Tuesday, 15 April 2008
It feels strange to be walking down this alley uninvited, as if I'm prying into the private world of people who are forced to live their life with a lack of dignity. They're probably used to the tourists strolling down the 'romantic' alleys leading to the trendy cafes surrounding the old harbour in Hania. This is Splantzia, once a Jewish and then a Turkish settlement in years gone by. Now it's a low working class inner-city suburb that appeals to new migrants to Hania, with its cheap rents and multi-cultural atmosphere. The residents live in crammed quarters, squashed against each other, always on top of or under or to the left or the right of someone else. Privacy cannot exist in such a place.
It's not too hard to work out who lives in the house on the left: sports shoes, worker's clothes, spicy smells emanating from the one-roomed house, foreign sounds, dark faces. The building has been renovated by the look of the smooth stucco wall, but it hasn't been painted. There's a corrugated iron rainstopper above the door that looks as though it was stuck on with a bit of sellotape. This dwelling (is it a house?) represents cheap housing for Hania's economic migrants.
The old woman dressed in black at the end of the street is also a poignant case. She's an old resident of the area, and this is probably the only home she's ever known. The street serves as her clothesline, her porch, her verandah and her front garden, where she's lined up a few flower pots with geraniums. Summer means she doesn't have to stay cooped up in her crammed house, and she can watch the world go by in the fresh air - it's a car-less zone by its very nature.