New life for the Athenian “flower garden”

A new page is opened for what was historically known as the “flower garden” (“λουλουδάδικα”), on the west side of the Parliament, Vasilisis Sofia Street.

The official opening took place today October 26, 2022 in the presence of the Prime Minister(!?). The difference compared to the past is that out of the 11 flower shops that used to be on this site, two remain, and a space has opened between them where you can buy souvenirs from the museums of Greece, replicas from the workshops and works from the collection of publications of the Hellenic Foundation. parliament.

From far 1932…
Spyros Kontogiannis is a longtime resident of the area as his family has run a flower shop in the area since 1932. “I’ve been here since I wore shorts to this day,” he says as people stand at the door of the store, welcoming him warmly, welcoming him again – after all, he’s the only person who ties up yesterday’s day with today.

“The ideal for me, since I lived through the days of the old flower shop, would be for all 11 shops that originally existed to reopen. But since the economic situation cannot afford it, 11 professionals, one next to the other, are fighting for a half a piece of bread And we don’t know if we’ll make it to the end…”, he says, realizing that during a crisis the market he operates in is difficult.

“The fact that this space now exists and is combined with the store of the Ministry of Culture is very good – because culture and flowers go together, it’s a good combination,” he notes, while outside, the characteristic sound of footsteps of Evzones is heard coming up the street. after the changing of the guard.

Eyewitness of historical events
Mr. Kontogiannis recalls a number of historical events he witnessed while in the family flower shop: “I experienced a lot – I was 7 years old when I saw the junta tanks descending down the street towards the square. One soldier, who was sitting on a tank, “I jumped and fell, crushing the flowers for me,” he laughs, “I experienced many jokes and witticisms – there was a starting point and a meeting point. But times have changed. I found good times when everything was more human and peaceful. I can tell many stories from the 50’s to the late 70’s – our stores were open 24 hours a day. It had something to do with the late night club boom in the days when bouzouki was in. They set up a flower stand, Tolis he came, for example, he needed a certain flower, “load, more, he says. ” And many others did the same … “.

The events, of course, were not always pleasant – when you are in the very center of the capital, you experience a lot: “Of course, we have bad experience – there was chaos at the Karamanlis election rally in 1974, there was an attack on the Egyptian embassy (located opposite the store. Note . edition), there was panic, there were victims. Then there were demonstrations of memorandums. They not only influenced us, but also brought us to our knees. A crowd passed through the flower shop at the demonstration in support of pensioners, after which there were no flowers or vases left. ..”.

The power of flowers
At the other end, on the side facing Syntagma Square, is The Power of a Flower, a flower shop, a social co-operative enterprise of 11 young people with special needs.

As we were told in the store, the social cooperative “employs people with mild mental retardation to bring them to the workplace”: They were given a plot at the airport where they grow plants and flowers. Together with the agronomist, the children grow and harvest their own crops, make bouquets that are distributed to customers – this is how the society survives. “This week, four children came here to work in a flower shop – they make bouquets themselves,” they tell us, noting that the goal is social: “to ensure employment and social integration.”

Exhibition – sale

Between the two flower shops, there is now an elegant space that looks like a long, narrow area selling items that can be found in museums throughout Greece. One of the halls is more focused on Athens, while others feature souvenir exhibits from various iconic places, and you can also find exact copies from trusted workshops. Due to limited space, a number of targeted choices were made. In one of the rooms, the Foundation exhibits its own publications.

Mitsotakis: A colorful day for Athens
The opening ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was given a tour of the redesigned premises by Greek Parliament Speaker Konstantinos Tasoulas, Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni and EBRD Director Stefanos Vlastos.

“Today is indeed a colorful day for Athens, it is a day of joy, and I believe that all Athenians and numerous cities of the city will appreciate the fact that we are once again finding a space that is identified with the historical memory and the collective subconscious of all Athenians,” Mitsotakis said.

Historic flower shops
The historical path of the flower shops of the Parliament begins in 1932, when the first flower stalls appeared after the construction of the monument to the Unknown Soldier. Subsequently, according to the law, 11 flower shops were designed and created under the Parliament site. Over time, they have become a special place and landmark in the center of Athens. The renovation and renovation projects for the historic flower shops were developed as a joint initiative of the Greek Parliament, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and the State Property Company (ETAD).

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