Joint business and old jasmine

Joint business and old jasmine

Our best years are passing away, hour after hour in haste...and what I see left behind in the end...are those moonlit nights in the summer cinemas...with honeysuckle and jasmine.

Those who have lived in Athens would immediately remember the unique feeling of the open-air cinema, as described in the lyrics of that Greek song of the late 1970s. I was told that a similar atmosphere could be felt in Istanbul during the same period, although my only experience was an evening at the Cine Lale on Prinkipo Island (Büyükada). Most of the open air cinemas of Istanbul were apparently bulldozed by modern developers.

In Greece, thanks to special legislation in 1997, open-air cinemas were declared monuments of cultural heritage and survived. Just under 200 are now operating in Athens and the surrounding area today, with many tracing their history several decades back.

You may ask, why am I writing about open-air cinemas in the middle of winter? And why have I become so nostalgic about “the good old times”?

It was a news item that caught my eye in the Greek and the Turkish press. It was an announcement for collaboration in the tourism and entertainment sectors between the Turkish giant Doğuş Holding and the Greek Lamda Development. According to reports in the Greek media, Lamda Development and D-Marine Investments Holding B.V. (Doğuş Holding), have announced a “strategic cooperation agreement” that will start with the setting up of a joint venture in which each partner will participate by 50 percent and where the first project will be to invest in marinas to serve tourist yachts. The first project will be the development of Flisvos Marina in Paleon Phaliron, a prime coastal site that had already gone under extensive development in 2002 by the same Greek company. The Greek financial press is claiming that in reality the Greek company has “handed over” to Turkish investors the Flisvos Marina in exchange for a significant increase of capital in cash. We also read that the deal is based on “a specific mathematical formula” whereby the total value of the transaction would be seven times the net profit of the Greek company.

You may wonder, what is the connection between open-air cinemas, honeysuckle, jasmine and the Doğuş-Lamda multi-million projects?

Let me quote from an Athens guide publication: “What does one see in Flisvos Marina? Descending the Poseidon Avenue, you would need to cross the tramway railway lines and then you have to decide either to go left or right towards the marina in a park of 56,000 square meters ... If you go left, and before arriving at the car park, you come across the open air cinema ‘Cine Flisvos,’ which was recently renovated and extended and now claims the title of the best summer cinema of the southern suburbs.” On a cinema website I picked up a more personal quote from a cinema critic: “A little after 11 in the evening, we entered ‘Cine Flisvos,’ determined to watch the new Spiderman in the only 3-D open air cinema in Athens. But we soon realized that the lobby is not just for waiting. Ice-cream, beer and honey-covered ‘lokmas’ were constantly being sold and consumed ... At the end of the evening I had enjoyed a 3-D film on a chaise longue by the sea.”

I have doubts as to whether “Cine Flisvos” will survive the onslaught of this new Turkish-Greek development project. Investment and development is the only way out of the current economic crisis, the Greek government has declared, which in practice means that the fine, discreet memories of our past have to be overrun by an insipid but profitable future.

A small detail: back in October, Turkish Foreign Minister, Prof. Ahmet Davutoglu, spared time from his busy schedule in Athens and visited Paleon Phaliron, where some 40,000 Istanbul Rums are living today. During an official dinner he told everybody that he felt like he was at a “family dinner” and that by bringing the two nations closer “we want to stop the pain of nostalgia”.

I may not have the painful nostalgia of a Rum for Istanbul, but I would feel great pain if the new Flisvos Marina sweeps away the jasmine scent of my old summers.