops, flea markets, restaurants, and food options are as diverse as its buildings and people. They include a combination of souvlaki, traditional Greek taverns, kafeneios and modern cafés, Chinese souvenirs, high-end boutiques, genuine Greek art pieces, antique shops, and cheap imitations of everything.
“If there’s one place where almost the whole history of Greece – and Athens – throughout the years is hauntingly present, it’s Monastiraki Square. A can’t-miss spot of the city of Athens, Monastiraki Square was – and still is – a boiling cauldron of people, ideas, civilizations, and religions.” greekingme.com