Wednesday, 3 September 2014

History of Lycabettus -Dexameni and St George Lycabettus Hotel (Part 1)

    Etymologically according to Artemidorus, the word Lycabettus refers to the Greek word for twilight (Lyki). According to Greek mythology , Lycabettus Hill was born when goddess Athena, frightened because Agraulus, Erse and Pandrosus disobeyed her orders and secretly looked at Erichtheon, threw down the rock which she had picked from Mount Penteli to use for improving the fortification of the Acropolis.

While Plato and Xenophon maintained that River Iridanus sprang from Lycabettus Hill and the hill was covered with vegetation , other sources have suggested that that it was rocky and barren.

The chapel of St. George at the top of the hill was only built in the 1830’s when Athens became the capital of the Greek nation-state, whilst the smaller chapel of St. Isidoros was a little earlier carved out inside a rock.

Full Moon and St George Lycabettus chapel
  Dexameni square (Dexameni meaning reservoir) was created in 1870, but acquired its definite shape and profile towards the end of the century when streets Fokylidou and Glykonos were also opened.

  The area changed much in subsequent decades. Kolonaki is today one of the most elegant and lively areas of Athens with a great density of refined restaurants and elegant shops. At the beginning of the 20th century  however there was only one tavern in the still unpaved Anagnostopoulou street. From 1900 onwards the atmosphere had taken a new hew as the ‘kafeneio’ (cafe) on the square, began to be increasingly frequented by intellectuals. Already from the 19th century the neighbouring  Kolonaki quarter, further down towards the elegant  Vassilisis Sofias avenue and the grounds of the Royal Palace (now Greek Parliament) had started to become an area of expensive residence and recreation.

  During the early 20th century Dexameni and Lycabettus were referred to by Athenians as the Montmartre of Athens and also in 1900 the café chantant named Paradeisos (Paradise) was catching the affection and the money of the ‘bon viveurs’ of the capital.

(Paradeisos Cafe advertisment-

For several decades during the beginning of the 20th century, in the two cafés of the square , successive generations of writers, artists, philosophers and intellectuals in general, met and considered their mission to solve the problems of the world. Both places hosted lively discussions about politics, literature, language art and poetry. The circle constantly expanded until the end of the 30’s and Dexameni became one of the most important and renowned cultural centers in the whole of Greece.

  Greek society was changing  fast , new ideas were introduced, new traditions in politics were being forged , new economic opportunities appeared and Dexameni started to attract entrepreneurs and investors.

  The music café  Paradeisos operated for a number of years hosting musicians and dancers and attracting customers from the wealthier suburbs around the capital. It closed down eventually only to re-open later after it was purchased by one of the early entrepreneurs in the area , Michalis Mantzavelakis , who refurbished it and turned into a restaurant and hall of entertainment.

  Since the opening of Paradeisos in Dexameni, revelers, intellectuals and artists congregated in greater numbers. Cafes multiplied and several more recreation spots
Urbanisation was accompanied by new patterns of entertainment such as cinema, and the first film theatre opened in the area.

  The walk on the Lycabettus Hill is still today considered as one of the finest and most peaceful anywhere in Athens.       

to be continued....