Earlier this week, we had some extremely stormy weather in Athens, and at last the ugly, functional-but-nothing-else architecture of the city comes into its own. Anyone who has flown in to land at Athens airport knows what I mean. The city looks from above like a giant took a handful of buildings and threw them around with joyful abandon to see where they’d land. Up until quite recently, the flats built here came in one style – locally referred to as the box with a corridor. They are universally made of concrete.
Which when the 12 Beaufort winds hit, proved to be a fabulous idea. Anywhere else and roofs would have caved in, houses ripped from their foundations and walls collapsed. Not here though. Through the howling wind and the rain, the ugly housing of Athens proudly stood its ground.
That’s not to say damage wasn’t done. Outdoor shades were torn from their awnings and sent on fantastical journeys across the city, some ending up wrapped around electricity wires and cutting off the power. And trees blew over. Lots of trees. Even downtown. On Tuesday morning I was on my way to Maroussi on the train when I spotted a tree that had blown clean over, its roots desolately sticking out of the ground as it lay across a child’s playground. What a sad end, I thought, to have survived growing so perilously close to a train station, and overseen so many children who had come to the park to play, grew up and then stopped turning up, to provide shade in the blistering summer to a passing cat, just to end up blown out of the ground by the wind.
Anyway, on my way back home the tree had already been taken apart and by yesterday just the stump was left. I remember thinking it was a remarkably efficient operation, until the news later reported that enterprising Athenians had taken advantage of the blown over trees to help themselves to some free firewood.
Athens. You’ve gotta love it!