KOSTAS and the yummy world

KOSTAS and the yummy world

Anafiotika (Athens)

Anafiotika (Αναφιώτικα) is a scenic tiny neighborhood of Athens, that lies on the northern east side of the Acropolis (“the high city”) hill. Visitors usually confuse the neighborhood with Plaka, the much bigger neighborhood, which actually surrounds Anafiotika, and which has a completely different architecture and aesthetics.

Anafiotika on the map (yellow limits).

The neighborhood has the shape of a “peinirli” or a spindle, the two ends of which are occupied by two little churches: the Church of “Agios Symeon” at the northwest and the church of “Agios Georgios on the rock”, which defines the southeast edge of the village. The northern part of the neighborhood is limited by the archeological site of Acropolis, for the expansion of which several houses of Anafiotika where demolished in the 70s. The southern limit is defined by Stratonos and Prytaneiou streets.

Agios Georgios on the rock church.

“Agios Georgios on the rock” is one of the most beautiful little churches of Athens and is still in use today, but alas closed for the visitor (as it opens only for feasts and on special occasions). Built in the 17th century, its name comes from its location at the foot of the Acropolis. Next to it there is a little memorial sign to an Acropolis guard who wrapped himself in a Greek flag and leapt off the Acropolis when the Germans invaded Athens in 1941. “Agios Symeon” church was also built in the 17th century and it contains a copy of a famous miracle-working icon of Virgin Mary Kalamiotissa from Anafi. Both of these churches were rebuilt in the nineteenth century by the residents of Anafiotika in a typical Cycladic style.

Agios Symenos church. The courtyard.

To get to Anafiotika from Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street turn to Thrassilou street (it starts by the south-east entrance to the Acropolis Archeological site), which follows the perimeter of the Acropolis Archeological site and continue uphill. Thrassilou changes its name to Stratonos some 50 meters later. When you reach the church of “Agios Georgios on the rock”, follow the white-washed steps going up. This path seems a dead end (like most of the streets of the neighborhood), but it actually leads you to the upper limit of Anafiotika, from where you have great views of eastern Athens and Lycabetous Hill. Then let yourself wandering around the small alleyways (steps) that crisscross the area. Several of the little houses are renovated and in good condition, but unfortunately many of them are neglected.

The first houses were built in the era of King Otto I of Greece, when, in 1841, when he encouraged workers from the Cycladic island of Anafi (from which the neighborhood took its name) to come and help to transform the new capital of independent Greece into a modern metropolis and refurbish his palace. They took over the rocky terrain located just below the north slope of the Acropolis, hastily erecting houses, taking advantage of an older Ottoman law which decreed that if you could put up a structure between sunset and sunrise, the property became yours. The first two inhabitants were listed as G. Damigos, a carpenter, and M. Sigalas, a construction worker. Soon, workers from other Cycladic islands also started to arrive here, to work as carpenters, stone and marble workers, in a further building reconstruction period in Athens, but also in the following era after the end of the reign of King Otto.

In 1922, Greek refugees from Asia Minor also established here, altering the population that was up to that time only from the Cycladic islands. In 1950s and 1970s, part of the neighborhood was destroyed for archeological research and for building the north slope perimeter path of the Acropolis Hill. Today, there are only 45 houses remaining, while the little streets between Stratonos Street and the Acropolis rock are still unnamed and the houses are referred to as "Anafiotika 1", "Anafiotika 2", etc.

The neighborhood was built according to typical Cycladic architecture, and even nowadays gives to visitors the feel of a Greek island village in the heart of the city. It has small, cubic houses built of stone, with stark white-washed walls, flat roofs, brightly painted shutters and doors and tiny yards with potted crimson geraniums and yellow marigolds as well as the occasional shade tree. Bright magenta bougainvillea flowers spill over the walls and into the narrow alleyways and into the carved in the rock steps, which often end in dead end terraces. One could sit on these terraces and enjoy the night view of the city, but, unfortunately, all of them are closed to the visitors, as they are private and fenced. There are several signs that point to “the Acropolis” and tourist posters advertising Anafi island pinned onto walls. Unfortunately, many tourists who visit Athens miss the experience of wending their way through the tiny lanes to enjoy the magnificent viewpoints over the red-tiled roofs of the bustling, popular Plaka below.

Agios Georgios on the rock church.

Agios Georgios on the rock church.