Athenian chara, (in Greek letters – χαρά) is a term expressing joy, or liveliness. Joy, gladness.
Its infectious and its everywhere. Its bright and loud and beautiful. We were staying in the midst of it all, with the gorgeously lit Parthenon in the distance, sitting atop a hill, peering down on our newfound Athenian chara.
The city was buzzing; Monastiráki was an open field of joyfulness everywhere that North Americans only know during Christmas holidays. The centre of the square is ripped open in a gaping glass block for a look-see into the sewage system ruins of ancient Athens. Look up and you can see a centuries old mosque from the Ottoman Empire era that now houses multiple little flea market shops. Displayed around are brightly coloured, wooden key chain dildos.
Look to the left from the old mosque and there it is again – the glowing orange diadem that we couldn’t wait to get to next morning! The smell of coffee, the chatter of a thousand people basking in the night’s regular festivities, the joyous aroma of melting fat cooking through layers of lamb, the shisha bars with their outpouring of colourful, enticing fruit smokes…
…and the street art. Oh, the amazing, incredible street art absolutely packed onto every single surface all around. There are whole surfaces of buildings, to every little bankrupt store, shuttered close. There’s an explosion of gurgling artistic dialogue in the tiniest walkways of Monastiráki that just wraps you up and holds you tight, hypnotising and magical.
Pastry shops display the most colourful pieces of sugar and cream combinations you can dream of… try everything from the street vendor’s boureka to Attika’s cream-filled, cannoli-slash-baklava-reminiscent pastries. Halal Indian restaurants playing Bollywood music, wooden furniture shops, largest children’s toy store, antique store with the most handsome red fridge from the 80’s, Islamic Art museum tucked away in a European-style architectural building, deep fried calamari gyros and the friendliest stray dogs to roam the continent!
There’s just no end to what these nooks and crannies in Athens have to offer… you can keep visiting and visiting, but we’re willing to bet Athens will keep opening up to surprise you with delectable new tidbits each time.