When visiting a busy and chaotic city such as Athens, visitors usually wish to get lucky enough and eventually end up in a street that will allow them to witness some of the city’s authentic traits as well as also being somehow connected with the city's past and present. Mavromichalis street can be that place, and should be on your list. This central street, which starts from the university area and goes towards Athens’ largest park, Pedion Tou Areos, cuts through the entire Exarchia neighborhood, offers plenty of chances for a stop in buzzing bars and cafes, and also has a solid number of bookstores and book kiosks. The street is filled with the typical Athenian neo-classical fading buildings, and street art, and on top of this, it is named after a family whose members played a big role during Greece’s struggles for independence from the Ottoman Empire.
From Panapistimio metro stop it is very easy to reach the start of the street: just get out in front of Athens’ Academy, reach Akedemias street, walk one block, and you’ll find it on your right-hand side. As you start walking, the street won’t look much different to a regular Athenian street; what seems evident is the influence the University’s proximity has had on it; book stores, old and new really characterize the street’s sidewalks. You can find stores highly specialized in academic publications as well as several second-hand book stands and kiosks with international titles at very low prices. There is a chance you might find something related to the Mavromichalis and be able to discover something more about this fascinating family; but you also might not, so I’ll just randomly write down some anecdotes about it throughout the rest of the piece so you can think about them while strolling along.
Random Mavromichalis family anecdote number 1: Giorgos Mavromichalis’ wife was believed to be one of the Nereid, a type of mythological nymph. She spoke no Greek, came from foreign lands, and her beauty was “unspeakable”. She was, in fact, the daughter of Venice’s ruler, the Doge.
As the street begins to enter Exarchia, visitors will find quite a lot of bars, cafes, and restaurants where you'll see people enjoying the young and buzzing atmosphere, old but elegant buildings, bright and question-prompting street art. Selas bar is a good place to stop here, and is great to spend some time sitting down and chatting. It is not located right on Mavromichalis street but on a narrow parallel alley, which gives it a more of a hidden and secluded trait.
Random Mavromichalis family anecdote number 2: In 1770 the Mavromichalis were in touch with Catherine of Russia, plotting together to overthrow the Ottomans.
Random Mavromichalis family anecdote number 3: Petrobey Mavromichalis struck a deal with Napoleon while he was involved in the Egyptian campaign: the French commander committed to go help the Greek rebels once operations in Egypt were over. Sadly for Petrobey, the operation didn’t go as planned by Napoleon, and their deal blew up.
If you are hungry and looking for a bite there is no need to change streets; there are plenty of options for a something quick and on the go as well as more classic spots. Frumel is a classic Greek meze restaurant with a kind of vintage style, and they rely on working with local, small farmers and producers. Drinking raki is a must over here. For something sweet, the Portatif bakery is where you want to go.
Random Mavromichalis family anecdote number 4: the name Mavromichalis is said to derive from an orphan named Michalis. All orphan youngsters were called "mavros" (meaning black) because of dark mourning clothes and a possible black future for the kid. Mavromichalis translates to "Black Michael" and means "Michael the orphan”.
During the final stretch of the street the number of bars and cafes reduces, and is replaced by woodwork shops, tiny art galleries, more bookstores, and theatres.
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