A week end visit in Athens with Costas Voyatzis, aka Mr Yatzer, to discover the Greek capital’s contemporary twist.
Energetic. Creative. Overwhelming. They are not the first adjectives that would come to mind to describe Athens. Yet they are the ones that the most stylish and connected Greek of the present generation has decided to use to tell to talk about his city. For 10 years Costas Voyatzis the deus ex machina (or the Zeus, if you prefer) of Yatzer , the “online destination” for those who love the best of design, architecture, art but also food and hospitality (not to be missed in this sense , its City Experiences).
A true digital nomad, it’s hard to find him in the same place for more than three days in a row and feels “at home” in Milan, London, Venice, Paris, New York … With a job like his – telling beautiful things, imagining extraordinary places, explaining unique artwork to a global audience – Costas could live anywhere. Still he has no intention of ever leaving Athens. “There is not one reason to love this city,” he explains. “It’s the mix of its intangible components to make it unique. The people, always ready to chat, even with those they do not know. The weather, which is perfect almost all year round. And its history: you can think of what you want on the tourist sites but in a city that has the Parthenon and the Acropolis you breathe a really special atmosphere. ”
Today’s Athens holds these things to us. And unlike its old somewhat weary, chaotic and disorganized self of twenty years ago it now has a new face. “The advent of digital technologies has allowed new generations to have an input in developing better services, and now everything is easier, accessible, close to the rest of the world,” explains Costas.
For him, Athens is the perfect city for those who love to stroll, have fun and fill up with history under “an incredibly blue sky”. It offers unexpected traces of contemporaneity even in its oldest heart. “Think of the plots of walks and stops linking the base of the Propilei in the Acropolis and crossing the area of San Dimitrios Loumbardiaris climb alongside the walls along the Colle Muse until the monument of Filopappo. It is a design built by architect Dimitris Pikionis in the mid-1950s, which perfectly integrates architecture and nature (and awarded the Carlo Scarpa Award for the Garden). Another great route is the Great Promenade, created in 2004 at the Olympics, which has allowed to clear from traffic some beautiful streets (Vas Olgas Street, D. Areopagitou Street, Ap. Pavlou Street, Adrianou Street and part of Ermou Street), realizing the longest pedestrian track (3 kilometers) in Europe ».
For those looking for more minimalistic atmospheres, there is the Museum of the Acropolis, by Bernard Tschumi: a deliberately scarce project that highlights with its sobriety the splendor of the preserved work. And the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Kallithea, just completed: “The splendid, giant park connects Renzo Piano’s building (which includes the foundation, the National Library and the Opera House) with the sea on one side and the city on the other. The view, thanks to the artificial hilltop, is breathtaking: the complex opened last year ».
The recipe for a perfect weekend in Athens, according to Mr Yatzer, provides a stay at the Coco-Mat Hotel, a boutique hotel in Kolonaki. “Not only because it has very comfortable beds (these things count!), but because it says much more about who the Greeks are of any tourist guide.”
Here, in fact, it is not unusual to see the service woman preparing horseshoes in the open kitchen, getting their luggage in the room from the manager or finding the front desk in front of the door with a pile of towels (in the hotel store, all linen it’s on sale). “There they all do,” explains Costas, “is the pragmatism that is now part of the Greeks, especially post-crisis: together, it is better.” The hotel is also a good place to rent bicycles and take a tour of the Kifissia district (one of the most chic and expensive in Athens: not to miss a visit to the small but beautiful design store Forget-me-Not), if not you want to spend an afternoon inebriated with aromas in the Garden Garden. “For those who prefer something more luxurious there is the Great Bretagne on Syntagma Square, a step away from the museums, the Parthenon and the shopping district with the most exclusive shops but also from other beautiful places such as the Monastiraki Flea Market (which is a flea market only on Sundays and where, amongst the majority of stalls selling turkey packs, there are wonderful shops, arming for patience) and the Licabetto hill (going to sunset is an absolute must). “
Not to be missed, according to Costas, is also a visit to the central market (Varvakios Agora) where you can eat everything, well and spending little. For the aperitif, however, the address to be marked is # Frankie_Goes_2_Rehab. “If Frank Sinatra was a bar, it would be so: elegant but cool, sophisticated but effortless. I said an aperitif but actually Frankie is a nice to go to all day, especially if you are under thirty years old and are in love with the sixties but do not want to fall in the vintage mania. The perfect place to take a look at trendy Greeks. “
And all the problems, what did they do? “There are still issues, as in all cities,” Costas says. “But reality often belongs to those who have eyes to look at it and I love beauty and I can not help finding it everywhere in Athens. Of course, I never take the car at peak time (a traumatizing experience, I assure you). And do not walk in the most deserted or abandoned neighborhoods, though there is also charm in those. When I’m tired of the city I can always get on a boat and go to Spetses or Hydra. The equivalent of your “out-door trip” to Athenians. ” Definitely, it’s not bad at all …
“We do not forget that Athens has just been named Emerging Cultural City of the Year 2017 at London’s Leading Culture Destinations (LCD) Award. A way to reward the city’s efforts, despite the objective economic constraints, to keep alive and enhance its cultural, especially contemporary, scene. It is no coincidence that the National Museum of Contemporary Art has hosted the first part of the documentary, and in 2016, after years of nomadic life, has found a stable location in Amvrosiou Frantzi St & Kallirrois Avenue in a former factory. And at the end of this year, the Renzo Piano building of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will become the property of the state. ” Which means that the government not only believes in culture and its essential role in sustainability of the budgets, but is so convinced that it is an investment that is also a risk. “With an archaeological heritage like ours just not enough to turn the city into a wonderful open-air destination. The traces of contemporaneity, combined with the improvement of services, are the key to making Athens, in my eyes, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And I am talking about today, not about our glorious past. ”
For more tips on where to sleep, eat, shop and what to visit in Athens: yatzer.com/city-experiences