What are the consequences of a diet rich in limestone? What does Zurich have in common with Eleusis? What local product was once wildly popular in the Ottoman Empire? What are the health benefits of inhaling cement dust? These are some of the questions that will be at the heart of our walk in industrial Eleusis.
Ancient Eleusis was closely associated with Demeter and Persephone. The fate of the modern city, however, is inextricably intertwined with other “deities”, namely “Titan” and “Kronos” (Saturn), two industrial complexes that laid the foundations for the development of Eleusis and then crushed it under the collective weight of their disastrous environmental footprint. Here lies the essence of Eleusis’ modern history: an incredible dynamism and love for innovation lost in a cloud of orange smoke that swallowed the city and a sea where eels suffocated to death.
The best way to discover the industrial past of Eleusis is to walk along the coast. On our right we will always have the island of Salamis and the azure (?) waters of the bay of Eleusis. On our left we will encounter (and visit) the most important industrial complexes: the Palaio Elaiourgeio (Old Soap Factory), the “Titan” cement factory, the “Iris” chemical factory, and “Kronos”. From marble to cement may feel like a hymn to industrial decay, but it is also the perfect introduction to a past that is almost mythical. As incredible as it may seem, there was a time when cement and soap from Eleusis were a major hit in foreign markets.
We will listen to the stories of the workers and the refugees who dedicated the best years of their lives to these factories and we will learn about the great strikes that secured their most fundamental rights (may we have our wages paid regularly each Saturday?). As we wander the streets of Eleusis, we will marvel at the beautiful neoclassical mansions that once housed the factory directors and admire the working-class houses crammed in the shadow of the factory chimneys. Finally, perhaps in awe and wonder, we will discover the devastating environmental impact of all this industrial development and the negative effects on the urban fabric, the antiquities, the health of the inhabitants and the natural environment of the Thriasian plain. It is doubtful whether Demeter would recognize Eleusis today, but for us mortals, an introduction to the industrial past of this city remains an endless source of fascinating stories.
Meeting point: Palaio Elaiourgeio (Old Soap Factory)
Stops: Titan, old harbour, Iris, Kronos, Kalympaki, Symiaka
Finishing point: Plateia Heroon (Heroes Square)
No special preparation is required to participate in this experience. Depending on the weather and personal preferences, guests should dress comfortably and bring with them sunglasses, hats and sunscreen