Residents of the iconic Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis hill are bemoaning overcrowding and noise pollution, not only due to the growing number of tourists but also the outright lawlessness of bars, restaurants and short-term rentals that have mushroomed.
“The situation is now desperate. We cannot move, we cannot sleep, we cannot live,” says Giorgos Zafeiriou who has been living on Pittakou Street in Plaka for the last 25 years.
“Our main problem is noise pollution. The shops in Plaka compete with each other in the volume of the music. We understand that the municipal police are approaching because suddenly the sound is lowered only to go up again as soon as they leave,” he said, adding that although a presidential decree for Plaka prohibits the installation of speakers outdoors, this is being flouted and music plays until dawn. The problem, however, is not just limited to the road level, but includes the rooftops. “The new ‘fashion’ that has made our lives hell,” he said.
The said presidential decree explicitly prohibits the operation of restaurants/bars on rooftops, but they have nonetheless mushroomed.
“At least 20 roof bars must be operating on Mitropoleos Street alone at the moment,” says Noni Sterioti, a resident of Lysiou Street. “It is not just the hotels, but also buildings that were converted into Airbnbs with rooftops… At many of these place there are parties until 3.30 in the morning,” she adds.
“If you do not have double glazing in the house, you cannot sleep… and it’s not just the bars… The only improvements we have seen are the cleanliness of the area and the anti-graffiti campaign,” she added.
“We have spoken to the police, the municipal police, but unfortunately to no avail. We cannot seek help anywhere, our daily lives have become torturous,” says Despina Stratigi, a resident of Kyrristou Street.
According to residents, the lawlessness is not limited to noise pollution.
“An important issue is the traffic,” says Sterioti, noting the huge supply trucks entering alleys and blocking them, as do the vans that transport the tourists. “If you add to all this the well-known train, the groups with the tourists and cyclists, and the peddlers who occupy the already small sidewalks, the situation is chaotic,” she exclaims, while Zaferiou recalls the situation in the 70s, when permanent residents abandoned the area.