CULTURE

Athens on the Internet

Athens is the kind of city one tends to love and hate at the same time. Sure, it?s beautiful and wild, with wonderful neoclassical buildings and the ancient monuments of the Acropolis, but the absence of planning is apparent everywhere, as is the lack of green spaces, and a large number of the city?s residents clearly despise it.

However, Greece?s capital also has its fans, many of whom wish to share their affection for the city, and the Internet has proved to be a great way for them to share their thoughts.

In the last few years a number of blogs, websites and groups have been created for people to share their ideas about the Greek capital. One of the most prominent is Athensville. The two-and-half-year-old blog records details of daily city life through photos and texts and has turned into a point of reference for city dwellers.

While it isn?t really known for its tall buildings, Athens also crops up regularly on skyscrapercity.com, where the focus is on skyscrapers, architecture and urban developments and whose founders include Grigoris Maloukos, who has been working on the website since 2002.

?My involvement with tall buildings is what sparked my interest in Athens as a city, especially following the 2004 Olympics, a period which we expected to be accompanied by dynamic growth in all sectors, something which never materialized,? Maloukos told Kathimerini.

Facebook provides more fertile ground for people to share their ideas and images of the city. One of the leading groups is ?Old Photos of Athens, Attiki,? whose members upload photographs spanning the period from the 19th century to the present. Most of the images are of an idyllic pre-war Athens, with an abundance of neoclassical mansions.

According to one of the group?s web managers, the city offers plenty of architectural contrasts.

?You have the Parthenon standing alongside the new Acropolis Museum and the National Library next to modern glass buildings. The old exists alongside the contemporary and this is not solely the case in downtown Athens. At the same time this is one of the aspects of the city which I don?t like; personally, I prefer the old,? he told Kathimerini.

?We knew that the idea of a group collecting images of Athens and Thessaloniki would generate interest,? added another of the site?s managers. ?But we didn?t expect such a positive reaction. This particular group is very much alive and this is due to its members.?

According to Alexandros Lavdas, web manager of Facebook pages ?I Athina mesa ston chrono? (Athens Through Time) and ?Plaka mesa ston chrono? (Plaka Through Time), ?Athens still has plenty of different aspects which are pretty, even though the city center has been downgraded and its suburbs resemble Los Angeles.?

?Those who in the past championed progress and pulled down neoclassical buildings in order to build apartment blocks succeeded in eradicating the city?s European identity. In the end, Athens has residents who don?t love their city, who are unwilling to accept its positive aspects,? Lavdas told the newspaper.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who love the city and believe in its future, provided it overcomes the wretchedness and some of the negative aspects of its character.

?As far as I?m concerned, there is hope,? said Maloukos.

?I feel there is life in the aftermath of the memorandum. That we are not alone, that we have to carry on and that, in the end, civilization will overcome barbarity,? he said