CULTURE

Holidaying in the capital; not such a bad idea

You can tell them from a mile away, not only because they don’t have the tanned bodies of those who have just come back from holiday, some of them still wearing their holiday clothes and the expressions of someone who has just returned from paradise. The others, the ones who don’t have the means or the time to go off on holiday, have organized their time in the city and are enjoying the emptier streets. The Greek holidaymaker of today might not take his caged canary with him, as in the past, but he certainly takes his car, wherever his destination (apart from the island of Hydra, the only place that has managed to keep wheels off its cobbled alleyways). Athens’s summer residents get up early to water the plants on their balconies, then close the shutters on the heat of the city until sunset, when the evening breeze brings with it the scent of jasmine. Music wafts through open windows, children play at Zagorakis or Haristeas on vacant lots, while their parents get ready to visit friends in seaside suburbs such as Porto Rafti or Saronida. Or perhaps they might be off to enjoy one of Athens’s greatest summer evening pleasures – the open-air cinema, to sit on white canvas chairs next to cafe tables with cool gravel underfoot, with the scent of roasting popcorn or cheese pies. Athenian cinema addicts enjoy the best time of day as he lights dim, a cat runs across the bottom of the screen and the film begins. No matter what is playing, they are rarely first releases; it is the time and place that one has come to enjoy. (The preservation of three of the oldest open-air cinemas was helped by a campaign in Kathimerini by this columnist, and a brave decision by then-Deputy Culture Minister Kelly Bourdara. They are the Chloe, the Bonboniera in Kifissia, that dates from 1919, and the Filothei, in the suburb of the same name.) Then there are other people who decide to spend their holidays at home, taking the children to local beaches in the mornings, coming back home for a meal and siesta, and then off to the cinema in the evening, children and all, no matter how «unsuitable» the film. Well, they do see worse on television, one could say! Despite the neighbor’s dog barking, the smell from open garbage dumpsters down in the street, the street workers with their pneumatic drills early in the morning, the distant forest fires, Athens in summer isn’t such a bad place to be!