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DSC05493A special treat for young and old alike, this working museum, slightly off the beaten path yet walking distance from the Thissio metro station, brings together some 900 displays – characters and sets designed by Christos, Giorgos and Sotiris Haridimos, a popular troupe of puppeteers – as well as the work of students who participated in the City of Athens’s workshops on shadow puppet making at the Aghios Thomas Cultural Center. The two story museum houses a beautiful and interesting recreation of a traditional Greek business district, circa early to mid 20th century, as well as an area for shadow theater performances. The museum mostly attracts Greek school children on field trips and students learning the dying art of puppet making and performance.

During our recent visit, Sotiris Haridimos, the man behind the amazing collection took us “behind the screen”, where Basil, who grew up watching Karaghiozis perform at the local plateia (the square for non Greek speakers), finally had a backstage peek at how the puppeteer worked to create the characters and move them across the stage. The materials comprising the exhibition traces the history of shadow puppet and set design from 1925 to 1980, presenting the different materials used over time and the techniques applied by different masters. Although they don’t offer scheduled performances for the general public, during the school year it is possible to call and check when they will be performing for a group of Greek school kids, and perhaps you can sneak in to enjoy the (all Greek) show.

Sotiris Haridimos is a truly special man and his passion for this dying art in Greece is clear from the moment he greets you. Whether or not you can communicate with language, no one can leave this workshop space without feeling like they have been invited into an extremely passionate artists private studio space. Much of what you’ll see has been created by Haridimos and he proudly shows off his earliest work as well as the older pieces created by his father.

To reach the museum from the Thissio metro station, walk across the bridge towards Apostolis Pavlou street (this is the pedestrian zone that wraps around the Acropolis, you may see signs pointing to Dora Stratou Dance performances and turn right on the pedestrian path lined with cafes, the path will narrow a bit and then it turns into Irakleidon street. Follow it for another 2 blocks and you’ll see the Melina Mercouri Cultural Center on your right at the corner of Irakleidon and Thessalonikis streets.

Haridimos shadow puppet workshop and museum
Irakleidon 66 and Thessalonikis Streets, Thissio (210/3452150 or 210/341446
Inside the Melina Mercouri Cultural Center
Open Tuesday through Sunday mornings
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Tuesday through Saturday afternoons/evenings 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM

By Athensguide

How does a little girl from Skokie, Illinois find herself in historical Athens, leading curious explorers through the winding streets of Plaka, down "pezodromos" to hidden ouzeries for tempting mezedhes and homemade barrel wine? The journey began more than twenty years ago, and regardless of whether the wanderlust comes from the spiritual and culture DNA flowing through my veins, or the alignment of the stars on that cold mid-December day this Sagitterian came into the world, I never seem to tire of exploring my adopted homeland of Greece. Here you'll join me as I explore Athens: be it the back streets of Psirri and Gazi, or through the National Gardens and Zappeio where a family of turtles makes their home, or down wide, treelined Imittou Street in Pagrati, which pulses with Athenian life 24 hours a day. And while Athens has stolen my heart, the rest of Greece vies for my curiousity and wanderlust. My two guys (that'd be the Greek God, Vasilis and our Greek dog, Scruffy) and I can often be found settling in for a long weekend in some charming mountain village, or a quaint fishing port on a nearby island, or learning how Greek vitners are producing wines that rival some of Napa Valley's finests productions, or celebrating a panayeri in Epirus or sharing in the festivities as a family of Cretan sheepherders come together to sheer their 1500 sheep in the spring ... And if you happen to find yourself heading to Athens, consider finding yourself a real home for your stay. Living amongst the locals, be it for 3 nights or 3 weeks, will offer you the chance to experience true Athens, beyond the Acropolis. Choose from one of our 5 beautiful penthouse and historical homes, and who knows, I may be leading you down that winding "pezodromo" to our favorite hidden ouzerie!