Photographers' Blog

Athens’ Ghost Airport

Athens, Greece

By Yorgos Karahalis

It’s been over a decade since Athens’ Hellenikon airport closed down after around 60 years of duty as the only airport serving the Greek capital.

 Olympic Airways airplanes are seen at the premises of the former Athens International airport of Hellenikon June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

In 2001, just three years before Athens hosted the Olympic Games, Hellenikon was abandoned in favour of the glitzy new Eleftherios Venizelos airport, constructed to the east of the city. 

What has happened to Hellenikon since then?

Well, the glory days of the airport are long gone.

A station for the airport's limousine service is seen outside the east terminal of the former Athens International Airport of Hellenikon June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Nothing has been done with the property aside from using part of the land to construct a few secondary sports facilities for use during the 2004 Olympics. In turn, these too now stand abandoned.  

The former airport is now surrounded by a wire fence and weeds have taken over wherever they can. One terminal was burnt out by a fire and now sits in ruins – nobody cleaned it up after the incident. 

A view of a burnt building at the West terminal of the former Athens International airport of Hellenikon June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Despite a private security service operating in the area, the building shows evidence of trespassing and looting. Boxes filled with anything from travel tags to piles of boarding passes and other documents are strewn on the floor amidst other debris and garbage. 

The search for a mosque in Athens

Athens, Greece

By Yorgos Karahalis

Some say that to come in contact with “God” is a spiritual matter that has nothing to do with the particular spot or place where such contact takes place. Well, if it were that simple then there would be no need to build churches or mosques.

In the Greek capital Athens, where almost half the country’s 11 million people live, there is a 500,000-strong Muslim community, mostly immigrants from Asia, Africa and eastern Europe. Many of those are faithful and want to express their faith by praying in an appropriate place. Well, there is no such place – there isn’t a single “official” mosque in the wider area of the Greek capital.

Instead, they have to rent flats, basements, old garages and all kinds of warehouses and transform them into makeshift mosques to cover their need for a place to hold religious ceremonies. There are lots of these types of “mosques” around town but they’re not easy to spot and whenever I arrived at one of those addresses I had to double-check it was correct as there was no way to identify these flats or warehouses from the outside. I could not say that they’re miserable places but I could better describe them as hidden places, places that do not want to get noticed. During most of my visits people have been very welcoming and very keen to express their concerns about the lack of a recognizable place of worship as well as their fears about the threats they get from some locals.

A dramatic rescue outside my window

Athens, Greece

By John Kolesidis

Today I woke up to the deafening sound of thunder. The rain was pouring hard.

I made myself a cup of coffee and watched the rain out the window flood the surrounding streets. I was at a loss as to how I would get to the office without getting soaked, so I decided to stay put until things calmed down a bit. When I finished my coffee, I looked out the window again, and things had taken a dramatic turn.

GALLERY: SAVED FROM A FLOOD

A bit further down the street I could see an immobilized car getting swollen by the flood. Then I heard some muffled voices. I put on my galoshes and raincoat, took my cameras, and tried to get there. I walked through a small park, but that led me behind barbed wire which I couldn’t get over. I saw a woman trying to hold on to her car door, while the water was at waist level. I called out to her not to be scared, urging her to hold on to the door until I could get closer.

I took some pictures behind the barbed wire, and then I tried to find a way to cross the flooded park so that I could get to her. When I got in front of the fence, there was a cascade between me and the woman, as she was on the other side of the road. People were looking on from their balconies, and I started shouting out to them to call the fire brigade. Then a man on the same side of the street climbed on top of her car, and another man managed to approach as well.

Greece’s new army of the homeless

By Yiorgos Karahalis

Ragged clothes, small piles of belongings and a bleak future, Greece’s new army of homeless have swelled in numbers since the debt crisis hit the country.

As part of ideas to highlight the story that has dominated headlines for the past two years, I wanted to illustrate the emerging problem of homelessness in a country which has seen a rise in the number of homeless by 20-25 percent in the last two years alone – a staggering rise in a country where adult children live with their parents, in some cases until the day they get married, and pensions traditionally go to support young families.

Athens is the country’s largest city with an estimated population of five million and where the homeless problem is much more visible than anywhere else. Even its city center, a top tourist spot, sees dozens of homeless people having made building entrances and shop fronts their new home. Sleeping bags and cardboard boxes piled against walls, a few shopping bags of clothes and food their only belongings.
Homelessness has now permeated all genders, races, ethnic backgrounds and social classes.

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