Surrounding Kypseli is the Pedion Areos Park, the student area of Exarchia, Victoria Square, Patission and Galatsi, most of which few tourists visit and what they have heard about them might make them places to avoid. But with the exception of a couple trouble spots which are easily avoided you are probably not risking your life by visiting these places:
Kypseli is bordered by Pedion Areos, the largest park in Athens and formerly the military parade grounds when the Greek army did stuff like that. Up until recently it was a haven for drug addicts but they have moved on to the Polytechnion to take advantage of the government amnesty in that area. Now you can walk the park and not fear for your
life and even see old men who hang out on sunny days playing backgammon and talking about the good old days. The park is currently going through an extreme makeover and if it ends up looking anything like the architects drawings, it should be one of the best in Athens with ponds and streams and more walking trails than it has now. The park has two enormous statues, one of Athina and the other of King Constantine, a dubious character whose inept leadership cost Greece the city of Smyrna and brought about what
is known as the Asia Minor Disaster. It was followed by the exchange of populations that turned Athens into the refugee-filled city it still is to this day and was the end of the Christian presence in Asia Minor. After the catastrophe the king was forced to abdicate and forced into exile while many of the officers and politicians who supported him were found guilty of treason and executed. Why there is a statue of him is beyond me but I suppose someone wanted to appease the anti-Venizelists
royalists who still exist in some parallel universe.
At the bottom of Pedion Areos in the area known as Green Park for the popular old cafe that was in the process of being restored until for some reason they gave up, is the important transportation hub of the orange KTEL Attika buses which leave every half hour or so to places like Rafina, Marathon, Sounion, Lavrion and other towns on the Attiki
pennisula. Most trolleys going down Panepistimiou Street pass within a block of here and the 2, 4 and 9 to Platia Kypseli stop here as well. The west side of Mavromation Street where most of the buses are, also has a number of beautiful old buildings, some restored and some falling down. Among these buildings is the rear of the University of Economics. At the southwest corner of the park is tiny Egypt Square (Platia Egypto) a pretty non-descript place though it hides one of Athens' largest underground parking
garages, usually about 80% empty. It used to be a nice little tree-shaded square not so long ago but like other squares, some Athens mayor's love of cement won over common sense and now it looks like a bus stop with a few little bushes. Nearby is Andrea's favorite roast chestnut and corn seller where we usually stop to get something to eat if we are waiting for the bus. Across Alexandras Avenue is the bus station for Thessaloniki, and a block or so up Alexandras are two notable places, the elegant Park
Hotel, and Ennea Ogdoa at #40 where the ageless bouzouki great Christos Nikolopoulos plays every Friday and Saturday during the winter. This is considered the borderline of Exarchia, center of youth unrest.
If you walk down Heydin Street from Mavromataion Street which is the western border of the park you will come right to Platia Victoria and the ISAP Electric Railway station, part of the Athens Metro System. The square is one of the more popular locations for African and Eastern venders who set up shop on the pavement, selling handbags, CDs, DVDs,
and many other items until the police patrols pass by and they all run to the sidestreet with their goods wrapped in a big sheet, looking like Santa's helpers after affirmative action. When the police leave they return and set up shop again. Platia Victoria has several nice cafes and restaurants, the best probably being To Ouzeri Tou Laki, a tiny fish restaurant at the end of Elpidos, a small pedestrian street that is off the square. Also in the neighborhood are a couple of the best live rock clubs in
Athens, Kitaro on Archanon and Iperiou streets, and Rodeo at 34 Heydon. You will know you are near Victoria by the yellow balls on the side of the streets leading to the square which actually work well in keeping cars from parking there. Why they don't put them on every street in Athens I don't know. You probably don't want to walk up Archanon too far. Though there is a spectacular church called Agios Pendelimon a few blocks up, the area is considered one of the few dangerous places in Athens. Not that you will
be murdered or robbed while walking up the street or anything. Its just an area where immigrant gangs fight each other over turf, girlfriends, ethnic differences and whatever, and like Exarchia, it is one of the places that foreigners are told to avoid. But unlike Exarchia which has some great restaurants, ouzeries, cafes and the best CD and used record shops in Athens, there is no good reason for any tourist to go to Agios Pandelimon.
The western border of Kypseli is Patission Street which is also known as 28th of October Street, which was the day the Greeks refused to let the Italians occupy the country, also known as Ochi Day. This important road which begins on Panapistimiou street and is actually an extension of Aeolou Street is notable
for a few things. First you have a view of the Acropolis pretty much as far as you go. It also passes the Athens Polytechnic University the location of the 1973 student rebellions which ended on Nov 17th with a Greek army tank crashing through the gates, which have been locked ever since. It was the home-base in December of 2008 for the 'anarchists' who took advantage of a law passed after November 17th that made it illegal for police to enter the campus. They used it to launch attacks against
small shops, banks, police, McDonalds, Starbucks, firetrucks, traffic lights, Christmas trees, and any poor guy who happened to be driving through the area at the wrong time whose car was needed in the barricades. They would then retreat back to the campus, secure in the knowledge that they were protected by law. Meanwhile they trashed the campus, wrote graffiti all over the buildings, held the work of art students hostage, ransacked files and threatened to burn the whole thing down if anyone dared mess
with them. Not the most glorious period of Greek democracy and one not even worth mentioning except the Polytechnic is right next to the National Archaeological Museum(photo), perhaps the best in Europe. Though demonstrations often originate in this area for the most part they are peaceful and are easily avoided since with any demonstration there will be a noticeable absence of buses and traffic going down Patission street. Check out the Rockwood Bar and restaurant right next to the museum which
is as close as you will find to an American Saloon in Athens. They have live music on Wednesdays. Across the street is the Museum Internet Cafe. In the back of the Museum is the world's largest collection of ancient autographs and inscriptions in the Epigraphical Museum.
Past the museum, and the very nice cafe there in the park, Patission continues as a commercial street with a large variety of shops of all kinds, fast food restaurants, a few small department stores like Zara, Kotsobolos Electronics, Marks and Spencer, the Hondos Center and a Starbucks in an impressive old neo-classical mansion. Its just past
the Marks and Spencer that you turn diagonaly right to get to Fokionos Negri. If you continue down Patission you will come to Platia Amerikis on the left and the former location of the Athens Bowling Alley, awaiting new ownership someday hopefully. On the right side of the street is another park which the Athens Municipality ripped out all the trees so they could build a parking garage (photo), sparking more demonstrations and battles with the police. Once again, just as with the Demotiki Agora members
of the community occupied the park, planted trees where they had been ripped up, and began a series of concerts, demonstrations and petitions while hanging posters all over the city to make all of Kypseli aware of the mayor's attempt to destroy what little green space remains in the neighborhood. While the mayor has used the press to rant and rave that his plans for a parking garage were misunderstood and that the opposition is being led by outside agitators, you would have a hard time finding anyone
in Kypseli who is for the parking garage. In fact the mayor's popularity in Kypseli is somewhere around George Bush's at the height of the Iraq war. In the meantime a small cafe has sprung up in the park and much of the city has now taken the side of the protesters. It will be interesting to see whether the Mayor accepts the will of the people or uses the police to protect the bulldozers.
Beyond the park you eventually come to Galatsi, an area similar to Kypseli though from here you start getting into areas like Nea Philadelphia and Ano Patissia which are further from the center and less congested. A couple places worth mentioning in Galatsi are Spiros and Andonis, a small taverna on Gavrilidou street off Patission Street, and Kibubu, a lively rock and roll bar on Galatsiou Avenue.