Hotel Callirhoe Athens, Greece
“This hyper-Hip Exclusive hotel defies all expectation.” From the Athenian Callirhoe brochure
Athenians seem to agree that, for better or worse, the 2004 Olympics introduced great changes to the Greek landscape. During our winter 2008 visit to the historic and modern city of Athens we learned that this legendary Olympic city continues to struggle with its own transformation. This continuing renovation, sparked by the 2004 Summer Games, has largely left the city and its inhabitants proud, puzzled and pensive. Hosting the Games brought a huge measure of hope and expectation for a huge windfall of profit and burgeoning tourism, but the departure of the crowds has left in its wake bewilderment, debt and unanswered questions. Nearly four years later, Athens continues to sort through the effects of crucial and costly decisions made to bring the Games back to their birthplace. Consequently, we found the Greeks’ once-buoyant optimism now greatly tempered by sober anticipation for better days ahead laced with lingering questions and doubts about what the future may, in fact, bring.
Into this atmosphere of post-Olympic euphoria, we found our visit to The Hotel Callirhoe to reflect the interesting experiment now underway in the changing, eclectic environment of the city of Athens. The Callirhoe tries hard to be something it does not yet fully understand, to attract attention to itself, and to make a statement that it has joined the modern urbanization of a city that is struggling to figure out what it is and what it wants to be.
There is a phrase, prominently displayed on banners and posters for hotel guests and passers-by to notice, which serves as a not-so-subtle indicator of what the Callirhoe is attempting to communicate to the world: Fresh, spanky and yammy. Yes, that’s right, three words meant to entice you and (hopefully) convince you that the Callirhoe is, well, something hip, creative and lively. The focus is on boldness, and the management appears willing to take a risk to show that its venue is on the cutting edge.
It’s hard to know whether this image and its accompanying reality will work or not. While we’re sympathetic with the intent and the energy invested, we’re uncertain—in a similar fashion as Greeks are uncertain about their own state of affairs—about what the eventual outcome of this experiment will be.
The Callirhoe’s glossy marketing brochure opens by describing the hotel as “a fashionable place to see and be seen.” But then it seems to go berserk with stream-of-consciousness “hip” descriptions like this: “Party like a rock star, sleep like a baby. The orgasmic feeling you get after tasting the hot “Souffle au Chocolat” at the Chic [name of hotel restaurant]…that cool feeling you get when you flip your bed pillow and put your face on what was the other side. The feeling you get when twirling a q-tip through your ear clothing “in vogue” the subtle elegance of a place that is highlightened (sic) by a care-free spirit knowing you can double over in laughter in public and still maintain your dignity it’s being minimal yet having the ability to mingle with the more sophisticated and experiencing the best of both worlds with hang-ups online community A Mix of Cutting-Edge Design and Quirky personality.”
Seriously, folks, this is the exact image the hotel wants to portray: “A whimsical and unique spot disguised as a hotel. After all you won’t come to Athens for the predictable and ordinary.” The brochure goes on, “Hip, witty and sophisticated, its design suffuses the ATHENIAN CALLIRHOE Exclusive Hotel with energy, vitality, and magic.”
And only you can decide whether the Callirhoe delivers on its promises, and whether your taste aligns with this magical suffusion. Incidentally, you won’t find these brash descriptions on the more muted hotel website, a puzzling disconnect that further highlights the near schizophrenic confusion about the image this hotel really wants to convey.
I found myself smiling with amusement at times, wondering about what sort of clientele this ultra-hip hotel might attract. I thought of comedians Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd’s rendition of “Two Wild and Crazy Guys” and how they spoofed Eastern Europeans and their attempts to be “hip” and “with it,” with their collision of flowered shirts and plaid pants. Here in the Callirhoe the lobby and dining room featured what could only be described as “deliberately flamboyant” orange cloth-upholstered furniture, evoking a term the Callirhoe uses to celebrate itself: “sheer, innovative audacity.” Yet the place was stocked with briefcase-toting businessmen who, during the day, seemed a little out of place in such a quirky, outrageous atmosphere.
The Callirhoe is not just about its own self-absorption into post, post-modernism. It actually offers a number of amenities that force it undeniably back into the “hotel” category, no matter how hard it may try to escape that mundane mold. Its 84 guest rooms (standard, executive and Junior Suite) have all the features one might desire: free, high speed internet, full mini bar, satellite television, and much more. The Callirhoe also offers four exclusively furnished and equipped conference and seminar rooms for business meetings, capable of accommodating up to 120 persons. The sauna and gym are available 24 hours, free of charge, as is the business center. The Callirhoe a la Carte restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Roof Garden Bar and Restaurant is ideal for evening dining, offering stunning Acropolis views. You’ll find the place is set up for lots of people to have a good time.
We enjoyed the fact that the hotel was just a couple blocks away from the nearest metro station (although after following the hotel’s directions from the airport, we didn’t know which direction to head after emerging from the metro). We found it convenient to walk to the Plaka, the old city quarters, just six blocks away, where dining and shopping options abound. The hotel is conveniently located to all the central destinations in Athens, either by walking or by taking public transportation.