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The Plaka:
The Golden Key, Folk 17 and The Trip

These buildings on Panos Street in the Plaka should have a plaque. They were the Golden Key and Folk 17, both in the Plaka during the years of the Junta....

Golden Key, Kryso Kleithi, PlakaThe first time I ever smoked marijuana was in the Plaka outside a little dive called The Golden Key, (Kryso Kleithi), a renown hangout for drug dealers, hippies, artists, poets and American high school students. I think it was my father who encouraged me to spend more time in downtown Athens rather then the American Youth Center where I had been spending my weekends. It turned out to be an excellent suggestion. After that first night in which I sampled marijuana from the legendary traveler who was forever known as "The Colorado Kid," (even though we never saw him or heard from him again), the Golden Key became my hangout. Well, actually the steps outside the Key is where we spent ninety percent of our time. The weather was always nice and you could hear the music just fine. Plus you didn't have to buy a drink. Really, all the action was outside. But every night at about midnight, a cop car would drive up the tiny street and park right in front of the Key. More plainclothes cops then it seemed a Fiat could possibly hold would pile out and walk into the bar. The music would magically stop as soon as they entered the door. They would go from person to person examining their eyes and looking at their papers. (After all, this was during the military junta.) Then they would select a few unlucky customers to go with them, climb back into the car and drive away. Then the music would come back on and it was as if nothing had ever happened. Except for the people they would take away whom you would never see again, or if you did they had their heads shaved and were in the army or if they still had their hair it was the general consensus that they were now narcs.

Folk 17, PlakaThe most amazing thing about it is that even though this happened almost every night, we still hung out there. We never once turned to one another and said "You know what? This place is fucked. Why do we come here?"

Well, we were young. And the place did have its good points. First of all it was where the cool kids from the other American and International schools would go. It was a few short steps from the Acropolis where we would take acid and stand in front of the giant floodlights that lit up the Parthenon in various colors for the evening Sound & Light Show. Then we would wander around the mountainside with our vision so short-circuited that we didn't know what was real rock and what was a hundred foot wall made of strawberry jello. As the end of the night approached we would usually be sitting on the sidewalk drinking from a shared bottle of retsina that cost us all of about twenty cents, before jumping in our respective taxis for the ten kilometer-fifty cent ride home, including tip.

The Odyssey aka The TripDown the street was another club called Folk 17 that was more of a live acoustic music place. The cops would go there first before hitting the Key but because most of the clientele were westerners, they usually left empty handed. Around the corner on Thrasivolou Street was The Odyssey, or as it was known in the sixties "The Trip". This was where my wife Andrea and her friends would hang out. It was more of a disco, though at the time there was no music known as disco and people danced with wild abandon to Hendrix, The Stones, The Doors, and the soundtrack to Woodstock. Later the band Socrates Drank the Conium played their high-energy Hendrix inspired blues here. All three places would be closed by the police for weeks at a time. Somehow they would always re-open.

An excerpt from Matt Barrett's Book Spearfishing in Skatahori

See Matt's Plaka Page

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