Plaka: Turks, Churches and Piggy Banks

Plaka piggy banks are huge, adorable, and were at one point necessary.

Everyone who talks about going to Athens brings up two places: the Parthenon, and the Plaka area. Our guide tells us that the Plaka area is where the Turks invaded and turned Greeks into their servants. The Turks found pigs disgusting, so the Greeks started making clay pots of pigs, and they would fill these with their savings, knowing the Turks wouldn’t dare touch the blasphemous piggy banks. Some of these banks sit on front decks today, perhaps to prove a point. The ones that we see are massive, about the size of ponies, which seems somehow wrong for a pig.

Once the Turks were called home for war, the Greek servants tried to run the massive homes on their own, but there was no money, and it didn’t work out well for most of them. The houses fell into disrepair.

This door is all that stands of a Mosque in Athens.

Athens is one of the only major cities in the world without a mosque. There’s just one large door remaining from the last mosque hundreds of years ago.

An adorable ancient church.

We walk inside a church that is nearly 1,000 years old, built in the 12th century and known as the Church of Theotokos Gorgoepikos Ayios Eleytherios, which roughly translates to Church of mother of god Gorgoepikos and Saint Eleytherius. The church is tiny, made of straight-edged stone blocks, and topped with sloped roofs and one major circular steeple, all lined with clay shingles. It’s tomb-like and dark and smells of ancient history.

Church details.

As we head downhill away from the Plaka area, Andrew tells us about the houses. “In the plaza you have to keep colors of houses different from one another. The color of the shutters on a house told you who lived there. Blue shutters meant this was the home of a sailor; green shutters meant farmer; red meant business man; and yellow meant doctor.” Even without written signs, people in ancient times had their own ways of figuring out how to get what they needed.

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