A painting depicting Plaka neighborhood in Athens by Greek artist George Savvakis (1922-2004).
Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities, with thousands of years of history, politics and culture. There are times when I love my city, mostly because there are still places in Athens that emit this nostalgic feeling, that have retained the old glamor of a city that used to flourish. Now I feel like the city – and maybe the whole country itself – has surrendered to the economic crisis, so whenever I walk in the center I feel a sense of depression, abandonment and despair, especially when I see homeless or refugee people starving, looking for a lending hand.
And this feeling becomes more intense whenever I see old pictures of Athens – where we used to be and where we are now. Even though the pictures derive from interwar period – between first and second World War – there is still something in them making me feel nostalgic about old Athens.
Another painting from George Savvakis portraying old Athens.
Some of the pictures we are about to see, come from Fred Boissonnas, a Swiss photographer that captured many places around Greece during the period 1903-1930. I can feel his love and admiration for Greece just by looking at his pictures.
Swiss photographer Fred Boissonnas.
Sheep under Acropolis, 1903. Picture from Boissonnas.
Nowadays there are no sheep 😀 but a lot of green surrounds this beautiful ancient citadel.
Athinas Str., a central street in the heart of Athens, 1920. Picture from Boissonnas.
Now, instead of carriages and somewhat low traffic, Athinas Str. is one of the busiest roads!
Ermou Str., another central street in 1920, as captured by Boissonnas. Look at the beautiful, retro hats ladies were wearing back then!
Even earlier, in 1912, at Ermou Str., with ladies wearing fancy clothes too!
And some artistic snapshot of the same street…
A usual day at Ermou in 2015. How things change…
When it’s not busy however, it’s nice to take a walk there since Ermou is the commercial heart of Athens with many shops of any kind.
Hotel Grande Bretagne is an icon in Athens and one of the most expensive hotels in Greece. It started operating in 1878.
A different aspect of the hotel.
Wow! Now it has turned into a giant! A super duper luxurious giant that is…
…and thankfully one of the few places that has maintained this nostalgia I talked about before.
Omonia Square ages ago! Full of palm trees, flowers and there used to be a fountain if I’m not mistaken…
Such a beautiful square, isn’t it?
Actually, wasn’t it? Now there are only bricks in this erstwhile beautiful place and of course the state in too broke to renovate it.
Panepistimiou Str., also another very central road in Athens.
Don’t let this picture fool you! Panepistimiou Str. is always as busy as Ermou Str.!!
Plaka, a historical neighborhood in Athens, 1920. Photo by Boissonnas.
I love Plaka. I adore this place! It’s the only one retaining this old, traditional Athens, this nostalgia for Athens in the 20th century. Whenever I walk in Plaka, I feel like I’m in a different period. A natural time-machine!!!
It feels like you are walking in an island, like Santorini! My dream is to get a house there (you hear that, Santa Claus??).
No, that’s not a painting! It’s a road in Plaka 😀 Remember in Mary Poppins when the children jump in the world of paintings? Well, something like that, only you can walk right in there instead of jumping!
Perfect place for walking at night too! So romantic and pretty, full of snugness!!!!
In Panepistimiou Str. we meet another iconic building, the Rex Theatre. It started operating around 1938 and was immensely big: Rex included a theater, two cinemas, bars, concert halls and other entertainment rooms.
The old sign is still retained, but not its services. Now it works as a stage for plays organized by the National Theater of Greece.
Hello Stadiou Str.! You are so old and pretty! I like you! Also a central street, close to Panepistimiou Str.
It’s definitely not that quiet. Everything seems more pretty when not busy. Sorry Stadiou Str., I don’t like you anymore 😦 I love Plaka though!!! Did I say that already?? 😀
Aah, Thissio, another historical neighborhood in Athens, close to Plaka, 1920. Photo by Boissonnas. How much it has changed I wonder…
Not that much, thank God! Like Plaka, Thissio also keeps old Athens somewhere in the ruins or in the neoclassical architecture that defines most residences there.
Do you have any places in your area that have preserved this history of your country? Are there any areas you feel nostalgic about and why? Leave me a comment 🙂