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Jewellery by Artists: From Picasso to Koons, an exhibition organised by the culture and art portal

Insider's view · Europe · greece · Athens

Insider: Vassiliki Theodorakidi–Mamona


Insider: Vassiliki Theodorakidi–Mamona

Where to find the soul of Athens
Vassiliki Theodorakidi-Mamona is one of the best known Greek jewellery artists. She was born into an old aristocratic family that traces its roots back to 13th century Greece, a family that once owned a silk monopoly on the ancient Silk Road and whose coat of arms now serves as the logo for her jewellery company. Vassiliki's gallery, Thyreos Vassiliki Art and Culture House, is located right in the heart of Athens, in the Plaka neighbourhood. The gallery is not only a small and unusual museum but also a true repository of culture. Here, Vassiliki's own jewellery can be found next to the King of Macedonia's armour and historical artefacts - both originals and replicas - from various regions of Greece. She believes everything has a meaning and a mission even before it exists; for example, before the Greeks created mathematically perfect art, they already possessed a mission to be the first in this niche. Vassiliki sees her own mission as promoting Greek art and culture worldwide. And one of her instruments is jewellery - unique handiwork that embodies a synergy of the past and present. She calls her creations small sculptures and, through them and the use of modern means of expression, she tries to embody the essence of Greek culture, its mythology and soul in the present day. In any case, few people are likely to be more qualified to tell about where to search for the true soul of Athens.

What do you love most about living in Athens?
Living in Athens can be challenging, yet surprising.... What I really love most, being in one of the largest metropolitan areas of Europe, is the chance to experience the deeply carved footprint of time in every step you take. Α temporal and cultural amalgam unfolds before your eyes, while you become an observer of the mixture of the past with the future, the East with the West. Walking in one of the central pedestrian areas of the city, one can view the most famous world brands, fancy shop windows and modern cafés, while just a little further you find yourself lost in the colours and sounds of an oriental-like bazaar, full of scents and tastes coming from an era when these cultural interactions were prominent in cosmopolitan Athens.... And all of this right under the imposing view of Acropolis, which keeps reminding us that the true origins of this city are found in the sophisticated simplicity and unexcelled elegance of a Doric column....

Could you name your five favourite restaurants/cafés in Athens? And why are they your favourites?
That's a difficult question.... There are many spots in the city where you can indulge yourself, no matter what mood you're in. A sunny Sunday afternoon and a nostalgic walk in the pedestrian areas of the old city can end perfectly at the Avissinia restaurant, where the retro atmosphere, the light live music (that can sometimes turn really vigorous, with dancing and plate smashing) and the stunning view gives you all the energy you need for the new week. On a more cultural-mood-day one can visit Gazarte, a multiplex art house where you can enjoy your wine in the company of a nice book or movie, or taste a variety of dishes in the relaxing green roof-top garden among the alternative industrial buildings at Gazi Technopolis. On warm summer nights, when it feels like vacation, Apolis Scherzo Summer Lounge offers refreshing cocktails in an enchanting atmosphere, where the cobblestone floor, white stone couches and star-studded sky makes you feel like you're on a Cycladic island. On the other hand, when the mood commands a more mysterious, less cosmopolitan spirit, Faust bar-theater, with its special home-like interior architecture, underground decorations and alternative theatrical performances, is definitely a stomping ground not to miss. Last but not least, the café of the brand new Acropolis Museum, in the heart of the ancient city of Athens and offering a direct view of the sacred hill, perfectly combines a totally contemporary building with the historical feeling of the surrounding area.

What is the biggest stereotype about Athens? And why is it or is it not true?
Going through a period of European - and maybe international - crisis, it is expected that stereotypes and exaggerations are produced mainly for internal consumption. One of those that I personally encountered many times, in dealing with foreigners and tourists coming to Athens for the first time, was the insecurity and fear regarding bank liquidity and street criminality. They had been so brainwashed by the news (which in some cases presented Athens as a third-world city of terror) that some of them actually believed they would not be able to find cash at the ATMs or walk safely in the streets in the afternoon! It was quite difficult to convince them of the opposite, but after staying in the city for a couple of days, reality spoke for itself. Truly, Athens was deeply affected by the crisis, many stores had to shut down, the unemployment rate increased, but in no case did this mean that the situation was as described above. Bank stability was never actually a problem for everyday life, criminality is definitely lower than in many other famous European capitals, and in general the feeling you get walking in this city is totally different than it's presented in the world's yellow press. What a visitor will face when visiting Athens are sunny days with cafés full of young people, classy restaurants waiting to reveal the tasty secrets of Greek cuisine and night bars where you can feel the pulse of a city that never sleeps. None can deprive Athens of what it has had for hundreds of years: bright sun, hundreds of years of culture, good food and kefi (un untranslatable Greek word for joy and enthusiasm).

How do you characterise the true Athenian people?
Hospitable and compassionate, open-hearted and witty, deeply democratic, yet sometimes stubborn, rebellious and in some cases arrogant due to their long cultural heritage

What should one definitely do to feel the pulse of Athens in all its diversity?
The best way to feel the pulse of a city is by trying to taste all the everyday aspects of ordinary people's lives. Apart from the usual visitors' routes, museums, Acropolis and all the fancy tourist sights, try to discover the other, unknown part of Athens. Using public transportation, going out to small coffee places and taverns that are not listed on any website or tourist guide, get in contact with the locals in neighborhoods away from the central city lights, share their thoughts and way of life, even try to speak the native language.... At the end of the day, you'll be surprised at how many friends you make....

What is the most special place (emotionally, spiritually, etc.) for you in Athens?
I love visiting Pnyx Hill, where you can have a great view of the city, especially at dawn. Sitting on the same rocks where thousands of years ago great men and philosophers gathered, discussing and making decisions for their society, makes me reminisce about the glory of the past and ponder the hopes of tomorrow. Thinking about the fact that the fundamental challenges we are dealing with now as humans - poverty, justice and freedom - haven't actually changed a lot since very old times, it gets really intriguing for me to be a part of the meltdown of time.

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