This is how you could describe what lies beneath the capital of Greece. The places above which you have walked hundreds of times without knowing what is there. We are speaking about the "unknown city" under Athens, the shelters, and of a "city" that few know about.
This small new city of Athens was created during the Second World War. Athens was bombed and the population should have places to be protected. This is how the shelters were created. It is actually a network of labyrinthine corridors and chambers that protect the people from air strikes and beyond. Some larger and some smaller spaces changed shape and many times usage and some of them were turned over the years into places of torture.
The known and the unknown shelters in Athens
The history of the shelters is long, as is their number. Marshal Papagos (Greek general) mentioned at the time that 400 public shelters were built by the state. In addition to these, however, it is considered that there are several thousand private shelters that were built in apartment buildings and other private spaces due to the mandatory law of the Metaxa government (1936-1941). However, we cannot accurately know the number of those who were actually created and what condition they are in today.
Extensive registration and analysis for shelters have been done by the researcher Konstantinos Kyrimis who has also written a related book (The Shelters of Attica). In the last eight years, he has visited about 80 shelters in the city of Athens and the city of Piraeus. Each of them has its own story to tell. Some of these shelters were for protection but at other times were used as torture chambers. That's because their use has changed many times over the years. Konstantinos Kyrimis himself has stated in his lectures and interviews he gave: "From 1936 to December riot events (armed conflicts that took place a little after the Second World War between the Greek Army of the Resistance and the English army that helped the Government) the shelters were transformed from protection places for the population to torture centers of the occupying forces, and became from protection places of the inhabitants of Piraeus from the allied bombardment of '44 became fields of conflict in the December riot events and also protected and hidden the civilians".
He also mentions that the only shelter that is maintained as a torture chamber is that of 4, Korai Str. in downtown Athens which is located near the University of Athens and is a site of historical memory. But even this is not maintained as a refuge but as a place of detention for the Germans.
The question is where are the shelters? Everywhere! In Athens (Lykavittos hill, Ardittos hill, Polygono district, etc.), Piraeus (Proph. Elias hill, Kastela district, Drapetsona district, etc.), in the southern suburbs (Ellinikon district, Voula district, Glyfada district), in the north (Kifisia district, Papagos district, Psychiko district), in Cape Sounio, Rafina (a small town in the suburbs) Among these shelters there are some such as the "Great Britain Hotel", the National Insurance Hall, the Bank of Greece building, the Army Share Fund building and the basement of the Supreme Court of Areios Pagos.
The biggest shelters in Athens
One of the largest shelters in the unknown city is that of Lycabettus hill. This one extends to 500 square meters. The underground shelter of Lycabettus hill was built around 1936, near the cave church of Agioi Isidoroi. It extends to a depth of 100 meters inside the rock and has two entrances. Preserved, and freshly painted, but with the obvious signs of time, it still has electricity, toilets, and baths. Is larger and in better condition than the most famous one which is the abandoned shelter of Ardittos hill.
Its facilities also include two large halls and some smaller ones, corridors, a machine gun nest, storage areas, ventilation appliances, ducts, tanks, tables, electric switches, and a phone-call center of that time. Both entrances end up in the main large hall where the Anti-Aircraft Defence Headquarters was housed for the needs of the 1940 war. Its initial use was military between 1936 and 1937 was installed and began to operate the Air Alarm Service, the Radio Station, and the Navy's Radio Telegraph Division.
On the other hand, the shelter on Karageorgi Serbia str. near the Syntagma square is about 400 sq.m. with 20 auxiliary spaces. During the German occupation, German soldiers built military-style shelters in the center of the capital and in coastal areas of Athens, for fear of the Allied military landings.
In the 1950s, more shelters were built, because of the Cold War fear and a nuclear catastrophe.
The shelter of Ardittos hill was commandeered by the Germans during the IIWW and in the end, was used as a base of the greek resistance. During King of Greece Paul's reign, it was a royal refuge, and perhaps because of this, there is a rumor that it communicates underground with the royal palace.
Do the shelters communicate with each other?
As Mr. Konstantinos Kyrimis says, that is not the case. The fact that the shelters are labyrinthine and dark has often given exhortations for speculation and myths. Shelters were built with the goal not to get people from one to the other, but to protect and be able to get out to a nearby location safely.
Apart from those that belong to the greek military or navy services, there are other shelters on the mountain slopes, which belongs to no one and the responsibility for cleaning them lies with the police.
No one seems to even know their exact number but their concrete substance entrance crumbles as time goes by.