NEWS

Consumerism changes the map of Athens

I’m driving along the Hymettus ring road. On the radio is a song by Fivos Delivorias that I’m hearing for the first time: «Above Applebees / And the multiplex. Above the log-in / And the password checks / Above Sirius on the national road / You first love watches you.» Behind me is the reddish-orange horizon of the Saronic Gulf, Aegina and the mountains of the Peloponnese. Ahead are the successive tunnels of the Attiki Odos, and below, amid the pines, the bright white mass of the Attica basin with the first lights of the night flickering. In the opposite direction, blue and yellow plastic bags from Ikea fill bulging car trunks, A friend who works on the tollgates tells me that traffic increased by 30 percent in the first days after the store opened. The exit for Ilion will take me to a new multiplex. I think of what to do. I realize that I’m going to the cinema in Ilion with the same curiosity one feels when wandering round a city one really doesn’t know. But I can get to Liossia faster than to Glyfada. On the way back, the picture becomes clearer. I think of the new mass destinations for Athenians: Spata, Aghios Ioannis Rendi, Ilion. The new Athens is not bounded by the traditional coordinates of the city in the 20th century. Large-scale commercial development, multiplexes, megastores such as Ikea and entertainment parks are imposing a new geography on Attica, which corresponds very little to the boundaries of the town plan.