Come in, have a walk, enjoy: this is the story of two Athenian and Siamese neighbourhoods, joined from the shoulders to the hips, but which are very much and little alike. Two heads and a coin. But don’t expect oracles, or odysseys, or tragedies, or gods, or lightning. Maybe some thunder and, yes, a little heat.

At one corner of this ring, Exarchia, an area in rapid transformation that feeds on elegant chaos and anarchist political energy that sometimes gets out of hand and literally explodes. A bastion of anarchism, culture and locals with good taste.

In the other, Kolonaki, which gives off a chic, bourgeois elegance, but not at all dolled up, in a city whose mixture of ancient splendor and the current crisis of neglect create an indefinable magic that is difficult for anyone to gauge.

These corners of Athens accommodated in the tone of the Likabetus mountain and the Streffi hill have an everyday beauty that makes the visitor levitate a little; something that is very good for not falling face down on the ground because the Athenian capital has some sidewalks that are truly sad and the visitor does not stop looking up. Many clues, discoveries, curious living postcards.

At the foot of Mount Likabetus, Kolonaki reigns supreme with its museums, embassies, galleries, shops of new artisans, white-tablecloth restaurants, elegant cafeterias and delicious frappes, bookstores with the latest news from all over the world and florists that keep the genre in stock. the fridges. It’s accurate.

In the cradle of democracy, the dictatorship of the káfsonas (the heat wave) prevails. A heliocracy that has no mercy. You have to believe yourself a mythological hero or heroine to venture out into the streets in the heatwave. The only weapon is the shade, the umbrella from the bar and a lot of ice in the frappe, with a lot of foam and a straw, please.

In the Dexamení cinema they show the right movie: Mission Impossible, but only when the sun goes down, it’s not that Tom Cruise can’t stand the mid-afternoon oven. It is that the Dexamení is a summer cinema. You have to wait for the heat to give way to a truce, a cold beer and perhaps a cigarette.

From the slopes of the neighborhood, from Kleomenous or Plutarchou, between the space left by the trees, you can see the Parthenon, naked, with stripped skin, without a cap, or sunscreen, or an umbrella. A ghostly beauty takes over the Acropolis, which closes when the thermometers say “αρκετά” (enough).

Borders are always interesting. Kolonaki, which can boast of an austere elegance allergic to glitter and tackiness, is the neighborhood where the premier Kiriakos Mitsotakis resides. His residence is a few streets from Exarchia, the district that is the stronghold of anarchism, sometimes violent with Molotov cocktails and incendiary bombs, and also the headquarters of the country’s former hegemonic party, Pasok.

Its headquarters, on Charilaou Trikoupi street, is always protected by a bus of uniformed men armed to the teeth, recently under scrutiny for their alleged unnecessary violence. Robocop looks like a pacifist next to her. Exarchia is no longer the neighborhood with the bad reputation of yesteryear, as wild as it is free; it retains its essence, but the vultures (or are they drones?) of speculation fly over the territory. Gentrification has been planning on the neighborhood for a long time.

The dreamy palaces painted in pastel colors contrast with others that are pure ruins, which are not standing. There are patios whose marble floors are lined with bougainvillea flowers that have fallen from so much heat and corners that look like those of a city that has just been bombed.

The little affectionate graffiti -the softest is Fuck the police!- share space with beautiful graphic murals and loving verses -“You are the water that gives life to my river every day”- and a motto that makes you think: “Athens is the new Berlin”.

The comparison is tricky considering the economic influence (yoke?) that Germany has had on Greece in recent years, but on this side of town classic kafeneios are giving way to sophisticated cafeterias, taverns and ouzeri come Fine restaurants and old-fashioned bookstores, selling newspapers, books and anarchist magazines, share the street with bookstores that look like haute couture boutiques.

Instead, Mr. Blasios’ grocery store looks like something out of 1960s Greece. Tell me how you did in the Greek version on Emanuel Benaki street. He opened it a few decades ago after spending 23 years working in South Africa. It is a show that smells like a fifties childhood. Yellow lentils and string beans in bulk for cooking fava and fasoulakia, draft feta. A paradise at moderate prices.

To resemble Berlin, Exarchia lacks something more than dance clubs and after-hours. In the neighborhood there are few clean walls: this is the kingdom of the political and protest poster. “To kratos eínai mafia”, the state is a ditto, says one. “Polémos” (war), says another. No puppet is left with a head, neither is the now headless Syriza, the former untied hope of the resigned Alexis Tsipras.

The political posters would be, like the κύριε Βλάσιο store, a trip to the past. In Kolonaki, yesterday clings tooth and nail to abandoning the present, and it does so with a more nostalgic, endearing flavor, with all those illuminated signs (which no longer light up) and which speak of the speed of life. The day before yesterday that almost no one remembers. Kodak photography. Microsoft Office battery version. Basf videocassettes.

It is true, the claim of the islands leaves Athens in the tourist background, despite the Acropolis, the temple of Ephaestus, the Bennaki classical museum, but also that of Kerameikós with an exceptional shop full of the works of new and talented ceramicists. Greeks (from Corfu to Crete), the EM∑T… Almost better because here it is possible to avoid the tourists from Plaka and surroundings.

The luck (or misfortune) of Exarchia, with its elegant decadence; and Kolonaki, scented with a manor a bit homely, is that it is not Venice, despite the many beautiful houses and chipped facades that shine.

Although sometimes, when there is a summer storm, the water rushes down the streets and the boiling asphalt becomes a runaway river that can easily reach two feet of water. The bitter oranges lying on the ground begin to swim down the street.

There is no gondola service, nor ocean liners passing through the door, but there is a strange sensation of being in an unrepeatable, unique and magical place full of restaurants that, in those days, can only be reached with rolled up pants and slippers. in the hand. Little summer adventures, exciting, free… and fresh.