Hidden on a hill under the Acropolis is a neighbourhood built to resemble
the island of Anafi, constructed nearly 150 years ago. Built according to the
architecture of the Cyclades islands, its narrow paths, white walls and tiny
spaces all have a view of downtown Athens. "It's amazing; it's really
beautiful," marveled a visitor, Susan Byron of Canada.
About 60 people call Anafiotika home. "I decided I'd had enough of
America," said Timothy Jennings, 61, who left the US in 1967 to settle in
Greece. "It [is] the most beautiful place I’ve ever been."
Narrow, steep walkways wind up the side of the Acropolis, but many say it’s
worth it to see the flowers and buildings and soak up the serenity. The
neighbourhood is just above the busy 19th-Century area of Plaka, a tourist
magnet. Acropolis residents tolerate tourists – as long as they aren't too
After so many decades, the stucco homes are rough in spots, but that
just brings the kind of charm you can't manufacture. Amid the nooks
and crannies there are delightful bits of serendipity: an odd-shaped
window here, a weathered door there.
In 1922, immigrants from Minor East also settled in Anafiotika, a
refuge from the great catastrophe in which Greece lost Constantinople
and many lands in what is now Turkey. That changed the settlement as
only residents from the Cyclades had lived there until then. In 1950,
part of the neighborhood was destroyed for archeological research and
in 1970 the state started to buy the houses.
The wash of black clothes drying next to the shower of white roses is
where a 90-year-old woman named Alexandra lives, said Jennings, but he
had a warning: "Don't touch her flowers or she’ll leave you in tiny
little pieces." In Anafiotika, you can look but not touch.
Tourists capture snapshots in a world that no longer exists in much of
Greece, apart from the islands. In the midst of the cacophony of Athens,
Anafiotika draws people who want to step away from the din and take home the
The Bougainvillea and other flowers have crawled up the walls of the
homes. Athan Anagnostopoulos, who runs the Greek Institute in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, but splits his time with Athens and works
nearby the neighbourhood creating a lexicon of the Greek language,
said he takes time off to stroll here, as did one of his favourite
poets, George Seferis, a Nobel Laureate and friend. "I like the
simplicity and the architecture," he told SETimes.
These corner windows are one of the most photographed sights in
Anafiotika; they are eyes on a neighbourhood, bringing in the
incomparable Greek light from two directions.
The juxtaposition of oranges before a roof bearing a cross is a common
sight in the deeply Orthodox country.
The streets in Anafiotika are unnamed and the houses referred to only by
Travel journalist Rick Steves, in one of his Europe videos, said the
delight of Anafiotika was its sense of being far away while being smack in the
middle of the chaotic city.
"In this oasis of tranquility, nestled beneath the walls of the Acropolis,
the intensity of Athens seems miles away," Steves said.
When you stop to look up in Anafiotika, the Greek flag on the Acropolis is
always there, waving high above the neighbourhood.
In this neighbourhood, simplicity and making do with what you have replaces
trendiness, and residents use whatever they can find: old olive oil cans and
feta cheese tins to add some green and create a privacy fence.