Exarchia is one of the most lively and heavily politicised neighbourhoods in Athens. Its iconic square is a gathering point for young people and various sub- and counter-culture groups – some with distinctively radical leftist or anarchistic views. Exarchia is the home to the National Technical University of Athens (Polytechneion) where, in November 1973, students took to the streets sparking protests that would ultimately lead to the fall of the military junta that had repressively ruled the country since 1967. Since the 1980’s Exarchia has been confronting an on-going drug-trafficking problem, despite the efforts of concerned citizens and groups to fight it.
The neighbourhood gained international attention when local rioting broke out following the 2008 death of Alexis Gregoropoulos, a 15-year old student shot dead by a police special guard unit in the vicinity. Soon these Griots, as these Greek riots came to be known, quickly spread to the whole of Athens and the country beyond. They became a catalyst for a wave of occupations and served as a collective expression of discontent.
They went out onto the loft’s terrace. Up there it was windier and the air more acrid with smoke; he coughed, he teared. The other neared from behind, he could feel his warm breath against his neck. “Your generation fucked us”, he said to himself. “We will die (with the fear of) knowing that we didn’t experience what we think you did back in ’68, and no matter how hard we try, everything do turns to farce”.
In the distance, the Acropolis, all lit-up, hovered over the depressing darkness of the city like a dazzling space craft from a long-lost civilisation. He recalled a Chinese friend asking: "What’s it like to live in its shadow?". ";Heavy, but only when you notice, which is rarely".
Tonight it was hard to ignore and almost unbearable to look at. Her luminous beauty, her serene indifference made him ache. He turned to the other: "What if we burnt her too?". Τhe guy sniggered. "What if we started from scratch?".
In the distance, some ambulance or fire truck siren began to wail. From the rooftops, dogs barked with rage.