EscapeIf one has decided to find the ideal place to live in the big city (opposite the country or the small town) and should consider a balance between economic possibilities and questions of quality of life, then the careerist will most likely become a conurbation in Northern Europe and accepting high rents, pressure to achieve, efficiency optimization, winter cold and other chicanes. The careerist will even sugarcoat the rather bad quality of life in London, Paris, or Munich, because he believes that he has found exactly what everybody is supposed to looking for, namely the fulfillment of capitalist promises of happiness. For non-believers (like myself) such cities offer only what Berlin expects in the coming years: a finished, boring end state, in which every thing, every cultural asset and every human has its place, according to its usability in the business city center, in the hipster neighborhood, in the precariat ghetto, or in the boring suburban family home settlement. And also in Berlin it’s not at all, as many believe, that there is always something new despite or even because of the gentrification. I do not know a single area in the city today, where there are cheap rents for low-income earners, affordable rehearsal rooms and studios, or unused industrial skins for experiments. 9 out of 10 startups fail, i.a. also because of too high additional costs, and in cultural terms, almost all formerly interesting locations have shut down or work behind pseudo-alternative facades as a commercial enterprise. For many people from my area the situation have become too stupid in recent years, they have moved away. Because of their precarious situation, some people have no choice between stay or leave. After the 3rd rent-increase, they have to get out of the apartment, and before you go into the boring and seperated destricts on the outskirts of town, you began to look for alternatives. In the search for another city, thanks to the EU, Schengen and a wide range of mobility, you are no longer confined to your own small national state, there are also places of interest elsewhere. Of course capitalism has not stopped there too, and so it is that former promising southern European cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon have already reached a hopelessly advanced stage of development, which leaves hardly any potential for freerooms and experiments. Whoever is looking only for a little bit in these aspects, is quick to encounter Athens.
Reasons for AthensAthens is said to be “the new Berlin” (as so many other cities). This was the title of the german ZEIT MAGAZINE two years ago, and the story has always appeared in the media, recently with an update article in the swiss news magazine NZZ. This is mainly due to the fact that due to the favorable dwellings (and other freedoms) the city acts as a magnet for artists and adventurers, comparable to Berlin in the 1980s and 1990s. But with this the story ends, because Athens is completely different. In Athens there is not only a state of incomplete condition due to economic backwardness, but there are also historical and cultural causes. Anarchy is a Greek word and (in contrast to the rest of the world) often positively occupied, even in bourgeois society. The emancipation of the individual (and of the family) towards the (state)system is identity forming. That is why the way in which the crises are coped, follows another logic than in other european countries, as the astonishing election victory of SYRIZA already have foreshadowed. And even after a 10-year crisis (and the now widespread disappointment of SYRIZA), the people are not lethargic or resistant, on the contrary, new alternative lives arise in many ways. At the moment, Athens is becoming something like the anti-capital of the capitalist crisis, or as a Neo-Athenian in the NZZ article says very fitting: “Athens is the quintessence that something new must come, a mirror of our circumstances and a springboard to something we do not yet know.”
LivabilityThe longing for alternatives to capitalism and a favorable housing space are already sufficient reasons for some to go to Athens. But there are also striking social, economic and practical features which stand out Athens positively from many cities in the world, for example:
- Relatively low social disparity
- High educational standard
- Low level of crime
- Comparatively low cost of living
- Balance between work and life
- Good climate
- Sea, islands and mountains
In 2017 the Bertelsmann Foundation called Greece the tail end of social inequality in Europe, while Germany shines in seventh place. Strange, because I would even go so far and claim that in reality exactly the opposite is true. Here are some examples: In Athens, there are no ghettos and no high-rise or prefabricated housing estates, even if the apartment houses for foreigners sometimes seem so, but a large part of the population lives relatively equally side by side – the discrepancy to Germany, France or England is in any case obvious and blatant. Of course, there are also villa areas, but there are no gated communities, as in many other countries. Parts of the city center, the expensive banking and business district in other cities, are dominated by migrants in Athens because there has been an increase in vacancy rates and therefore cheap apartments since the 1990s. For the former residents it was too loud, uncomfortable and narrow, who could afford moved to exposed areas on the outskirts, where nowadays houses and villas are. These days the center of Athens belongs to everybody, same as the adjacent neighborhoods.
Apart from economic and social aspects, the spatial environment and climate also provide some arguments for Athens. The type of building is of course a matter of taste or a question of style. Athens contrasts the morbid aesthetics of the gray-white sea of houses with colorful streets, chaotic and winding, it goes uphill and downhill, sometimes it is flat like Berlin. Although the narrow development is impractical in terms of traffic, it offers protection from the sun in summer and cool north winds in winter. There are only a few parks, but many evergreen trees and other plantings and in between small and cozy places with cafes and taverns.