Archive for the ‘Athens’ Category

Designing cities for people not developers

April 10, 2019

What I have seen and spent what seems to be a lifetime fighting, is corrupt town halls pandering to greedy developers, fast bucks, palms greased, with result every town looks the same, the same corporate chains dominate the town centre, the same corporate chains find in every ghastly shopping centre.

This neither brings in visitors nor is popular with locals who see familiar landmarks destroyed, lose their sense of place, money is drained out of the local economy, then large chains close, go bust, expanded on debt, leaving behind desolation, as we have seen with BHS, House of Fraser, Debenhams and many other zombie companies kept afloat by their banks.

Corrupt town planners who have not a clue what constitutes good town centre planning or how local economies function love big development. Big development lots of money sloshing around, some of which finds its way into the wrong pockets.

A few examples illustrates failure of good town centre design and planning.

Sincil Street runs parallel to the High Street in Lincoln. A street of Victorian buildings, local indie businesses, or was. Up until a few years ago, Sincil Street between the hours of ten in the morning and four in the afternoon was busier than the High Street, the High Street the same corporate chains find anywhere and everywhere. Now Sincil Street is being destroyed, the local council acting in cahoots with the local coop, local businesses driven out, chains brought in, Victorian building destroyed.

Enter the picture Lincoln BIG and Visit Lincoln. Both are hyping the chains, it gets worse Visit Lincoln being paid to do so.

Many towns now have businesses development groups, accountable to no one, act for and controlled by big businesses, not one vote per business, based upon the size of local business tax.

Experience Guildford employs Town Rangers, no one knows what purpose they serve other than to deliver a glossy A4 newssheet to local businesses which goes straight in the bin. They also subsidise the town centre car parks at Christmas, the one time of the year when the car parks are full to overflowing.

Latest examples of Lincoln BIG, take selfies and post on instagram, install an app that has access to data on phone and if use default facebook log in access to facebook data and that of friends

Ask any local businesses what is killing them. High rents, high local business taxes. The local coop owns the properties hikes the rents, Lincoln BIG exacts a levy on top of the local business taxes. Local businesses see no benefits.

Visit Lincoln masquerades as a tourism body, acts as a quasi-PR agency, is paid to hype the corporate chains moving into and destroying the character of Sincil Street.

Fake-Left Guardian had an article describing the dire state of Sheffield. The local council responded with eight tweets, big development taking place, corporate chains listed, same chains find anywhere. The same Sheffield City Council that destroyed thousands if not tens of thousands of street trees, harassed and criminalised protesters.

Empty two-coach Northern Fail train Lincoln to Sheffield, hour and twenty minutes only starts to fill as nears Sheffield passing through small towns like Worksop, making the point, not worth visiting for corporate chains find anywhere.

One of the chains mentioned, 200 Degrees, a small coffee chain serving mediocre coffee, the same chain hyped by Visit Lincoln and Lincoln BIG.

Oh the irony, when Sheffield has a thriving coffee scene and 200 Degrees empty.

In Sheffield Union St, coffee shop, co-working space, pop up kitchen, community hub located in an occupied building, Now Then, an interesting magazine, supported by local community and local businesses, published by a not-for-profit.

Farnborough destroyed half its town centre for a superstore, an estate of social houses surrounded a grassy green destroyed for the car park. A 17th century inn destroyed for a drive-thru McDonald’s.

Wastegate, chain eateries and a superstore on the edge of Aldershot town centre, destroyed the town centre now boarded-up retail units and the chain eateries pulling out from Wastegate.

In the centre of Guildford Tunsgate Quarter, a sterile shopping centre, boarded-up units, same crap cooperate chains find in every ghastly shopping centre across the country, devoid of people. The only use, provides a handy short cut. One of the crap corporate chains Cosy Club, a fake 1930s bar, so fake a Monty Python parody of fake, Visit Guildford promoted on twitter over a dozen times.

Contrast with North Laine in Brighton, three long streets, similar Victorian street scene as Sincil Street in Lincoln, local indie businesses, butcher, baker cheesemonger, bookshops, music shops, coffee shops, restaurants, worker coops, not a chain in sight, always busy.

When all places look the same they become soul destroying, we lose our sense of place, alienation sets in.

We need to green our cities, protect our existing green spaces.

In Farnborough they are destroying the remaining green space for development, in Sheffield tens of thousands of street trees have been cut down.

City centres should be pedestrianised, delivery vehicles park on the periphery, deliver by hand cart and trolley.

Cities generate data, the data should be used as a common good. Citizens may consent to access to their data receiving benefits in return, the data randomised and made available to local businesses.

The city should support and encourage local businesses and local coops, encourage to network with each other

Citizens need to seize control of their local Town Halls, open to public participation, network with other citizen-controlled Town Halls. No more one party states.

There is not a conflict with locals and tourists. There is only conflict when lose businesses serving locals and replace with businesses selling overpriced tourist tat, when AirBnB moves in, rents are hiked, but that is a problem of over-tourism lack of regulation, rather than tourism per se.

At the time of the English Civil War, the Diggers asked the question: who owns the space? The space they were asking of was land, who owns the land?

They saw God created Man and Woman as equal, the land was owned by everyone and no one, it was a common wealth. 

The question is as pertinent today. Who owns the space, who owns the public parks, public space, the empty buildings, the data we generate?

Space is not static, something to be owned. It is dynamic, only has meaning if used, lived on, shared, enjoyed. Derelict buildings we must occupy, put to use on behalf of the community, fight the loss of community space.

Michalis Karagiannis latte art champion

November 18, 2018

Congratulations to Michalis Karagiannis earlier this month in Brazil No 2 World Latte Art Champion.

I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Michalis Karagiannis end of last month in Athens when he walked into Manor House with a little dog.

I asked and he kindly made me a cappuccino.

He apologised for not being able to stay and chat, but had to go home to practice for Brazil.

He did though before leaving show me the art he was going to do, inspirations from ancient Athens.

At the World Latte Art Championship in Brazil he came No 2.

This is the second year running for Michalis Karagiannis to come No 2 in the World Championship. No mean achievement.

The film footage of the event is very poor, cannot see what is happening, nor do they show the final result.

Aeropress cold dripped coffee at Coviar

November 1, 2018

What I refer to as Japanese iced filter, made using pour over for example V60 or Chemex, half the water as hot water poured from a swan-necked kettle, the other half ice in a carafe which instantly chills the hot coffee as it drips through, in Athens is known as cold dropped coffee. Not to be confused with a cold drip tower, where ice cold water drips through a bed of coffee at one drop a second.

In Coviar,  Christos Loukakis demonstrated a different method using an Aeropress.

The ice cold coffee poured into a glass containing ice, cloudy.

Why an Aeropress, why cloudy?

With the V60 it will not be cloudy, will be brighter. The Aeropress favoured as the cold coffee has more body.

In England, Aeropress rarely seen. Even less so in use. Are though starting to see more filter coffee.

In Athens Aeropress in use all the time, and for tea not coffee.

What is is called cold dripped coffee quite common.

Ελληνικα Καλουδια – Ellinika Kaloudia grocery store

October 31, 2018

Ελληνικα Καλουδια, Ellinika Kaloudia, a lovely little deli behind the Acropolis Museum.

I picked up green olive oil, first of the season from Crete, regarded as the highest quality olive oil. Only one bottle left.  Next of the new season olive oil to arrive will be from  the Peloponnese

Nearby Little Tree, bookshop and coffee shop, books, food, coffee, craft beer.

 

Foyer espresso bar

October 30, 2018

Were it not for my walking into a shop selling dried fruit and nuts I would have walked past Foyer espresso bar without giving a second glance. One of many coffee shops. Had I given more than a second glance, I would have noticed a board offering guest coffee from one of the top roasteries in Europe.

The owner suggested, if I wished for a coffee, pop next door. I said no, I was on my way to Taf.

He agreed, Taf excellent coffee. Then I do not know who was the more surprised, me when he wrote out a list of coffee shops worth visiting, or he when I said I already had and added to his list.

He said he owned the coffee shop next door.

I said I would look in, but that was all I was gong to do as I was on my way to Taf, until I saw what they were serving, Standart on sale (the only place I have seen Standart on sale). The guest coffee they were sourcing from some of the best coffee roasteries in Europe.

I stayed and had a coffee. An excellent cappuccino.

I was then offered a V60 to try. A single origin from Ethiopia. Again excellent.

On leaving, a visit to second floor toilet, I passed through a lounge on the first floor, with boards on the stairs giving more information on the guest coffee.

Not in a pleasant location, on a very busy main road. On the other hand, for the coffee shop a good location for passing trade with university nearby.

On leaving, I popped back into the little shop and thanked the owner for his recommendation and for excellent coffee.

As I was leaving, a customer with Coffee Island takeaway in her hand. A suggestion. If pour down the drain, we will offer you a free coffee. If like, please come back, bring your friends.

Lycabettus Hill

October 30, 2018

Each time I pass by or visit Taresso coffee shop, I think having got this far, I ought to climb Lycabettus Hill. But never go so far as to climb.

Today I decided to climb, even though late in the afternoon.

First, a flight of steps to climb.

Then a dead end. I followed the road around and found myself at St George Lycabettus Hotel. This was where in 2013, Paulo Coelho held a press conference and then at night hosted a party.

Outside the hotel, a path leads up through the lower wooded slops of Lycabettus Hill. A strange wood, pine trees and prickly pear cactus.

Views over Athens unfold as climb up through the wood.

Eventually pass through the wood, now a rocky outcrop to climb with prickly pear cactus.

At the top a church.

I was surprised by the number of people, then realised, there to watch the sun go down.

 

Riot by black bloc

October 30, 2018

Following protest by students, a riot by black bloc.

It materialised out of nowhere and as rapidly dispersed.  Then Athens returned to normality.

First ATM machines were smashed, then traffic lights, rocks and bombs thrown, bins dragged into the middle of the street ad set ablaze.

Why the riot I do not know. There certainly was a lot of anger and seemingly mindless violence. This a country that has been brutally destroyed by EU. When I tell people the garbage that is spouted by supporters of EU in England they start laughing.

Report from Reuters false on several counts

  • not Syntagma
  • no riot police
  • no tear gas
  • no journalists
  • not students

I was in the middle of it. There were no riot police. They held back. It was not students, it was black bloc.

Student protest against education reforms

October 30, 2018

A big rally in Athens against changes to university entrance requirements.

One student said it would make it much harder to get into university.

If look to England, fourth rate universities bums on seats businesses churning out graduates with worthless degrees, then maybe no bad thing.

On the other hand, with youth unemployment at 60%, no future thanks to EU, then maybe not so good.

The protest was aimed at the government not the EU.

Protest was then followed by a riot by black bloc. It was not a riot by the students as incorrectly reported by Reuters.

Cappuccino at The Underdog

October 28, 2018

As always, excellent cappuccino, interesting conversation, at The Underdog.

— to be continued —

Diateichisma ancient city wall 4th century BC

October 28, 2018

Diateichisma ancient city wall built end of 4th century BC to defend Athens against the  Macedonians.

 

— to be continued —