Infinite Agora

Flea Market

By traversing two streets leading directly from Athens mainsquare - Syntagma (or Constitution) Square, one may reach Monastiraki. The Flea Market at Monastiraki draws visitors eager to sample anything from the modern to the ancient, all in less than one square mile.

Monastiraki is an old part of Athens which nestles under the ancient Acropolis, and leads from The Plaka area directly beneath the ancient site. Monastiraki Square is the hub of life around here and the main street leading off takes one to narrow streets with a thousand artifacts to buy and sell. On one corner of the square is a relic of the Turkish occupation, the Mosque, minus minaret, built by an Athenian Moslem, Tzisterakis in 1759.

The main shopping streets here are Pandrossou and Ifaistou, the latter leading off into other streets with equal fascination for shoppers. The Flea market usually is best on Sundays, but any day of the week has its bustle and interest due to the variety of goods sold here. The end of Ermou Street, one of Athens main shopping streets which begins in Syntagma Square, tends to run into the more mundane in these parts with shops selling wire fencing, office furniture and ironmongery, a far cry from the more elegant boutiques at its outset.

Anything from Nazi uniforms to Mickey Mouse clocks to mock Roman helmets and old money, can be found in these narrow alleyways and streets, souvenirs galore, some of them very good bargains, set among jewellers, and furniture stores with pine cabinets stacked high among semi-antiques. Ceramics, terracotta and marbleware, old chess sets and new ones made of silver, marble and brass, old copper pans and bronze hearth sets, jostle with chandeliers and phonographs, anything from souvenirs, to junk, to antiques.

Bargaining is very acceptable here as it is throughout Greece, and it can be good fun too. The poet Byron stayed in Psiri, an up-and-coming area part scruffy and part modern, at No 11 Ag.Theklas Street. The Makris family showed the famous libertine hospitality, and their daughter Teresa was the subject of his Maid of Athens. The Greeks adore Byron, seeing him as one of the heroes of the War of Independence, he did much to help them gain support so that they could throw off the shackles of Ottoman rule.

Monastiraki shows a lot that is Greek, in its shopping habits and tradesmen, its people and variety. It hasnt changed very much in centuries, (the square used to have other names) but its the little Monastery, the Pantanassa or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin, the suffix aki a mere caress - it means something small. A visit will show you a lot of the capital and its people, its mixture of old and new, a fascination that will keep you busy and guessing, and inevitably - shopping.

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