I have now been circling the city of Athens for 3 weeks.
It will take me a while to describe this place.
Too many textures for the texts.
It is hard to read the surface.
But I bought a new stamp.
Finest Greek Aperitif Digestive
Tsipouro, honey and herbs
I wander around a street with no visible name. There are some stalls selling decorated Easter eggs made of porcelain and plastic. All the shops except an instrument shop on the corner are closed for Easter. Its window is full of acoustic guitars in different shades of light brown. A bald guy with a goatee has taken one of them down and stands playing it in the window as if he were on stage. He leans his head back and closes his eyes, surrendering to the music in front of the big imaginary audience on the street.
I sit at an outdoor café and order an orange juice. Jazzy pop music comes out of the open door, and the atmosphere reminds me of Berlin. An Asian street vendor comes up and shows me a 5 cm gadget that can magically thread a needle. I can get it cheap, he insists: “Special price, 5 €”. In the end I go into the café and pay to get away from him and his gadget.
I continue through the quiet streets. It’s a public holiday. The shop shutters are down and people sit chatting at outdoor cafés. The streets are paved and have large pots with trees in the middle. I reach a building that looks like a squat. There are several banners in Greek and two in English, one asking people not to take photographs without permission, and another with the words “Long live revolutionary struggle”.
I pass a beautiful, old building elegantly draped in a transparent, blue tarpaulin and arrive at a square with a small, unkempt, home-grown park. There are lots of hand-painted banners hanging here. A group of young people are sitting under the largest banner. I ask them in English what the signs are about. But they don’t know. They’re on holiday from Spain and are sitting here because they think the banners are pretty to look at.
I carry on and suddenly discover that I’m lost. I stop at a poster with pictures of a black cat photographed from different angles. It’s apparently lost too. By asking around I finally manage to find the main street Akademia.
I continue in the direction of Omonia Square. Almost there, I see that one of the many street vendors is selling plastic passports in different colours. The last in the row is green and has the words “ALIEN´S CARD” printed in gold letters on the front.
In the middle of noisy Metaxourgio Square with its cafés and hotels a stout, old lady with gold spectacles and shocking pink lipstick is lying on her back on a mattress on the pavement. Her personal belongings are neatly packed in plastic bags around her. She has undone the top button on her blouse so her cleavage shows above the quilt covering the rest of her body.
I turn down a narrow street, the name of which is totally erased, and enter an area of empty shops. Flimsy curtains hang in front of the windows. I walk on and discover homeless people lying in cardboard boxes alongside the buildings. One of them is lying on his back on the bare pavement. His legs are bent skywards and his arms are stretched out to the sides in an open, almost meditative pose.
Around the next corner I suddenly find myself in an area with lots of activity. Everyone is carrying, pushing or driving things around on pallet trucks. There are Asian wholesale stores selling suitcases, bags, groceries, and kitchen utensils. I pass through the area without speaking to anyone, and no one seems to notice me being there.
I enter a slightly nicer neighbourhood. A car with a trailer full of potted trees and bushes comes around the corner. It looks like a floating garden. Plants are peddled via the metallic loudspeakers bellowing into the street. Some of the trees are trimmed in winding spirals – like strange plants from another planet.
I go around the back of Keramikos and look at roses and ruins through the fence. I continue through the noise on Pireos Street and up through an industrial area of auto repair shops, nightclubs and scrap dealers. One of the walls is so damp that mould is growing up it in patterns.
The last bit of the way I follow a narrow road under the motorway and run into a lot of men and a few women sorting cardboard, bottles and metal into shopping trolleys. One man has built a neat little house out of cardboard boxes for his dog. He’s even made a small, cardboard doormat. Now he’s sitting on the ground next to the homemade kennel drowsing against a wall.
Translated by Jane Rowley
Circling the City
During Documenta 14 (Learning from Athens) I spent a month in Athens.
While there, I embarked on a series of strolls through the city.
In an attempt to break the mapped-out tourist routes through the Greek capital my strategy was as follows:
I chose a drink.
After emptying my glass, I tuned it upside down on a map of Athens.
The ring the glass made on the map then became my route through the city.
These ‘Tipsy Walks’ took me through many different neighbourhoods and parallel realities.
Mette Kit Jensen
Preparing myself for walking the streets of Athens.
Tomorrow I´ll take a drink and turn the glass upside down on a street map.
The circle which appear will function as a my route through the city.
When I was a child my dad was learning esperanto.
He told me that in the future everybody would speak esperanto.
It would make it easier to travel the world and meet new friends.
He was the only person I ever meet who spoke esperanto.