Why you should care
Because communal drinking can unite us all for the cause.
You’d be forgiven for avoiding Monastiraki, the neighborhood home to the famous flea markets of Athens, on your next trip to Greece. Brimming with souvenir shops, overpriced tourist-trap restaurants and, well, tourists, the central neighborhood isn’t exactly the first place you think of when looking for authentic Greek culture. Unless you’re willing to pull back the curtain.
Winding through Monastiraki’s busy streets, with their absurdly small sidewalks, and down an unassuming alley, you’ll find a flight of stairs that leads you downward, momentarily into a dimly lit tunnel, and out into a humming, vibrant backyard atmosphere where beautiful young Greeks, illuminated in the glow of fairy lights strung between trees, chain-smoke, drink and banter. This is Six d.o.g.s.
I was first led there in the sweltering height of summer, by a friend who’s lived in the busy city her entire life. Following her through the post-work crowds and tourists with no sense of communal space, we emerged into the Six d.o.g.s backyard. On stools at a high table, elbow to elbow with the patrons next to us, we drank Campari sodas. Ambient music and the hum of voices buzzed at just the right volume around us. It’s an intimate place, where empty jars hanging from tree branches serve as lighting, and there’s just enough room on the table to savor a deconstructed salad of cheese, oily tomatoes and Cretan bread rusk, on the menu for €7 (about $7.50).
Young Greeks come here to hang out, infusing the atmosphere with the spirit of anarchy.
Open since 2009, Six d.o.g.s bills itself as an “all-day/all-night cultural entertainment center.” But it’s not just any old bar with a backyard. It’s something of a cultural hub, where you’ll find local artists displaying their craft in the Project Space and open-air garden. In the Gig Space you can catch a band or DJ, performance art or even a comedy show. It’s “a place that is open in every way,” says Yannis Palaiologos, a journalist and Six d.o.g.s frequenter. Anyone can feel at home here, he adds, from “hard-driving professionals to artists and punk rockers.”
The drinks are cheap (it’s €4 for beer, €5 for wine), but it doesn’t draw a cheap-drinks crowd. Young Greeks come here to hang out, infusing the atmosphere with the spirit of anarchy — no surprise with the anarchist neighborhood of Exarchia only a stone’s throw away. And what’s more anarchic than perching on a stepped, sandy hill flecked with wooden benches and low tables, refusing to shun the joy of conversation, imbibing in the company of others when the country’s in a downturn?
As my uncle explained to me one night over a half-liter of tsipouro: “Our country is in trouble. People have no money, but the Greek way is to commune.” If you can’t afford your drinks one week, others will chip in, he explains. “Going out for dinner and drinks is a political act here — it’s Plato’s symposium.”
Six d.o.g.s indeed embodies the spirit of the symposium. Between the experimental creatives and local crowds that convene here, the bar is a celebration of grassroots Greek contemporary culture. I like to think of it as the meeting of the taverna (Greek tavern) of my grandparents’ generation and the ancient agora (public gathering space) mashed together, where everyone is welcome. But first you’ll need to find it.