Romantics of the present day

Plaka, an area of Athens that’s thousands of years old, a melting pot and mosaic of the city’s lengthy history, is the most beautiful neighborhood in the Greek capital. As well as providing an escape for Athenians, Plaka has also been a comfort, countering the anarchy of postwar Athens. To the phrase «Athens is an ugly city» that so many have uttered, there was always the reply «Yet it has Plaka.» That’s what Plaka was; the elegant response of a city that has been aesthetically ravaged. Nevertheless, like a film set that has achieved its purpose and is violently stripped of its scenery, it was almost inevitable that the post-Olympic Games decadence would sweep the city’s most beautiful area into its wake. Today, Plaka attests to the fact that we live in a city that has aged prematurely, where the protection of its monuments is nothing short of a utopian dream. Its wonderful mansions, each with its own individual history, have become cheap canvases for ignoramuses. The result is the abuse of the aesthetic balance. We are not talking about graffiti, which has its own illegally sweet alibi of being art, but a tagging war, a competition for signatures. The modern-day (often underaged) romantics of Plaka stroll the streets with a can of spray paint in their hand rather than a rose. Right next to the Roman Agora, a central part of the area that is visited by thousands of tourists a year, the view is truly disheartening. The buildings no longer have color, but a jumble of words written in spray paint. In order to help protect Plaka, we have created a group on Facebook that posts updates on the situation in this unique area, that explores the problem and searches for ways to remedy it. It is important that people should understand the significance of historical buildings in our cities and why we should, if not necessarily be awed by them, then at least feel some respect for them. Plaka is an open-air museum of culture. * Costas Papailias is the founder of the Facebook group for the protection of Plaka from graffiti.