‘Make green corners and extend the pedestrian zones’

«I was born and raised in the suburbs,» says Natasa. «My dream was to live in the center, mainly to avoid time-consuming travel. Now I live in Goudi. I usually get around on foot or by bus and trolley. I can be downtown in 15 minutes. On a typical day, I walk to Athens Tower on Alexandras Avenue and take a trolley downtown. Then I walk. I take the dog for a walk, morning and evening. Every evening, I argue with the guard at the Medical School (the closest park to my place), but I have nowhere else to take him. Aghios Thomas Square is full of restaurants and cafes. And it annoys me that I can’t take my dog on public transportation.» Natasa is a pedestrian by choice and walks a lot because of her dog. «Ever since I got the dog, I’ve become much more aware of how few green spaces there are. And even fewer that allow dogs.» Athens is hard on pedestrians. «Most sidewalks are narrow and damaged. Worst of all, they are usually taken over by parked cars. When I walk, it’s like doing a slalom, and when I walk the dog it’s like a slalom with a sled,» she laughs. She’d like to live more centrally «but in an area with a low building coefficient, and if someone could give me a guarantee that it wouldn’t change in the future.» Walking brings her into contact with more people, and she likes it, «though there are times when the crowds are unbearable. We are forced to live on top of each other. In areas where the aesthetics have improved, I think that human relations have improved too.» For her, the ideal mayor would be one «who brought back the feeling of the neighborhood, who would make green corners, and extend the pedestrian zones. I’d like more walks like Ermou down to Gazi and Dionysiou Aeropagitou. «One more thing: Jeeps are a real pest in the city. Something has to be done. I would be pleasantly surprised if one of the candidates announced on their platform that jeep drivers had to pay a fine for bringing their vehicles into the center,» says Natasa. (1) This article first appeared in Kathimerini’s color supplement K on September 10, 2006.