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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey



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10 March 2008



I have just come back home (it's almost 7 p.m. in Athens) and here's your post about the profygika of Kesariani, which I know very well (don't ask how or why... that's another story altogether). Margaret's comment you quote was quite poignant, wasn't it? She does have a way with words and she was, as you say, right on the mark.

Every time I pass by the buildings in the picture I can't but remember other, harsher times whose tail end I experienced when I was a child. Right next to these buildings, in the plot where the courthouse now sits, there stood the grim, fortress-like Averoff prison which I remember quite well. The two -- the prison and the refugee apartment buildings -- stood side by side in a strange form of solidarity, of sharing a common life: I'm sure that some from among those who lived in the apartment buildings could have seen the inside of the prison as well, whether during the Occupation or before or after. What a way! From your apartment to your cell block and back (or, perhaps, not back but gone... forever).

The way we lived when doors were always open is now past ... and only now we can fully appreciate how important it was for our peace of mind knowing your next-door neighbors and being able to talk to them as friends and not as bothersome yobos. Today, I live in a house which if I knew as a child I'd think it were a palace ... but I am surrounded by indifferent, long-faced, and even openly hostile people, to put it mildly.

As for "blog kinship," I know it's true and capable of forming strong bonds between individuals who have never met each other. Maybe we should begin planning for a Skype conference call sometime, provided we can find a way with the different time zones!

Great post, as always, and one that gives me things to think about as I light a fire and prepare a light dinner.


My grandmother who has recently passed away lived in Leoforo Alexandras, a bit further down from these block of flats. Nearly every Sunday we would pass in front of those houses and they would always attract my attention. I always wondered about them and asked my parents about them. I still see them standing there battered whenever I go to Athens and still ask my parents why don't they do something about them. My dad has said that they need planning permissions and money for "apalotrioseis" so they leave them there reminding everyone a small piece of their childhood...When I read your posts or Theophilos’ posts about Athens so many things come back to me. I thank you both for keeping memories alive.


Your post is a great complement to Theo's - a sort of "then" and "now", best read side by side. And what lovely memories you have shared with us, of your early years with Anna, and time spent in her family home. I've been missing the little titbits about your family. This bit ("Every so often Anna would sneak a peak at me and smile and I would smile back at her.") is SO sweet.

One day I'll persuade my husband that seeing Athens will not smash all my beautiful images and memories of Greece. I don't think he need worry - hearing about Athens from Ismini, and from you will stand me in good stead. But I guess his attitude tells you a lot about how much he loves Greece too - only wanting me to see her from her best angle ...


Theo, good or bad neighbours are just a matter of good or bad luck. My next-door neighbour is a woman like me, with children at the same school as mine, and barely a day goes past without us having a chat. We share the proverbial sugar, eggs, milk and thermometers, and walking our daughters to the bus stop. I am lucky. But I've been unlucky in the past and lost a lot of sleep over a violent, alcoholic neighbour. Things come and go, and change over time, and people move on. The violent alcoholic is now reformed and travelling round schools educating them about the evils of drugs and drink ... (true). Why not invite your neighbours round, and get to know them? Mine really enhances my quality of life.



As I recall the MAT HQ was nearby, a vestige perhaps of the old days? For better or for worse, things never stay the same.

Somehow I think a conference call would spoil what we have right now, the luxury of thinking about what to say. That always makes for better conversation.


I'm so glad we were able to help you revive a few memories you had misplaced. I love finding old stuff like that.


I think Intrepid Explorer worries unnecessarily. You have probably been to enough big cities not be taken aback by Athens.

Speaking of neighbors, we have about twenty homes in our little neck of the woods. One summer we organized a little event to promote the notion of knowing who your neighbors besides those living next door. Yes we are Mainers. We started at one house where we had cocktails/appetizers, moved on to the next for salad, then to another for soup, to another for the main course and finally somewhere else for dessert and coffee. It was great fun and by the time it was over we knew a bit more about our neighbors.


We call them "Safari Suppers" - you probably do too. I've never experienced one, but you've got me thinking. I'm sure our (very mixed, you may have gathered) neighbourhood would benefit from something similar.


I had the Alexiou, Malamas and Ioannides live CD on the stereo few weeks ago with the volume almost at a maximum. One of the neighbouring apartments buzzed me and told me to turn it down. I asked sternly, "Why? Don't you like the music????"

I can put with just about anything but do not ask me to turn the volume down on my music. I have a breaking point.



Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check it out. It's hard to fathom but some folks don't like our music. Perhaps wireless headphones might be a mutually acceptable solution.



These blocks of flats are about 200 yards from the Attica Police HQ. The MAT (riot police for those who don't know too much about the Greek police) are based at another location -- but they're still going strong!!


Indeed, neighbors are a matter of luck and mine hasn't been good luck. What kills me is that I've spent a shipload of money, but I can't still separate myself from the rat-faced scum with a criminal record who has the cash to come buy right across from my windows. Trust me, this is not the type you invite for a round of tea and discussing the latest dressage event. In another time, this human waste's immediate future would have been firmly connected to a hanging judge, and the world would have been a better place after the verdict.


I would not have asked you to turn it down but would have asked to come over. That CD (and the DVD) are incredible. Your neighbor is missing out.
Highly recommend it, Stavros and MGO listeners/readers...


I live close to the refugee buildings near Alexandras Ave. The photo above is making me homesick. I am currently here in Florida. I have lived over half of my life in Athens. I actually been inside in one of the flats of these buildings. All I remember was the coldness...

PS I am Filipina partly raised in Greece. Athens in my home...



Do you have good memories of your life in Greece?

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Searching for Ithaka

  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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