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In the context of a financial crisis antiques become less and less popular

07 November 2009 / 16:11:56  GRReporter
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Anybody that has visited Athens has for sure taken a walk in the small streets around Monastiraki. This colorful area is attractive for tourists and Athenians with its small souvenir shops and the post-card view of the Acropolis, where you can always enjoy the afternoon sun over a cup of coffee.

Thousands of years ago, the place was as lively as it is today. People would come here to meet and share latest news; merchants would sell their goods brought from all around ancient Hellas and the east. Nowadays, in the sores and boutiques around Monastiraki and Plaka you can find the latest trends in shoes, buy a souvenir, or a CD of heavy metal music, eat a souvlaki and browse through the antique and second-hand stores. On white sheets spread around on the square you can see all kind of goods offered by African, Pakistan and Indian merchants, like toys, bags and umbrellas.

Monastiraki square’s market was once known as the “flee market”- a common name for such markets evolving from the nature of the goods being sold- used beds, clothes and cookware. Later, the small shops for antiquarian and collectors’ goods emerged. They are still there- on Avisinia square, where the pace of life I much slower than only two streets away, where the Acropolis viewed cafeterias are located.

Marinos Papoutzis’s book-store exists for more than twenty years- “I opened the store together with a lady. Back then the neighborhood looked differently. Less people used to come around here, and the tourist shops didn’t exist. There were only antique-stores, selling church bells and bronze objects but they closed down and are now selling souvenirs,” tells Mr. Papoutzis.

In the little streets around Monastiraki, one can find numbers of antique book and CD stores, as well as hand-made wooden furniture and collectors’ objects.

“There used to be around ten antique book stores and now we are only 5 in the wide area around Monastiraki- some of the owners got too old, and others reached age of retirement. This, however, is a really exhausting job, you need to be in the store all day long, especially on Sundays when people go to the beach; there is no weekend for us,” shares the book store owner.

“We don’t work with tourists, they visit very rare and we only have a few English books. Our customers are mostly Greek. During the summer, for instance, we are visited by Greeks that have left for the US years ago, or Athenians that live in the countryside and come in Athens to vote,” adds Mr. Papoutzis.

In what way do you choose the books for your store?

We sell what people want to buy. We are not the place where you should look for law or medical books. We have mostly literature books- old issues some of which are of very high value and some we sell for one or two euro. For example, we used to sell this commix magazine called “9”- a supplement to a newspaper, but people stopped buying it, so we stopped offering it as well.

Where do you buy the books you are selling?

Say, you are moving to a new apartment- a two bedroom one, but until now you lived in a three-bedroom one. The first thing you are going to let go of are the books you have already red. And instead of throwing the away, you will bring them to me to buy, or give them to a foundation or a school. Or, lets say you buy a book, but on the next day you boyfriend gives you the same book as a gift. You bring one of the copies and we buy it from you.

What interests people mostly these days?

Primarily literature, which is very good. Young people read the most of all.

How did the economic crisis change things for you?

We receive more books to buy up than we sell. We do feel the crisis. But I say: this store provides for three families and as long as we can cover our expenses and have food on the table, we must be happy. Banks are not a good place for our money now. I will not complain- it’s always better to smile at life.

Near Mr. Papoutzis’s tore, there is a slightly neglected building with used CDs and DVDs on tables on front of it. The owner of this little shop is struggling for survival- the neighboring antique shops have already closed down. The rents are too high and the profits cannot cover for them. Gradually, the street is changing and more and more cafeterias and small taverns appear.

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