12 June 2018

Street art finds many
imaginative shapes and
colours in Rethymnon

Colourful steps at a restaurant at the top of Cheimárras Street, near the Fortezza in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Cheimárras Street is a colourful and peaceful place in among the warren of narrow streets in Rethymnon on a summer evening. This winding street twists and turns as it makes its way from the old Venetian Fortezza that crowns the heart of the town down past the Museum of Contemporary Art, to Melissinou Street, where the icon writer Alexandra Kaouki has her studios.

As I start walking down Cheimárras Street, the houses are pretty and charming, the steps in the side alleys are painted colourfully, and even old doorways that seem to have fallen into disrepair are draped in bougainvillea or decorated with old watering cans that have been filled with flowers.

A pretty house can be a work of art in itself in Rethymnon … seen on the corner of Cheimárras Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Each house is pretty and charming in its own self-contained way. On the corner where the street takes a sharp turn two-thirds of the way down, there is a house with pretty colours and potted flowers that I have photographed on many occasions.

These colourful houses and painted steps on the slopes of Cheimárras Street are street art in their own way, a struggle to bring out the innate beauty of an old part of this town, and to make people understand the soul of this city.

As I strolled through the town during the past week, I come across other forms of street art and sculpture that have appeared in Rethymnon more recently.

A sundial on the seafront in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

On the sea front, at the north end of Plateia Agnostou Stratioti (Πλατεια Αγνωστου Στρατιωτη, the Square of the Unknown Solider), a new sundial has a noticeboard nearby explaining how a sundial works and how calculate the time in Greece.

Art imitates café life … Arkadiou Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Further west, on Arkadiou Street, some tree stumps have been carved to represent three chairs at a table in a Greek café.

But street art comes in other forms too:

Lyras in a shop front on a street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

… the lyras and other musical instruments on sale in a shop …

Graffitti on a side street between the Cathedral and Arkadiou Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

… or the angry graffiti in the side-streets where the voiceless and the unheard can express their anger at the suffering created by the collapse of the Greek economy and the austerity measures that have left high rates of unemployment among the young, brought swingeing cuts to public services, and that have made small businesses and workers should the costs of past mistakes.

But graffiti can also be a blight on a city and when it becomes infectious it can be hard to stop it spreading.

In recent years, Mikrasiaton Square (Πλατεία Μικρασιατών) in the centre of the old town, has been transformed into an attractive plaza, with open spaces for concerts, park benches and sculptures. Architecturally, it is hemmed by the Nerantzes Mosque with its minaret and three domes and the Archaeological Musuem, recently moved into the former Venetian Church of Saint Francis, and surrounded by good restaurants.

Some abandoned buildings might have blighted this square in the past, and become typical recipients of graffiti and painted scrawls. But instead, an imaginative initiative has attracted the talents of street artists, adding to the attractions of this square in central Rethymnon on a summer evening:

Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2018 (click on images for full-screen views)

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