Dejected Athens square brought back to life with romance

If you happen to be in downtown Athens on Friday or over the weekend, it is worth a walk to 3-5 Anaxagora Street, close to Omonia Square, just for the shot of positive energy you will get from the catalytic Romantso.

Nearly 18 months since the city’s first incubator for young artists was launched, Vassilis Haralambidis and his associates are putting together the second installment of “Gerani – Creative Neighborhood,” three days of artistic events in and around the neighborhood from Theatrou Square to the edge of Omonia.

The program starts on Friday with a spot of exercise and includes walks, food, a game of basketball on Romantso’s rooftop, exhibitions, presentations, discussions and concerts, which are part of the team’s initiative to introduce the neighborhood to the public and particularly residents of the city who don’t tend to frequent such parts. It runs through Sunday and all events are admission-free.

In the year-and-a-half that it has been in operation, Romantso has succeeded in rallying an important part of the artistic community but mainly in bringing a new vibrancy to a neighborhood that most Athenians wrote off years ago as crime rates increased and urban decay set in.

Haralambidis, who is also behind the cultural venue Bios, remembers that when remodeling of the Romantso building began, Anaxagora Street and the broader area were in a dire state. This trend seems to have been reversing over the past couple of years, with the best proof of the area’s comeback being the recent opening of one of the trendiest new bars in town, Spinster on Iktinou Street.

“It is encouraging that there are serious signs the migrants who live and work in the area are starting to become more integrated,” says Haralambidis. Romantso has been catalytic to this end as it often hosts events for the foreign communities such as celebrations or meetings.

There are also signs that professional rentals in the neighborhood are picking up, with many abandoned offices being taken over by musical groups, but also new residents moving in.

The Romantso team has a lot more plans for the neighborhood and hopes to use the people who live there and who frequent it to contribute to this creative rebirth.

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