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Athens must be the ugliest city in europe

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Kyriakos, Nov 10, 2018.

  1. Owen Glyndwr

    Owen Glyndwr La Femme Moderne

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    Ok, there's a lot to unpack here, so I'll try to get to each thing in turn.

    1) To reiterate: I am merely talking about my personal preferences. Nothing I'm saying is intended to be normative. This line of discussion originated in yung.carl.jung mentioning that he likes cities with grit, and my echoing of that preference - that I personally prefer cities that feel lived-in. I am not saying, nor have I ever said, that nobody should be allowed to take joy or personal enrichment from visiting a city like Florence. In fact I made this point quite evident in my first response to MechSalvation, as I told him that, even though I didn't care for Florence, that was due to my personal taste in visiting cities, and it was quite likely that he would feel differently, just as my girlfriend at the time did. At no point did I say that anybody was wrong for liking Florence.

    2) I don't think there's anything wrong going to a place with a lot of history and imagining what things must have been like in some past time. The point I've been making has nothing to do with history per se. Florence, Rome, Paris, London, and Venice all have tons of history, and I don't have any problem with seeking that history out and experiencing it. I will say, though, that I take issue with the implication here that old buildings or artifacts are a precondition to do so. It creates an implicit binary that says, for instance, that one can't "Imagine what it was like" if the buildings aren't sufficiently old, or that "Imagining what it was like" is only possible in urban areas.

    3) With that out of the way, let's get down to the meat of the issue. My point isn't that history is bad, or that cities with history are bad. I'm a historian: I love history. I see a city's history as an expression of its culture, and seeing how a city grows and changes, decays and ascends, and morphs and transforms is one of the most thrilling and intriguing aspects of experiencing a new place. The distinction I'm drawing here is one of audience and intention. I like to visit cities where that history is an essentially organic expression of the city itself. The history reflects the time the city has been in existence and the lives its citizens have led. The most important aspect to me is one of verisimilitude: a sense that the city represents a historical continuity. For me, this is where, I think, cities like Florence and Venice lose the plot. In these cities, at least in their historical centers, I get a sense, not of historical continuity, but of historical disjunction. The cities in these cases seem have latched onto an imagined past and are specifically directing their urban landscape to encapsulate that imagined past. Thus you the visitor don't get a sense of the city's history as a continuity to the present day, but of the city as an urban space "out of time." For me this aspect is more problematic, again, upon the realization that this encapsulation isn't a reflection of the city's populace, but rather, a reflection of an imagined past which visitors to the city expect to see. Thus the cityscape results, not as an expression of that city's history but as a reflection of an imagined tourist's expectations. This is what I mean by verisimilitude, and why I have made repeated references to theme parks. The sense I get as a visitor is one that is extremely artificial: these buildings don't exist for the people residing within the city, but instead for me the tourist who expects to see Renaissance-looking buildings. So at the end of the day what I'm experiencing isn't Florence the real city in which real people live and work and love and die, but rather "Florence" the cultural idea that reflects the inherited Western (Whiggish) historical narrative. Again, here, I think the Disneyland analogy is extremely apropos, if a bit hyperbolic: "Florence" is a reflection of Western cultural narratives about the Renaissance in the same way that Disneyland's "Main Street, USA" is a reflection of a American cultural narratives about itself and its imagined "Good Old Days." In both cases, the portrayal rings hollow: both in the sense that it is an unrealistic and necessarily whitewashed portrayal of an imagined historical past, but also in neither case is it an expression of the location in the historical present, but at least in Disneyland this is an understood and internalized fact: Disneyland is kitsch and "Main Street USA" is a kitschy representation of Americana. This understanding is not internalized in the case of cities like Florence or Venice, and it saddens me that a tourist might come away from their visit thinking that they experienced Florence or Venice, whether past or present, they're been lied to in both cases.

    I have two points to your response to "culturally refined"

    a) My point was a comment on the way "culture" is experienced and consumed by tourists. Whether or not a Thing you see in a museum or a building you visit represents "cultural refinement" or might constitute an "enriching experience" is, generally speaking, irrelevant, because the experience of the object is, generally speaking, not about the object, nor the experience, but the ability to document that experience and use that documentation to convey a culturally-desired aspect of the self to an audience. That is to say: it's not about what you learn or experience, it's about being able to take a picture of yourself in front of the object, and to use that object as a cudgel on social media to uplift yourself at the expense of others.

    b) Your point about cultural refinement furthers my own? Like these buildings aren't, in of themselves, valuable, they are only valuable inasmuch as they represent something that seems old. It's not even the age of the buildings that are fetishized, but rather, the perceived age. This looks 500 years old (even though it's actually 60), therefore it is culturally significant and worth "experiencing." But then, these buildings you write off as ugly and modern will, themselves be refined and worthy of experiencing sometime down the line, assuming they survive that long.

    At the end of the day: do you, and like what you do, but I didn't particularly enjoy my time in Florence, and the above more or less summarizes why.
     
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  2. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

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    :love:
     
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  3. Broken_Erika

    Broken_Erika Nothing

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    .........................................
     
  4. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Warlord

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    There is something of the Monthy Pythons there. I like it in some absurd way.
     
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  5. Sommerswerd

    Sommerswerd I never yielded

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    Welcome back :D. I was just thinking that I hadn't seen you post in some time and was wondering if you were OK.

    I have always wanted to visit Athens... in my imagination it was going to be this glorious, beautiful historic place... like walking around inside a Civ game :p... it makes me sad to hear that all my dreams are ashes:sad:
     
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  6. The_J

    The_J Say No 2 Net Validations Retired Moderator Supporter

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    I actually like that building with the head, looks pretty unique.

    What's the issue with Helsinki? Have been there like 3 months ago, and parts of the inner city are not bad.
     
  7. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

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    Kyriakos' standards might be different from yours. I have enjoyed visiting Athens every time I've been there.

    I would say that if you want to experience the history with a minimum of standing in line, it helps tremendously to be an early riser. In the summer, if you reach the akropolis after 0800, the crowd's already beaten you.
     
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  8. tetley

    tetley Head tea leaf

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    I think Helsinki is beautiful. The only way I would think it ugly is if you had to compare it with Bergen and Copenhagen.
     
  9. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    I haven't read some of the posts in this thread, so I am not familiar with all the interactions you've had with other people.

    Where did I say that urban areas are necessary for imagining what some place was like in decades or centuries in the past?

    Can you try to understand my view that it's easier to imagine the past if it all hasn't been paved over with modern stuff?

    I have no love for Disneyland, and a lot of this "Main Street USA" stuff is only familiar because I've seen it on TV.

    What I've read about Venice is that a lot of the people who live there would prefer it if they never saw another tourist, ever. They feel overwhelmed and overrun with tourists. And I'm guessing - have no actual idea - that there are lots of ways in which they would love to modernize their city but are prevented from doing so for reasons of preserving various heritage sites or objects.

    Personally, I prefer to leave people out of most of the pictures I take. This was a source of argument between my grandmother and me, when I spent a few weeks in Vernon, BC with my dad and his uncle. One day I grabbed my camera, got a KFC takeout lunch, and walked to one of the city parks I remembered from 20 years previously (it had been a loooong time since I was last there). I found a lot of it changed (couldn't find the giant checkerboard my cousin and I had played on when I was 4; at that time I was small enough to actually stand on the checkers), but some of it the same. There were places where trees had grown up where the older pictures we had showed them as very small, newly-planted trees.

    I took lots of pictures of the park, trying not to get people in them, and my grandmother dismissed them as "postcards." Well, why should I bother taking pictures of people I didn't know? I wanted to compare the park from decades past to the "now" (a "now" that is over 30 years in the past as I type).

    So kindly do not lump everyone into your so-called group of people who only want "trophy pictures" on social media, with the perceived attitude of "We went to (fill in the blank with the relevant city) and took our picture in front of (fill in the blank). We haz KUL-CHUR!!!". Social media is a thing that did not exist for most of my lifetime, and I still don't bother with most of it.

    I remember a scene in one of the Highlander TV episodes in which Duncan and Methos are browsing in an antique shop and Methos (an Immortal who's at least 5000 years old) mentions that he finds it funny how much money people pay for things that were essentially junk that everyone had when they were first made, but are only considered valuable because not many survived the passage of time.

    The oldest object I own that was made by humans is a Swedish coin from 1740. I had it checked by a coin dealer and he said it wasn't worth more than a few dollars, but to me it's valuable because real people used it over 250 years ago. Again, grant me the courtesy of realizing that I prefer the real thing over an artificial substitute. But when everyone knows it's a fantasy, there's nothing wrong with a substitute (ie. the armor worn by an SCA heavy fighter wasn't really made in the Middle Ages; it was likely made a year or two earlier in somebody's garage or workshop, to modern safety standards and has to pass a safety inspection before each and every fight).

    As for ugly modern buildings some day being considered "refined"... hopefully they won't be, because they really are hideous.

    Okay. Since I will probably never get there, I will leave you to your opinion.

    But allow me my fantasy that some day a time traveler will appear in my living room and I'll get to go for a time tour and see these places for myself, during the historical eras that may be applicable. I'll try not to change history... too much. :p
     
  10. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    It hardly is a city; more of a collection of villages. Moreover it has no character at all.
     
  11. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    It just doesnt look like an embassy; it mostly looks like a lord protector residence/fortress. It is ridiculous in scale and is the only other building (apart from the opera) on that side of the avenue.
    I would expect this in afganistan, but not here; being so blatant works to breed animosity.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  12. tetley

    tetley Head tea leaf

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    Helsinki beats the tar out of Gothenburg.
     
  13. Snerk

    Snerk Smeghead

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    Damn right, that weird head building is amazing in every conceivable way imaginable!

    Y'all crazy.
     
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  14. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

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    It looks exactly like a lot of embassies built during the 1940s and 1950s when Bauhaus was a popular style. The architectural style isn't particularly, uh, fortress-like. It's boxy, sure, but that ain't the same thing.

    There's a lot of space between the building and the fence because, well, that's better for security. And American missions all over the world need to be provided with security, because they're popular targets for attack - including the US Embassy in Athens, which got hit by an AT grenade back in 2007 when one of the local bush-league Marxist terrorist groups decided to go showboating. If you associate all that with "lord protector", well, that's certainly an opinion to have.

    The complex in Kabul is totally different. It is vastly larger, consisting of something like a full block on one side of a major highway and most of the block on the other side. There are a bunch of different buildings in there, not just the one, and they're actual military-grade structures, not modernist designs from seventy years ago. It's a real fortress - although again some concessions were made to style, IIRC - not like the Athens building. If there is any American embassy that actually qualifies for the appellation you gave it, it's that one.
     
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  15. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    I like the tree.
     
  16. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    I am to present some stuff about kafka, next to the acropolis museum.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
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  17. Sommerswerd

    Sommerswerd I never yielded

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    I once dated a young lady who would say exactly this. It rubbed off on me at first but I've gone back to my old ways of enjoying taking pictures of scenery and "stuff" that I think looks cool and interesting. If that's "trophy" picture taking... whatever, its my phone/camera I'll do what I want. :p

    Frankly I like postcards... and those random shots of breathtaking scenery that windows uses as the backdrop for your login screen... If people didn't take "postcard pictures" we wouldn't have those beautiful images. I also find that taking people-less shots of nice scenery etc., that you encounter while on vacation really helps to bring back the experience and memories. :D
     
  18. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    Metamorphosis was on BBC radio 4 this weekend.
    Quit good
     
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  19. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Exactly! And when people look at the pictures and wonder who the people are in it and you say, "I have no idea"... the next question becomes, "Why bother taking pictures of people you don't know?"

    Besides, some people don't want to be in random strangers' vacation photos.

    I went to Polson Park to take pictures of the park, not random strangers or the wedding party that turned up and insisted they just HAD to take pictures NOW. I could see their point. There's a portion of that park that's set up like a "Japanese garden" setting and they needed to have the correct light.

    At least they weren't like the wedding party that turned up at one of the local parks here. I'd just had an exhausting crosstown walk home from one of the malls on a really hot day (still had a long way to go), and desperately needed to rest in the shade. So along comes a wedding party, insisting I move because they wanted a picture under THAT tree, even though the park was full of very similar-looking trees that they could have used. My explaining to them that I'd just walked several miles on a hot day made no difference.

    Those Windows photos... it's funny. There was one that turned up on my screen a week and a half ago, and I thought, "That looks familiar..." and it turned out that it's near one of the places that @warpus posted in his Norway thread!
     
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  20. rah

    rah Warlord Supporter

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    Knowing how long and hard most brides will plan and work for their PERFECT day, I'd like to think that I would be a nice enough person to graciously overlook any rudeness and grant their request while congratulating them on their special day.
     

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