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Ήμουν κι εγώ εκεί! I was there, too!

—Editing-Preface: Natassa Syllignaki | Translated from greek by Alexandra Dendia—

From 22 to 24 April 2016, worldwide bookcrossing community’s heart was beating in Athens. It was the Anniversary Bookcrossing Convention, a celebration of friendship, sharing and love of books.

For those who don’t know what bookcrossing is, in the Bookcrossing Travel Guide (for Greeks) our friend «alpha» says: it’s the world where books travel free! Bookcrossing is based on the idea that books are not happy collecting dust stacked on some self, but they want to travel and be read by as many readers as possible. So, it’s an exchange of books between friends, acquaintances or even strangers. There are books that have traveled the world from hand to hand. Bookcrossers watch their route because every book has its own ID number so that whoever finds it can post it on the site and write his review.

And they organize conventions? International conventions? Yes, every year an international convention takes place in a different country, along with the local ones the communities organize. In these conventions people get together, they meet in person, they meet new places, they play, they read, they eat, they laugh. And mostly they release many many books.

As for the Anniversary Bookcrossing Convention in Athens, I happened to attend from the beginning —for the last two years— all the procedures: the bid, the preparations, the countless obstacles, the difficulties. And even the struggle, the effort and the personal work of the four girls in the organizing committee, who lasted until the very end, and of some members of the Athenian community — also the help and participation of the communities of Kefallonia, Larissa, Skyros and Trikala. Sacrificing time and money, with passion and persistence, they finally made it and organized the convention impeccably. Our guests were excited!

 

A big bravo to all from me. Now three of the fellow bookcrossers (two old members and a new one) who were at the convention and who also helped to organize this happy party will tell us all about it.

Against all odds — Fotini (sismografos) Litou.

We organized a convention which nobody wanted because of the huge difficulties. But when there is positive attitude, team work, happy atmosphere, when everyone is willing to do their best (for example, Maria can cook, I have good but unworkable ideas) and when you want to prove that people make the conventions and not money, then you organize a convention that nobody would be able to forget. There is offering, love, hospitality, team work and desire to show the real face of Athens, and our own as well, without unnecessary embellishment.

We exhausted ourselves, we were really nervous but not in any case did we complain or regretted it. We wanted the convention to be Greek, a big happy party. The foreign bookcrossers said that they came being prejudiced. “How are they going to organize a convention during the crisis and all the problems it implies? And what kind of a convention will it be? Oh God! What are we going to face?” And it was our flexibility and our attitude (“Don’t worry, if we cooperate and if we do our best everything will turn out okay”), our optimism, our team work, the good atmosphere and being with friends that made us forget about the exhaustion and the willing to offer everything you’ve got, the many different opinions and ideas and the decisions made with democratic procedures, the pleasant environment that prevailed upon every disagreement without bearing a grudge, all these things made us organize what seemed impossible to many.

Memoirs of the Anniversary Bookcrossing Convention in Athens 2016 — by Panagiotis (maltrebus) Hatzigiannakis

I am exhausted, my throat hurts and I am blissful. My bones hurt and I am smiling. From early morning, messages from new friends arrive non stop and my facebook timeline is full of photographs with happy faces.

I admire the presents I’ve gotten, I touch them and remember the exact special moment: The convention bag the Athenian community made full of goodies, the enormous book buffet with 1174 books from around the world which have been released in every corner of Athens. The warm smiles, the honest hugs. A conversation between a Norwegian, a Greek, a Belarusian and a New Zealander about Harry Hole and the minimum amount of coco the proper chocolate bar should have. The food of incredible quality and quantity offered. The morning lesson of yoga by kriskross. My secret friend MissMarkey from Oxford who guessed and made true my every wish.

I disappeared from home for three days. I ran from the night show of Karagiozis to the after party in a bar at Thiseio and then to the morning dancing lesson by karjim, which evolved in a real celebration! The “Hidden Athens City Chase”, the treasure hunt Karry, Okyrhoe, darkroom and I organized, wanting our guests to see the beauties of the non- touristic Athens. The gin and tonics at the gathering in our standard release zone at the «Homesick café» in Exarheia. The satisfaction when everybody approached you and said that they never want this convention to end.

And where is literature in this party? Dimitris Stefanakis with his limitless humour, Alki Zei the living legend, Lena Divani and Alekos Papadatos having a witty conversation and Amanda Mihalopoulou being “interrogated”. We talked about serious matters but in a pleasant way, with comments from both the speakers and the audience. Matters such as the rivalry between fiction and non fiction, the genres, the adventures of translation, the creative writing classes, the school libraries, whether you are born a reader or you become one and whether you can start reading at an old age or not.

Everything is due to four girls: feltre, aaouts, tzoutzou, MariaKall. In five months they managed to organize a convention without having the necessary sources to do so. The guests thought that the convention was a result of two years preparation. They transformed the Cultural Center “Melina Merkouri” of the Municipality of Athens to a wonderland.

At the end, what’s left of a Bookcrossing Convention? Five new friends, four bright looks, three hugs, two swollen legs and one permanent goofy smile.

See you next year in Oslo!

Impressions of a new bookcrosser from the Anniversary Bookcrossing Convention in Athens — by Alexandra (alexotanil) Dendia

Not a long time ago, totally by chance, I became a member of the Greek bookcrossing community. I met lots of people who share the same love for books and who welcomed me to their group.

So when I found out that this year the Anniversary Bookcrossing Convention would take place in Athens my enthusiasm was indescribable and I registered immediately. But nothing prepared me for what came next. Booklovers from around the world came to the Cultural Center “Melina” to watch conversations between Greek authors and to share their love for literature.

I wouldn’t like to speak about the guest authors and their interesting conversations. Nor would I like to mention the extraordinary effort of the Greek bookcrossers, and mostly of the organizing committee, and the decent final result. There are other people, more qualified, to talk about this aspect of the convention. I would like to talk about the meeting with the foreign bookcrossers. I think that was the most exciting part for me.

People of all ages, from all around the world, came to meet, to talk, to exchange opinions and ideas, not only for books but for everything. They asked for recipes because they loved the buffet we had prepared for them! They wanted to hang out regardless of the convention. They suggested I would stay at their houses if I ever went to their countries. We had fun as if we were best friends for years and there was a pleasant atmosphere in general. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I won a beautiful raffle prize, a bag from last year’s convention in Oxford and people came to congratulate me for winning because, as they said, they really liked me!

And don’t even get me started with the daily gifts from my secret friend… I cannot describe how many presents I got in those three days. “This is from your secret friend.” I open the little package, here’s a small present. After an hour or so, ta-da! another package. And then another one and another one and another one… I honestly got excited when I realized how easy it is for a stranger to give you small amounts of joy with the least of an effort, armed only with good intentions.

And due to the fact that during the whole convention, as everybody says, I was overexcited, the Greek bookcrossers made fun of me and kept saying: “That’s nothing! You should see the time the conventions were in their glories!” Honestly, I cannot imagine what more was there in the past, but my first experience of a convention will never be forgotten!

I believe that what I’ll remember the most, is the positive attitude of the foreign bookcrossers. Seeing people of another culture being open to you and to your way of life. Wanting and trying to learn Greek dances just so that they can dance with you the familiar song from Zorba. Not caring about winning at the treasure hunt but rather preferring to stroll around the streets of Athens, to witness the unseen side of the city, to release our books and to drink all together our coffee with our new friends.

I remember specifically one moment: During our walk in Psirri we saw a poster depicting Tsipras kissing Merkel. My German friend and I looked at each other. “We have a different kind of friendship”, we said at the same time. And we understood each other. And I want to leave it that way. That’s what I want to remember from my first bookcrossing convention.

PS. The Convention of 2017 will take place in Oslo next April. I am starting a fundraiser so that I can afford to go!

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