MAKERS’ SPACES

The last stop of our tour through Italy and Greece was the beautiful town of Florence, in the middle of the Tuscany region. We visited Francesca and Roberto, a painter and an architect, who installed the “Source” design fair there, 2 years ago (www.sourcefirenze.it). Our interview took place during the course of the 3rd annual edition of the fair (September 10-20, 2015) on site in the green oasis that is the Giardino di Villa Strozi. There, two beautiful buildings provide space for their self-made design exhibition and for the workshops that they host together with the team of the Altrove Association. All designers are allowed to exhibit for free, with the goal of fostering the growth of up and coming talent. The fair is meant to function as a hub creating a network between designers, artisans and artists as well as to connect them with companies and institutions. For future editions, Francesca and Roberto plan to extend the fair by a media section, showing feature films and documentaries in the open air theatre which is located on the roof of their exhibition building. After the interview, we headed back into town and regained our strength by having some authentic Italian pasta for lunch in order to get ready for the second half of our day.

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In the afternoon, we met with the architect and LOFOIO (www.lofo.io) founder Mattia in his workshop, which is located in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood that has a long tradition of hosting a multitude of craftsmen, workshops, artisans and designers.  The room features the space and the tools needed in order to do handicrafts, to enjoy or to discover your passions and to get in touch with likeminded people, which is also fostered by events that are hosted in the workshop. Mattia is very interested in the concept of co-working and was already involved in setting up 2 other co-working spaces in Florence, including the Fab Lab. We had an interesting talk about LOFOIO as well as about the future of work in general and about giving power to freelancers. LOFOIO (Italian for “I do this”)  is his prototype for a network of a variety of thematically distinct co-working spaces. As a true maker living his claim, we are sure that there is lots more to expect from him. Before we headed back for our last night in Italy, Mattia took us across the neighborhood to visit some befriended craftsmen and designers. The designer depicted below used to work for Hermès and now runs a leather workshop and store of his own.

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ATHENS TO TUSCANY

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After our amazing Raki evening with the Latraac crew, we headed back from the Greek harbour town of Patra to Bari in Italy by boat the next day, again doing Camping on Board. We made full use of the time on the ferry by cutting some hair on the parking deck. After having been checked thoroughly for Syrian refugees and drugs when arriving back in Southern Italy, we visited a tiny Italian village on the coast and had fresh seafood that came straight from the fish trawler onto the grill. When the roaring heat started to cool down a bit towards the evening, we drove a couple of hundred kilometers up North for the night. Our 1978 built VW van needed careful treatment and didn’t handle the heat very well.

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Now that we had a few days of traveling from the very South of Bari back up North to Florence, we actually had some time to wind down and have a proper bonfire on the beach, grilling good Italian vegetables with Feta cheese accompanied by some “Reishunger” Risotto from Germany. Unfortunately, Sandy was still not running smoothly, our beloved T2 would not start any more. So we grabbed the opportunity to take her to a workshop, run by Donato Zerulo, where we got some new spark plug wires and a new cable for the starter, which actually helped it a lot and we were running smoothly again.

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However, the next day was not without surprise, given our little “incident” at the self service gas station. Our thought-to-be friendly Italian helper took off with a tank full of gas on our bill, which led to all the actually friendly Italian customers of the station collecting money for another tank to finally fill up Sandy again. Unfortunately, the attendant opted for Diesel fuel, which then had to be sucked out of the tank again with the good old sucking-the-hose technique. After this “interesting” pit stop, we finally made it up North to Tuscany, where we spent the night overlooking a really nice lake and doing some time lapse photography.

 

SMALL PIECES OF LAND

Xorafaki means something like “small piece of land”. The neat expression is referring to a little piece of land that almost every Greek family owns somewhere as part of their personal heritage. When Yiouli Doxanaki – at the time working as a creative manager in the theatre industry – was suddenly confronted with having to run her father’s agriculture consulting business, the company was mostly working with larger farmers, processing plants or cooperatives, which were able to pay for expensive consulting. When the crisis hit Greece, a growing number of people were forced to evaluate cultivating food themselves, no matter how little they knew about this undertaking. Yiouli and her business partner Yiorgos approached this current development by establishing Xorafaki as a new line of business, specifically targeting small to tiny endeavors, with little to no farming knowledge whatsoever. After Yiouli converted a fair share of her friends into farmers, she took the service public and it is working quite well. Again, it was digital technology that enabled this business, delivering efficient small scale consulting and there within developing a possibly huge potential for food production: regional, sustainable and self-sufficient. As a practical side effect, the customers get to experience the joys of getting in touch with their own food as well as the satisfaction of clearing their heads in the outdoors while getting their hands dirty.

The senior citizen on the first image below also told us his story when we bumped into him on the street: He worked abroad for a big airline company for most of his life, he bought himself an appartment and retired recently. The value of his appartment fell by 50% due to the crisis and his 2.000€ pension is now worth only 900€ a month, which he partly gives to his 2 sons, who both lost their jobs. However, he was still in a very good mood and we had a nice little chat before we had to move on.

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A small piece of land also came into play in our next project when it was rented by Zachos Varfis of Latraac with a long-term contract. His lot in the middle of the cosmopolitan – and in some corners very gritty, in others very hip – downtown Athens neighborhood of Kerameikos just features the scarce remains of a demolished building. This is where he and three of his friends are building a skatepark meets café and green socio-cultural space type of endeavor. Zachos is a self-employed architect and passionate vert-rider and brought his friend Alex on board as a business partner. Isabel and Miyon are professional gardeners and complete the team. The 4 friends all stem from an international background and work for Latraac in their free time. They are united by the vision of creating a social hub and a green and clean hangout just a stone’s throw away from their homes. Moreover, Latraac features the first transition skatepark in the middle of Athens. Zachos used an innovative digital production method for the skate bowl, combining a comparably large amount of small parts, which were all cut according to software calculations. On the botanical side, the girls found ways to bed out very undemanding, local plants such as a fig and a pepper tree or eucalyptus, which can deal with the nutrient-poor soil and which are supposed to provide shade once people start coming to sit next to the planned tea house. Zachos picked up the word Latraac in South America; it means “La transition a commencé” – the transition has started.

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GIRL POWER

On Wednesday, we met with Alternative Athens’ Tina Kyriakis while enjoying a panoramic view over the impressive Greek capital from the Orizontes restaurant at the top of the Lycabettus Hill. We talked about her personal path from her international business formation, via time spent at a Spanish Equestrian Centre, her corporate PR and Marketing background and taking Californian filmmaking classes until she founded her own and very personal tourism company: Alternative Athens. With her company, she is offering unusual tours of the city in small groups, visiting places and spaces which matter a little more than your usual tourism hotspots and which have meaning to Tina personally. She chose guides according to their character and trained them herself to her own personal standards. We got into a very inspiring conversation about directing one’s life and about diving in head first.

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Later that day, we met with Ioanna Fotopoulous, a thriving young entrepreneur and politician from Thessaloniki, currently living and working in Athens. After our interview at the Yacht Harbour was disturbed by an airshow, we moved on to a nice little cafe in her local neighborhood.  We talked about her formation, her time as the founder and president of the NGO The Activests, intensive time spent working in the Balkans and founding and growing the e-governance startup YouRule. Ioanna has also been active as a participant in the Clinton Global Initiative University and as an Ambassador for One Young World. Right now, she is handling all of her activities while working full time as a Marketing Manager, but maybe not for long, YouRule looks very promising.

On our way home, we had to change at the main station, where many Syrian refugees would eventually arrive each day on their way to Central Europe. We usually had a little chat with some of them, such as the parents of the little Farrah (depicted below). Funny enough, as our Photographer Sascha is currently walking around barefoot, Farrah’s father was offering him his shoes – and couldn’t quite get why he wouldn’t want to wear them.

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POLITICS AND REAL FOOD

Tuesday was a very productive day. First, we met with Antonis Schwarz. The founder of Vouliwatch, who is of Greek and German descent originally started his powerful Parliament Watch Business together with a Greek partner in the Impact Hub Athens and eventually grew and needed to relocate to an office of his own. The digital platform offers a party policy monitor, the public questioning of Members of Parliament and the monitoring of their voting behavior as well as the crowdsourcing of ideas. These are very exciting times for him, as he extends his reach into high politics and is on his way to become an integral part of the political system. We talked about giving power to the people, the structure of the current political system, digital innovations and of course his current and future milestones with Vouliwatch.

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In the afternoon, we met Pavlos Georgiadis, who is running the multi-national food consultancy business We Deliver Taste. On the more practical side, he is true to his personal heritage by producing tasty and healthy Greek olive oil in oversized bottles which won’t ever fit in a supermarket shelve. His mission is to better the quality of the food we consume, real food, no empty calories, locally sourced and efficiently used. Being a documentary film maker in the past, Pavlos is a true media professional and gave us some bold statements. We had a great talk about his personal path bridging botanics and gastronomy, his visits to indigenous communities, about the mass consumption of food, innovative initiatives and the need for a new generation of young farmers. after that, Pavlos took us on a great food shopping trip through his favorite stores and markets in the city and later on, together with his lovely girlfriend Stephania, we all had a delicious dinner on the balcony of their home where he invited us for the evening and where we watched some of his documentary footage.

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IMPRESSIVE ATHENS

Our first day in Athens started with a private tour with our wonderful guide Vassia of Alternative Athens. She took us on a stroll through the Meat and Fish Market, the Spice Street, the Neighborhoods of Psirri (where the Impact Hub is located), Monastiraki, Kerameikos and Exarchia. The latter one has been a hub for leftwing activists, artists and alternative lifestyles for a number of years and gained a dodgy reputation when the 15-year-old Greek kid Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot and killed on December 6, 2008, which led to the “December Uprising”, where Athens was burning and which seriously affected the Greek youth movement. When we visited an Urban Gardening Project on an occupied property in Exarchia, we were lucky to meet Spathara, who told us about her work in the Garden and the social initiatives that are active in that district.

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Later that day, we went to visit the founders of the Impact Hub Athens, Dimitris and Sophie for an interview. We talked about their way into the world of Impact Hubs, about different projects they are hosting at the moment as well as the bridge-building function of the Hub and their very personal motivation and vision that give them the energy to pursue their current path and engage themselves in creating sustainable, wide-ranging initiatives that have a positive impact.

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TROUBLING AROUND

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Sunday was a travel day for us. In the brutal summer heat, we took Sandy on a 600km ride down south from the East of Thessaloniki. It went well for several hours making some good ground until suddenly our beloved VW T2 broke down just in front of a toll station for a brief period and wouldn’t start any more. With the help of Google, we finally found the starter motor and managed to get her back on the road. We continued going on at only around 80km/h through the evening heat, which still measured at just below 40°, and finally managed to reach the outskirts of the Greek capital. In the descent of the night, the toll stations appeared to be like the US-Mexican border control with the sheer amount of cars wanting to pass through. We finally arrived at one of the most interesting places of our trip so far, home to about half of the country’s population: Athens.

MUSSELS AND POLITICS

After shooting pickups at quite a few interesting spots in the cosmopolitan town of Thessaloniki, we had a meeting with Mimis Fotopoulos, the mayor of the Delta Province (which is located on the West side of Thessaloniki), in the late Saturday afternoon. Mr. Fotopoulos brought the head of his municipality along with him, Marienthi Dimopoulou, as well as his charming daughter Dimitra, who helped us with the translation of the interview.

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Being the Mayor, he can basically choose any place he likes to just walk in and do some filming with us. We were quite lucky that he chose one of the authentic fishers’ houses on the seaside, where we were able to shoot amazing footage. Our interview topics ranged from their local natural reserve with its extensive rice plantations, some of the social initiatives (such as social supermarkets and social pharmacies) that arose by the crisis, about the values of the upcoming generation of young Greeks and also about his take on the relationship between Greece and Europe.

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GREEK HEAT

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Here are some images of our arrival in Greece on Saturday morning at about 6:30h. Sandy and the Silver Star took us through the beautiful mountain landscape of Greek Macedonia all the way to the second most important town in Greece: Thessaloniki. However, about 3km from the Goethe Institute and in the scorching midday heat, Sandy broke down in midst of heavy inner city traffic. So we split teams and the one going ahead arrived at the Goethe Institute much later than planned, just in time to have about an hour’s talk with the German cultural outpost’s director Peter Panes.

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We talked about the different socio-cultural projects of the Institute, its engagement in the EU’s Creative Europe program, its hosting of a refugee congress, the Cultural Innovators Network, the Input Project and much more. Moreover, we received very helpful tips for places to visit in Thessaloniki. Most strikingly, one of the main activities of the Goethe Institute is “building bridges”, which is exactly our claim. As we didn’t have time to shoot either there or at any of the mentioned projects, we definitely need to come back here in order to portray some of the initiatives around the Goethe Institute. After Sandy agreed to start again within the hands of a professional technician, we raised its tickover a bit and carefully went on to the seaside, where we spent the night.

 

OFF TO THESSALONIKI

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After a second visit of the Hub in Reggio Emilia we were off to Bologna for the night and continued our journey yesterday until we reached the coast at the Harbour of Ancona. We crossed the Adriatic Sea to Igoumenitsa by Ferry (Camping on Board) and just arrived in Greece early this morning. Now we are back on the road, on our way to the Goethe Insitut Thessaloniki.