Athens 1974

Αθήνα 1974 | Athens 1974

oil on canvas (linen)
70 × 60 cm
December 1977


The statue of Leonidas at Thermopylae – admittedly having little to do with Athens – rises up above the city, personifying democracy.


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Antiquity has fascinated me since secondary school, especially the Greeks and the Romans. After Rome in 1973, Athens became the destination of my summer holiday trip in 1974. I went together with my friend Jan Brans, my travel companion from the year before. During our stay in Delphi we met two girls, named Tine and Anne, who had perched on the same Delphi Camping. I never saw them again after what turned out to be an eventful journey.

Just as we were settling in and going around Delphi, with its magnificent excavation site, the political troubles of the early 70s in Greece started. Somewhat later it became clear that the Greek colonels had supported the coup against Archbishop Makarios on Cyprus in order to force annexation (enosis ‘connection’) of the island. The Turkish government responded with the threat of war, which caused an overall mobilisation in Greece. 

As a result, we found ourselves in a situation without any money, food or petrol . . . and yet it was an interesting and exciting experience. The political solution came on the day that the exiled former prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis returned from Paris. His return sparked great excitement and a huge folk festival unfolded around the Acropolis (Plaka) and . . . we were there (of course!), eye-witnessing it all.  Days later, back on the road again, there was continued excited talk about the events within our traveling group, until it was time . . . time to go our separate ways.

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