Athens and documenta 14

Akropolis as seen from near the top of Mount Lycabettus Akropolis as seen from near the top of Mount Lycabettus From Monday to Friday, I finally visited Athens. I also went to the four major venues of documenta 14. It was incredibly hot down there but I managed to survive. Yet, 36-40 degrees is tough if you are not used to it. The flight to Athens was smooth and calm. I can recommend Aegean. Young airline, new planes, propper food… I arrived at the hotel rather late. The room was clean and had everything that I needed but was far from “modernised” as they claimed on the website. Athens itself was incredibly dirty. The waste management is poor anyways but if the garbage collection is on strike, it becomes a nightmare. Poverty is also an issue in Greece. Two thirds of the shops in the more remote streets were permanently closed and there were quite a few people sleeping in the street. It was less bad than I had expected though and nothing sincere happened.

On Tuesday morning, I visited the Akropolis. Documenta would not open before 10am but I was awake much earlier and wanted to use the time. I do not want to imagine how crowded Athens’ main attraction is during the day. I came there early but it was packed with people already. The entry fee is 20€ but for just 10€ more you get a ticket that is valid for five days and gives you entry to five different archeological sites. You can visit each of them once within those five days. Even if you visit just one other site apart from the Akropolis, it already pays off. The Akropolis is as impressive as you would expect and I can confirm that the copy on the Friedrichsplatz in Kassel is as big as the original. Once I had seen everything, I went to EMST which is the mueseum of modern art in Athens. It is the main site of documenta in Greece. The building is very modern – white cube architecture – and a good place to show modern art. The documenta artworks were interesting and nice. However, I had been to different documenta sites in Kassel already and I could spot several artworks that I had seen in Kassel also (meaning that an artist had painted a series of pictures and half of them were shown in Athens and the other half in Kassel). In the evening, I travelled to Mount Lycabettus. It is a rock right in the center of Athens as well. From the top where a little chapel is seated, you have a nice view over the town. I was waiting for the Akropolis to get illuminated. On the way to the top, I came across many cactus with beautiful yellow blossoms. The hill was obviously reforested and replanted by the people of Athens.

Wednesday started with some city exploration again. I went to the Agora, the ancient city center of Athens. It is astonishing how many butterflies and birds were flying around between the old remains. I later read that Greece is the most species rich country in Europe. I did not expect that this country features such a high biodiversity. From the Agora, I slowly walked to the conservatory to see some documenta artworks again. It was brutally hot so I stopped several times to get something to drink. At the first glance, the conservatory did not look too fancy but inside, it was also a very fascinating building. The art shown was probably the most beautiful and interesting of the documenta in Athens although there were again some familiar objects. Once I had seen everything, I went back to the hotel to take a break. Later that day, I went to see the remaining two main documenta sites. They were hard to find and not in the prettiest neighborhoods. Again, nice artwork – some unique stuff but also lots of similarities to Kassel. I would not recommend people to travel to Athens just for the documenta alone. Unless you have never been to Athens yet, it is not worth it to go there just for the art. You can see many similar artwork in Kassel. Also, the documenta is not very popular in Athens (they call it crapumenta) and the museums were rather empty. There is much more flair in Kassel. In the evening, I had some nice souvlaki somewhere in the old town.

The day before the departure was particularly hot. I decided to swap the t-shirt for a muscle shirt which proved to be a bad idea. Too much sun for my shoulders which are not used to it. I went down to the harbour. It was not as pretty as I had expected and there were still tons of garbage everywhere despite the strike being over. I even saw a rat… It was a rather nasty experience. In the afternoon, I walked around in the central park for a while but once I realised that my shoulders did not like the sun, I went back to the hotel. Once the sun had vanished, I went for a last walk without my camera. I sat down at Syntagma-square for a while and watched the people enjoying the evening.

The receptionist at the hotel had been kind enough to call a taxi for me so the way back to the airport was nice and easy. I had to leave so early in the morning that public transportation was no option.