Life can be really funny. There I was, in the tiniest bar that is overflowing with people jumping up and down to some song I cannot remember, trying to reach the washroom, when on my way, I meet this guy, we have a shot, say hi and continue in separate ways. Two weeks later, I get to know they guy a bit more, and it turns out he is one of the most active people I have ever met. Seriously, the guy is taking full advantage of what this country has to offer. He loves the city, but escapes to the countryside, the mountains or the islands every weekend. And he doesn’t just chill where he goes. He is riding his bike, he’s climbing really steep slopes and he’s skiing. You name it. As you understand, Stefanos Papadopoulos needs to be on imatiothiki – just to give everyone a heads up on the potential one can find in nature and to make us question if our time is worth spending on trivial activities.
Tell me a really strange story you’ve experienced.
I once had to go on tv in order to light up my cigarette. Austrian tv to be exact. I was in Karitsi Square, had just lost my lighter and was asking around for one. No one seemed to have one, apart from the tv crew. They were trying to find people to comment on the crisis, and no one wanted to give an interview. So I commented on the crisis, on Austrian television, and had my cigarette.
And what did you say?
That despite the crisis, 70% of the people still vote the largest political parties.
Now, tell me something strange about you.
I had watched very little TV from grammar school, until I went to University. My parents thought it would be bad for us, so we had to TVs in the house.
How did you watch all the football matches?
I visited friends. Once, they even brought their TV at my place.
You have climbed a lot of mountains in Greece. Do you have any stories to share? Have you met any interesting people?
About four years ago, I was in Olympus and a French was missing. I think they still haven’t found her. But we were given instructions on how to take care of her if we found her. It felt strange. As for people, I have met a lot. I remember this rescuer, Vassilis. He knew the mountain like the back of his palm and he told me a lot of stories about saving people in the mountains, or finding them dead. Vassilis is a pretty interesting guy.
Which would you say is the best mountain to climb?
I think everyone should go to Zagorochoria and climb the mountain to reach Drakolimni. The beauty is breathtaking.
Why is it that not many Greeks are into trekking?
I really can’t tell. In Czechs Republic, for example more than half the country’s people are enrolled in trekking clubs or organizations. In Greece there are so few people who do that. I guess it’s about easy versus difficult. Everybody loves things going smoothly and almost no one wants to experience anything apart from comfort.
But there are many who go to the countryside for holidays.
Yes, but they mostly have a distant relationship to nature. Almost apathetic. They roll down their car windows and take a snapshot of the scenery. Drive to the nearest recreation area, where they can get a good and safe view of the landscape and that’s it. I like to see nature as a challenge.
But apart from the mountains, and the trekking, you are a proud supporter of bike rides in Athens.
Yes, that’s right. I often ride my bike and visit interesting neighborhoods, take pictures and then make small photo tours people can see and try out themselves. But what’s new, is that we are planning on doing an organized planning of a bike ride that will take you along the Themistoclean walls. In some parts the wall is visible, and where it’s not there will be pictures and a full guide and map. It’s a good way to learn about your city and ride your bike at the same time.
What are you missing from Athens?
Innovation. I can give you a small example of what I am saying. Take the Olympic games for instance. There was this great party at the beginning and everyone was chearing and applauding, but I saw no vision. Nothing. They just made a wonderful presentation of our past and left it there, like a bulk of memories that has no link whatsoever to the future and to what is yet to come. I am also missing local organizing and decision making. The people of Athens are not very close to one another, in order to join forces and really fight for their city.
You are an engineer, but have an eye for architecture. Which would be some of your favorite buildings in Athens?
There are two. One is in Spefsipou Str in Lycabettus. It’s this large house that looks like it should be in on an island. It kind of has the traditional Cycladic style, but it is in the center of Athens. The funny story about it is that it belongs to some very rich guy, who wanted to see the city from his windows and not the neighbors. So he bought the last two stories of the building across the street, tore them down and now he can enjoy the view. I also like one near Anagnostopoulou Str. It’s a neoclassical building that used to be the Canadian embassy. It’s not any more.
A few comments on the things pictured and mentioned above: Stefanos is not only riding his bike, climbing mountains and sailing across the Aegean Sea. He is also playing basketball with his friends from Grammar School (that’s right) each Thursday. He cracked his arm, so he is posing in plaster. / The first time he climbed mountain Olympus was when he was about 5. He was with his family and almost made it to the top. He has reached the top several times since. / He used to live in Thessaloniki. He finds the people there friendlier than Athenians. / One of his greatest loves is Serifos. His parents bought a house there before he was born and he has been going back ever since. But for some reason the locals only remember his brother and not him. He is planning on changing that. / The climbing outfit was shot on his terrace, which means I pushed down all my fear of heights and climbed a very steep staircase.