Athens, Greece is known far and wide for its tourist attractions, these attractions ranging from its entrancing sights from atop the Acropolis to the ancient Grecian architecture preserved in the city today. This is the part of the city that people from around the world come to witness for themselves. What many tourists don’t expect to see is the graffiti. At my arrival, I witnessed these attractions for myself, however, I also encountered many unexpected sights from what I originally anticipated during my time spent here. Let’s take a look at these now.
My first day in Athens was a vastly new experience to me. My day began in the local neighborhood, Plaka. The air was slightly humid and a slight breeze blew in the air. I walked down the narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops sellling various items and passed by restaurants open to all. The locals are friendly here, and they welcome tourists with open arms. I felt comfortable in this small village.
I went to see the Athens Acropolis, an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens. (3) It contains the remains of several ancient Grecian bulildings, the most famous being the Parthenon above; a temple constructed in 447 BC. (2) Its construction was dedicated to the Goddess Athena, and is one of the main tourist attractions in the city of Athens.
Propylaea, built in 432 BC with white marble columns, is the entryway to the Athenian, Acropolis. Tourists swarmed the area. I expected no less, as it is a popular tourist attraction.
The top of the Acropolis shows the entire city of Athens. Despite the wind and dust, I appreciate the landscape below.
During our second day in Athens, we traveled to our new hotel room, 10 minutes from where we stayed in Plaka. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice the vast amounts of graffiti and trash that appeared along the roadside, sidewalks, buildings, and pavement. I hadn’t expected this drastic transition, especially considering that the area I had been in 10 minutes prior had no graffiti on its surroundings. I’m not exaggerating when I say that from this point onward, every building is covered in graffiti.
I took this picture while walking to a different area in Athens. I interpret this image as a metaphor representative of the two sides of Athens; media portrayal vs. local perspective. I see the fence as representing the barrier between these two perspectives. The area behind the fence that shows a portion of the city symbolizes media portrayal of Athens to incoming tourists. For example, many people expect to see flourishing shops, restaurants, and hotels during their stay. In front of the fence is a block covered in graffiti, which I perceive symbolizes the reality of life in Athens.
I came to learn that the city of Athens is in the middle of an economic crisis. The result: a graffiti epidemic. It’s a combination of high youth unemployment and underemployment, a general unrest, and authorities being stretched too thin to do much about it. (1) As I’m not fluent in Greek, I cannot translate the Greek graffiti.
This particular image portrays the two sides of the city. The first piece of graffiti is what tourist expect to see at their arrival to Athens. In contrast, the stone structure to the right of the picture – obscured in graffiti – sheds light on the economic instability of the city. Behind the illusion of a flourishing city presented to tourists, lies the story of economic struggles that locals face with their surrounding environment.
- Coleman, David. “The Graffiti Epidemic in Athens.” Have Camera Will Travel | Places. Have Camera Will Travel LLC, 17 May 2018. 02 June 2018.
- “Parthenon.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 May 2018. 02 June 2018.
- “Acropolis of Athens” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 May 2018. 02 June 2018.