Anafiotika, the Hidden Island of Athens

Visitors to Athens – and even some Athenians – often overlook the tiny, scenic neighborhood of Anafiotika tucked above the Plaka, just below the Acropolis, one that is perhaps best seen in the Spring and at the end of summer, just before the autumn begins, like taking an escape to an island when the tourists have left.

With patches of cool and quiet, Anafiotika is a hideaway for about 60 residents who want the slow life. It was built in the 19th-Century by workers from the tiny island of Anafi in the Cyclades, which has population of less than 300 people now, but retains the charm of simple, whitewashed buildings and a symbol of a Greece that is faraway for many, but an irresistible lure of Bougainvillea flowers, clay pots, and roaming cats sitting in the sun.

The first two inhabitants were G. Damigos, carpenter and M. Sigalas, construction workers. Soon, workers from other Cycladic islands also started to arrive there, to work as carpenters or even stone and marble workers, in a further buildings reconstruction period in Athens, but also in the following era after the end of the reign of King Otto.

In 1922, immigrants from Minor East also established here, altering the population that was up to that time only from Cycladic islands. In 1950, part of this neighborhood was destroyed for archeologic research and in 1970 the state started to buy the houses. There are only about 45 houses remaining, while the little streets from Stratonos to the Acropolis rock are still unnamed and the houses are referred to as “Anafiotika 1”, “Anafiotika 2” etc.

The neighborhood has small, cubic houses and narrow streets that that often end up to ladders or even dead-ends at terraces, places to sit and enjoy the night view of the city. As one travel site put it: “In this oasis of tranquility, nestled beneath the walls of the Acropolis, the intensity of Athens seems miles away.”

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(Reused by permission of Southeast European Times,