Guide to SKOPJE



No matter where you go, you will always be here

You will have a key to open the door

But baby, I am afraid I might be the one to leave

Come! Let’s go for a stroll, the two of us…


When your steps lead you to the square of Nea Smyrni, you might be feeling a bit moody, like these lyrics by Stamatis Kraounakis (also the song’s composer).

But very soon your mood may change. The square is alive. All generations are welcome. All the time there’s something going on. The coming and going is endless, often spiced with well-known stars of the musical and athletic scene that reside or work here.


You will see the numerous cafes all around, where people hang out regularly in the open air – even when it’s winter. Each company of friends has their own favorite café where the others will find them at the right time, no need to set an appointment. Every café has a story: because the owner is a famous TV persona or simply your friend, because the cappuccino is legendary or there is a cheese-pie happy hour. Because of its particular customers, like the “Panthers” – the ultra-fanatics of the local sports club (Panionios). Even because there is that sort of secret basement with a secret garden to find a seat when the rest of the café is packed. Today, “Adonis” café is one of the oldest.


Let’s go to Adonis for a coffee

Where handsome youth and freaks and athletes hang out

And where an insane nervous fat lady goes on Sundays to get rid of her stress!

The refrain describes real people that were a true spectacle on the square in the mid 1980’s when the song was written. No way would you miss that lady who was indeed too loud! In my imagination the composer and his friends frequented the square as so did thousands of other students from the nearby university which really had no decent students café back then. The Pandion School for Social Sciences, well… Is there a better place to experience social behavior and our powerful coffee culture than Nea Smyrni square?


And everything looks like nothingness

And hangs around unsuspected…

True, by first impression you might think that here people seem unaware of the world’s problems. And to be honest, students would rather go to the square to kill time between classes. Or just to be lazy. But people need togetherness in a city with too much individualism and isolation. Even so, in such a crowded site, couples chose to go out on a date.

And you are my desire

You are my coffee and cigarettes!


Times have gone by, some people are gone and a lot of the cafés have gone, others replaced them. Adonis café itself has confined itself in the mezzanine, another café opened downstairs, both remain busy. Even graffiti slogans fade away to be replaced by new ones. The square never ceases to be a social reference point, a place for children to play and for young parents to wheel around the prams with their babies.


The occasional street sellers nowadays come from distant lands, Sudan and Senegal. Even the singer of this song, Alkistis Protopsalti, comes from Alexandria, Egypt. Most of the inhabitants here also have roots in a distant city, Izmir, in Turkey. The square and the district were especially planned and built from scratch in the 1930’s to help them settle in this new home they named “New Izmir” (Nea Smyrni).


Whatever we might live through, we have seen it before

Like a scene from another movie

Darling, the whole world can live this…

Come! I’m buying you coffee at the square!


The square officially has no name. It has been planned as an open area for the community, the only district in Athens to have been granted this birthright. A contradictory mayor in the 1970’s covered the square with concrete, built a tall monument and a lot of water ponds with small cascades (ducks used to swim there).


Locals agree that it looks strange; nevertheless, they don’t want to change it. Every child has grown up trying to reach the top of that concrete “pyramid” and slide down proudly afterwards –  the structure itself retains its initial purpose: a shade for coffee trolleys!

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The song fades out with a fast tempo and a lot of laughter, people joining in the fun at different instances. At the end there is a sigh. Why?

Oh, that’s another story…Another song I’m sure!

«O Adonis», 1985

Sophia Nikolaou