Greece Travel Guide logo

Greece Travel Guide


 Greek Island Guide


Hotels of Greece



Matt's Greece Travel Blog

Psychiko and Prostitutes in Athens

Its about six in the morning. I woke up and could not get back to sleep so I watched the Mets game which was just finishing up. It makes me feel at home when I can watch a baseball game on my computer even if I have to wait until two am for them to start most of the time. Athens has been hot but it is going to cool off in the next couple days. We had to come back early from Kea because our friends who are renting the house to us were leaving town for a few days and the only time we could get the key was on Saturday, though it turned out only one oif them left town and we could have come later, but to be honest with you we were going a little stir-crazy in Kea. It got really crowded before the 15th of August and it stayed that way. Then there was a problem with the water and it started coming out of the tap brown and then it stopped coming out at all. Everyone agreed it was because of all the swimming pools on the island and that the water table was down to the mud. People in Chora were really pissed off at all the villa people and the builders. There are supposedly 1000 swimming pools on Kea! But then they announced that they had discovered a leak and it had been fixed and for a few hours the water came out brown, which was better than not at all, and then it became clear. So we had a couple days of water before we left which was nice. At least we could leave clean.

Psychiko ApartmentOur house in Athens is pretty nice though it is kind of noisy because we are right on a large avenue and the traffic never stops. You get used to it after awhile but there is always some guy on a high-powered motorbike or a very loud car that breaks the steady drone of the traffic. We have AC but only in one room. We had gone through most of the summer without AC but here we need it. We can close some doors and the AC from the one room cools down part of the house but the living room, where I am right now, is unbearable during the day. Its nice now. There is a cool breeze blowing through and plus we have these high-powered fans that are like the propellers of an airplane that has crashed through the roof. Greeks don't really like air-conditioning. There are a bunch of cafes and bars around the corner and at 10pm it was still around 90 degrees and none of them had their AC on and nobody was complaining, except us of course. We went to four different places for a beer and vetoed each one because of the climate.

Tourkovounas, Athens, GreeceWe found a couple nice tavernas. The best was called Climateria and it is in a small park called Platias Eleftherias in Neo Psyhicho just off Kiffissias Avenue. I have the card but I don't want to wake up Andrea by searching my pockets to find it. Anyway it would be pretty tough for a traveler to find it from downtown. The whole area is attractive by Athenian standards. Shaded streets, not too many cars and the best roads are named after Greek poets like Seferis, Solomos, and Palamas. The best thing about Athens is the mass transit. I can walk down the block, get on a trolley, get off at Ambelokipi and with the same ticket get on the metro and be in Monastriraki Square 18 minutes after walking out my front door. Or I can stay on the trolley and go all the way to Syntagma Square in about 20 minutes. About three stops down from here is the neighborhood of Panormou where there is also a metro stop and a number of traditional tavernas like the kind you used to find in Plaka about thirty years ago in old houses surrounding a small square that the owner of the restaurant was not sure the name of. (Its the corner of Panormou and Doukissas Plakentias-not to be confused with the metro station of the same name). We ate at Filadelphia Taverna with a few friends, George Sempepos and his daughter Sophia who were leaving for America the next day, Chantel, our TV producer friend who had given up on working in Greece and was also leaving, Dorian Kokas, the reknown facilitator, Akis, the drummer of Morka and other bands and Giorgos who does sound at the Half Note, Greece's most famous jazz and blues live music club. We took a taxi home and it cost two euros! A couple nights later Andrea and I took our friend George up the mountain of Galatsi or Tourkovouna and found several tavernas with spectacular views of the city and pretty decent food. We chose the Attikon Alsos, named for the wooded area at the top of the mountain. The mountain is pretty neat because we can drive up it in Psychiko and drive down the other side and be in Kypseli where Andrea's father lives.

Prostitutes in Athens

Melina Mercouri, Never on SundayLast night after walking to the Climataria Taverna and back we decided to drive into Athens and pick up the bags we had left at the Hotel Attalos along with a case of Makedoniki Beer which was given to me as a gift last New Years. In Greece you generally just have a choice of Amstel, Heineken, Mythos or Kaiser in most restaurants and this was a really flavorful microbrew from Argos. We got downtown really quickly but got stuck behind a garbage truck on Perikleos Street so we zig-zagged our way to Omonia Square and then found ourselves on Sokratous Street which was full of African prostitutes. Dozens, maybe hundreds and some very young and most very beautiful. I imagine anyone staying at the Hotel Economy or the Fresh will have a surprise when they leave at night to go out to dinner. But despite the numbers it is not a threatening scene (unless you are Andrea and one comes up to the car and she can tell though I politely say "no thank you" my eyes say "YES! YES!YES!"). I read an interview with one of the girls in the Athens News and she said some of the girls have normal day jobs but have to go on the streets at night because they can't survive in Athens on what they make. You have to ask yourself what you would do if you were far from home in a strange city with no legal way to make a living. These are not seasoned professional hookers. These are girls making ends meet the only way they know how until hopefully they can get outta here. The girls were friendly and seemed almost fearless, though that may be because there is safety in numbers. There was a cop car down the street watching the girls and the girls were watching them and about a block from Evripidou Street traffic was backed up and we were sitting there in the Grand Vitara surrounded by the girls, chatting, smiling, laughing and finally I asked if we could turn on the market pedestrian street to get to Athinas and get out of the traffic which was probably caused by men negotiating with the girls. One of the girls said "sure, you can get out this way" and directed the other girls to move out of the way so I could make the turn. We got onto Athinas street and drove down a few blocks to the Attalos where my brother and his family were hanging out by the front entrance with George from Fantasy Travel and Pendelis Melissinos-son of the Poet-Sandalmaker. I was telling them about Sokratous Street when suddenly a couple dozen of the girls came running up Athinas Street, laughing and hailing taxis which when they stopped would pick up groups of four and drive away. Obviously the police had decided to crack down and the girls were leaving the area for the night or at least the next few hours.

Never on SundayI have a confession to make. I have never been to a prostitute. Yes, I know that's unbelievable but it is true. But there is a part of me that has a little of the Jules Dassin character in NEVER ON SUNDAY, which if you have seen the movie you know that he falls in love with a prostitute (Melina Mercouri) or at least he wants to reform her and possess her so no other men can have her. I see these beautiful African girls and I don't think of sex. I think of love. A girlfriend of mine's mother told her "You can fall in love with anyone so why not just fall in love with a rich man?" Good advice. So why not fall in love with a beautiful, streetwise, courageous (leaving Africa for Greece? That takes courage) exotic woman who knows how to make love. (Yes, just an assumption I know). And these girls on the street are probably hoping for the same thing, one guy who will be their lover and take them off the streets, buy them an apartment or maybe even marry them and take them to another country.

Anyway before I get myself in trouble let me just say that if you are staying at a hotel in this area you don't have to be afraid because there are prostitutes. They won't hurt you. If you wake up in the middle of the night and your husband is gone then you can be concerned. But don't be too hard on him. Its just a natural male reaction. You may want him to get an aids test before you sleep with him again. But an interesting fact is that it is more likely a man will get infected with a sexually transmitted disease by sleeping with your babysitter in America (where the infection rate is said to be about 25% among teens), than by having sex with a prostitute, who unless they are hopeless junkies are pretty careful about taking care of themselves.

For those wondering about prostitution in Greece this comes from a (fairly dated) study on sexuality by Dimosthenis Agrafiotis, Ph.D., and Panagiota Mandi, Ph.D.

Never on SundayProstitution has for many years been a socially accepted practice, especially for young Greek men. Given traditional rules of virginity for women and the expectation of masculine behavior including sexual prowess for men, prostitutes were both an outlet and a schooling for many men. Nowadays, particularly in the urban centers, young men are more likely to have a girl friend with whom they have sex. In the rest of the country, the situation has not changed dramatically.

In Greece, professional prostitutes, who are officially estimated to be around 200 to 270, are registered with the local police, have a health book, and are obliged to report twice a week for health inspection at a special clinic of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. In order to monitor and control the further spread of HIV infection among registered prostitutes, an intense educational program was implemented in December 1985 (Papaevangelou et al. 1988). As a result, there was a considerable reduction of the incidence of HIV infection and other STDS among prostitutes.

Never on SundayIn addition to officially registered prostitutes, there are an estimated ten times as many unregistered prostitutes for whom there is no adequate information about their practices. The number and extent of unregistered prostitutes can only be roughly estimated, because many prostitutes are now being “imported” from former communist countries and the Philippines to work the market unofficially. Alongside the unregistered female prostitutes, there is also an unknown number of male and adolescent prostitutes, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki.

So if you are bothered by the idea of prostitutes outside your hotel then stay closer to the Plaka. Evripidou Street is pretty much the cut-off so the Cecil and the Attalos are OK. But keep in mind that in Amsterdam the Red Light District where prostitutes have store-window displays, it's a tourist attraction whether you are buying or window-shopping. In Athens its just one of the realities of the city and it either interests you or it doesn't. But there is no danger unless you decide to play the game. And if you decide to play you weigh the risks against the benefits and use common sense.

Never on SundayThe Greek government recently unveiled a plan to make prostitutes retire at 55 with the state providing social and medical benefits. That's great but what if you are a 56 year old guy attracted to women his own age? And how can the Greek government decide when a prostitute is too old? Isn't it a matter of taste? What about an old grandfather whose wife passed away and he wants to have sex with someone who makes him feel as comfortable as she did? He does not want a hot African babe in a G-string. He wants a grandmother in a flannel nightgown. We are not talking about a car rental agency or a ferry company where you have to protect the consumer by retiring machines that are falling apart. To some people the idea of a seventy year old hooker is a turn-on. If there is mandatory retirement of prostitutes at 55 then poor Pappoo will have to go underground to have sex with someone his age. We will be creating a generation of senior citizen criminals.

Anyway for men, the good news is that registered prostitutes are required to undergo health checks twice a week. The bad news is the majority don't register and thus have no health care coverage and whether or not they are infected is a roll of the dice. But you are probably no less safe than if you pick up a chick at a Brittany Spears concert.

E-mail me with questions and comments or join my Greece Travel Facebook Page

Return to Matt-Blog Index