To the people who like it hot Greece is the ideal place in the summer. To its residents who are not used to live in tropical climates it means that it is time to escape and take to the seas and the mountains. Ergo, we all remember the faraway village our progenitors hail from and return to it to the delight (mostly…) of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins etc.
When you ask a Greek abroad where they come from he/she is either from Athens or from Thessaloniki. It not only makes life easier (who can pronounce Gargalianoi or Petromagoula) but it also lifts us from the category of peasants. Summer and particularly August is village time: it is the time we remember traditional fairs and foods, folk music and dancing, relations and friends from childhood or from previous holidays. Dekapentavgoustos is the climax with the celebration of Virgin Mary’s passing away: every church holds a fair (panygiri), with an open market, free food and evening entertainment. Panayia means the saint of all saints and is, after Christmas and Easter, the most celebrated religious event.
The younger generation which was brought up to despise everything connected to the past moans and groans but follows since the financial situation does not allow them to go their separate ways. This return to the roots is the only good thing to come out of the crisis and might be the answer to it. To me “back to the roots” means more solidarity, more hospitality, more sharing, better human relations. It means less consumerism and more productivity. It means appreciation of your origins and less effort to be something or someone that you are not.
In the meantime, Athens is baking and looks for ways to refresh itself and the few of its residents left behind. Open air cinemas have a field day and in neighbourhoods where there are not any the municipalities organise screenings in pedestrian areas. Coffee shops offer now a cheese pie with every coffee and if you take it with you a bottle of water is free. One of the beaches closest to Athens – that of Hellinikon – is free of charge due to the struggle of its Mayor, Kortzides, who managed to wrest it from a private enterprise. Right opposite the old airport and easy to reach by public transport the Hellinikon beach is packed every day of the week.
Syntagma Square is almost deserted allowing a gypsy imp to have a swim in the fountain.
Hot is not that bad after all.