© 2018 by Geoff Bartlett

Athens - Modern Ruins

The sense of a modern ruin is easily explained by the economic woes of the last few years. Athens has seemingly more than its fair share of the usual bedraggled and homeless, but the middle-class homeless shocked me. A well-dressed middle-aged man folding up his blanket as he got up from his night’s sleeping place in a city doorway. If I hadn’t seen him get up, I would have thought he was off to an office job. I saw a pair of men in a corner of a park washing out a couple of pans in a makeshift shelter looking very much like their home.
Athens is not a ruin, but contains ruins ancient and modern. Athens is not post-apocalyptic, but going through an economic apocalypse. These photographs, picked out of an otherwise functioning city and heavily treated to emphasise ruin, hint at the human costs of the economic ruin.
If there are any winners from the modern ruins, they would be the numerous cats who are spoiled for choice in convenient hiding places, or sunny spots to laze on disintegrating staircases.

Athens’s deep antiquity is on display everywhere. Putting a spade into the ground anywhere risks uncovering significant artefacts or ruins. Perhaps because I am a European Australian, I feel reassured by the continuity of habitation and sophistication everywhere evident on Athens. I feel no such continuity in my own country and no proper connection with the oceanic depths of the first people’s history.
Athens 2016. Modern buildings fallen in ruin (modern being anything more recent than a couple of centuries), some propped with heavy scaffolding, but the planned restoration abandoned. Rotting doors bolted and chained. Cars that have not moved for years. Scooters and motorcycles standing in the street partially stripped, abandoned. In some districts, more shops than not stood empty and covered in grime and graffiti. 
In a nod to Greece’s vibrant politics, Antifa (anti-fascist) graffiti was reassuringly prominent, the old circle-A symbol being popular.

 

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