A historically radical neighbourhood in Athens, Greece – Exarcheia, is becoming more and more of a tourist hostpot with one resident claiming it is in danger of becoming exactly like Disneyland.
Speaking to Politico, resident Niki, 36, believes the neighbourhood is altering its character, as it used to be “a place of fermentation and exchange of ideas from all parts of the society: students, workers and immigrants.”
She added: “It’s becoming like Disneyland with tourists.”
Travel and review website, Time Out, described the construction of a new metro station in the central square of Exarcheia as a “turning point”, with many fearing the spirit of the neighbourhood may be eradicated.
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Exarcheia has long been a symbol of opposition to the establishment. In 1973, the Athens Polytechnic uprising took place, when students demonstrating against the dictatorship were met with a tank, killing 24.
More recently in 2008, violent riots exploded here, with residents setting police cars alight in anger at the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy.
Leaflets are scattered along street alleyways labelled “stop gentrification” and “tourists go home”, as reported in Le Monde. Residents have been opposing the development of seasonal rentals for many years but it is becoming a hot-spot for foreign investors.
Today, pre-war townhouses and newer apartment buildings line the streets both creating a sense of community and tradition. There are graffiti tours of the area and coffee shops on every street corner. A weekly farmer’s market runs the length of Kallidromiou Street every Saturday selling fresh vegetables and fruit. Exarcheia Square is the hub of the neighbourhood’s activity and is surrounded by little side streets bustling with life.
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Politico reports even before preparations for the metro, a radical transformation of Exarcheia’s character had begun.
Resident, Nikos Papakostas, 40, said: “It is obvious the neighborhood is changing in a violent way. This is a vendetta that the PM started before the elections. Since then, he’s behaving punitively towards the locals.”
The government, however, want to “clean up” the area and make it habitable.
Although, for some, gentrification has been a positive development, as the neighborhood has become increasingly popular with tourists who are looking for a different experience in Athens.
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