There’s a place in Athens engulfed by anarchists, people who don’t obey the law and believe no governing order can take them down. Police now refuse to enter this area. The chaos of this part of town is uncontrollable. They say its covered in graffiti and is dangerous. Someone even told me that riots are common and often you see people throwing Molotov cocktails over cars causing major traffic delays. Trashcans are lit on fire like it was NYC circa 1980. The United States recently declared Athens a danger to US citizens and advised them from traveling to this area because of Exarchaia. Naturally, I wanted to see it.
I did a little research and finally google mapped it. It was about a 35 minute walk from my hostel. Not bad. I could make it there in no time.
I got ready and headed right over. My mind was filled with dystopian images of chaos. I was excited. I imagined a world of crumbling walls, abandoned buildings filled with squatters, streets filled with crazy graffiti and a sense of total isolation while knowing you were being watched as you walked down the streets.
I walked passed Syntagma square through several shopping districts. I then saw a shortcut towards the university. I managed to walk through the square and past the University where the district of Exarchaia is said to be.
As I walked closer to Exarchaia the walls began to change. Each wall had more graffiti than the next. The murals were high and elaborate. Entire buildings were covered in graffiti. I believe I have reached Exarchaia.
I walked around and took pictures and video of the surrounding area. However, it was not the destructive dystopian city I thought it would be. It was filled with artsy stores. Stores that catered to a darker crowd — Lovers of scary movies and Death Metal. It was more my style actually. It was quaint, crowded and very artsy.
I was not scared to walk down the graffiti covered allies. There were no riots or protests going on. No Molotov cocktails being thrown. No chaos. I was a little disappointed actually.
It turns out this area is the University area. This is where the students hang out. Its artsy and hip with lots of great restaurants and cafes to choose from. If you look around there were students everywhere. Going to and from school. Students studying in every cafe. It was a regular college town. No wonder there were cool stores filled with Death Metal paraphernalia.
I walked around a little more before giving up on my dystopian fantasy land known as Exarchaia. Im glad I explored.
Perhaps I should have explored deeper into this part of town.
The truth is this area of town has been a place where riots break out. A simple search will give you a sense of the many riots that have take place in this part of town. Within the last five years, there has been a major riot at least once a year. Police men were being attacked. Molotov cocktails were igniting police attire as they drove down the streets. It really was chaos.
Perhaps things were calm while I was there. Where there protests? Yes, but not in this part of town. Also, it wasnt a riot.
Check out this video of a previous Exarchaia riot: