Posts from the ‘Summer’ Category

Midsummer night concert

Haris Alexiou sings in solidarity to the cleaners’ struggle

Yesterday night Syntagma Square was once more flooded with protesters but with a difference: last night was a singing protest! Haris Alexiou, one of the most popular and respected singers in Greece gave an open air concert in support of the cleaners’ struggle*. Wearing cleaning gloves she waved her hands in return to the audience clapping and singing along.  The Concert was organised and supported by the radio station “Sto kokkino” – it means “on red” , a left-wing radio. Haris sang old and new ballads and managed to refresh our souls despite the heat!

Haris Alexiou's solidarity concert

Haris Alexiou’s solidarity concert

*The cleaners’struggle has received great publicity and attracted much sympathy worldwide because in their case the injustice is blatant. They were found “redundant” and fired. They took the government to court and were justified but the government has appealed the court decision and they are still out of a job.  They belonged to the Economics Ministry employees – all 600 of them. The Ministry has had to replace them with private cleaning agencies which cost them as much as the full time cleaners.

The cleaning ladies  have been camping outside the Finances Ministry for the last two months. They have become a focal point for many other public sector employees who have been summarily fired in order to satisfy the Troika demand for a smaller public sector.

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired - The cleaners'banner

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired – The cleaners’banner


Come September

My pc decided to take its annual vacation during August this year, together with every e-shop in my area. I ended up answering my e-mails from a billiard room, smoky, noisy, conducive to nothing more intelligent or intelligible than hellos and jokes and posting nothing!

But September is here, the month of duties, of income tax returns, of school opening, of my birthday.

The latest from us here in beautiful Greece: 

a. Heat – the month has started with higher temperatures than August and the humidity rocketing.

b. The only people with a good income this month are the bookkeepers and tax specialists.  This is the first time that everyone submits his income tax return electronically. Every child and grandchild has been commissioned to help the elderly but they are not enough. Rules and regulations change daily, the tax offices are not sufficiently manned, mistakes are a daily occurrence and a long cues to correct them have become an everyday event!

c. Schools opened yesterday, September 11 (NOT the best of dates as omens go…). The students were given books but found fewer teachers than last year.

d. Tsohatzopoulos’trial continues to claim air time but people are largely uninterested.

e. Athenians spend the best time of the week looking for friends or acquaintances with a summer house who can accommodate them for the week end..

But the best part of September is that all performers who were touring Greece during the summer are now back in Athens. Concerts and plays, film festivals and art performances are at their peak and at low prices.

I wish you all a good  autumn/fall!

Greek summer- 5 good points about recession

Greek summer, in all its scalding glory, is here to stay with us for a couple of months. It becomes easier to travel from one end of Athens to the other within minutes. Bus services are slower but there are less cars. Greek citizens are looking for escape and thank god they have quite a few choices: there are some free of charge easily accessible to the 4 million metropolis public beaches, there are friends summer houses, there are home villages on mountains and islands brimming over with visitors, there are hotels faced with bankruptcy which have, finally, decided to make very cheap offers to the Greek tourist and are being resuscitated.

I happen to be one of the few staying behind – by choice – so let me take you around my city in the summer. First of all if you decide to visit Athens this is the best time of the year provided you stay in a southern suburb, by the Saronic Gulf. I suggest Palaio Faliro but depending on your budget you can go further out. Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza all have excellent hotels but their prices are steeper all over: accommodation and food wise. Transport is cheap (1.20 Euros for a one way tram/bus trip and if you buy the 1.40 ticket you have 90 minutes travel on any transport. I prefer the tram because being the newest addition of the mass transport system of Athens it is clean and properly conditioned. It is not very fast or frequent but then it is the holiday season, who cares?

By catching the tram you are at the new Acropolis Museum within minutes, you can take a stroll under the Acropolis at the pedestrian area around it and reach the Plaka region on foot. 659475_9ycwFvaOKs.img

The railway leaves from Thission and you can connect to the tram at the Peace and Friendship Stadium – at the Piraeus entrance – to get back to your hotel or continue towards the (usually expensive) fish taverns of Pasalimani or the delightfully cheap ones of Kallithea.

1. Taxi drivers are much more polite and helpful. Check the meter though.. 3.20 is the minimum fare to anywhere.

2. Restaurant owners are returning to more traditional dishes thus adding value and novelty to your eating out… Ask for a receipt..




3. Coffee breaks are much cheaper provided you keep in mind to avoid the fashionable haunts which still charge about 4.50 for a fredo capucino but much less for a nescafe frappe which I think you should try.

4. Many special offers from good hotels.

5. Open air cinemas and theatres are an all time favourite. The tickets vary from 8 Euros upwards for the cinemas and 15- 25 Euros for the theaters. cinema-tripel-930x639You can have a beer while watching…

Have a wonderful time.


Dekapentavgoustos, the 15th of August, is a public holiday in Greece.
The cities empty and the countryside comes alive.
Athens looks like a ghost town today. Whoever has not left on holiday is on one of the nearby beaches.

The banner says:”We have struggled hard to get access to this beach. Look after it!”

Ellinikon Municipality Beach is one of the few organised beaches which do not charge an entry fee. Right next to the old Athens airport the Beach is operated by the Municipality since 2005. Until then the whole area was given to private entrepreneurs who charged not only for the use of their facilities but also for the simple access to the sea. Mayor Kortzides claimed the use of the beach for the Ellinikon citizens but also for whoever wanted to use it. Together with his citizens he started a long struggle against powerful interests. Finally, and after a 24 day hunger strike, the Mayor won and the beach is now open to the public.

We visited the beach today. There are many umbrellas and chairs provided by the Municipality, there is space for the people who bring their own umpbrellas with them, changing rooms are available, the showers do not operate on holidays and weekends because the private water supplier charges exorbitant prices. During the week the Municipality provides water for the showers by its own vehicles.

There is one coffee shop with reasonable prices – two souvlakis,chips and bread cost 4 Euros. The site is also served by the tram and many bus services thus making it acceccible to people without a car.

While we were sipping our coffee a very disturbing announcement was made through the loudspeaker: this beach, one of the very few ones affordable to all, is in danger. The government is thinking of “selling” it!! Another privatisation that deprives Greeks of their patrimony and, if built, will definitely harm the environment too.

Some like it hot



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.

And then they went to the seashore

Greece has had a busy agenda this year: we had elections – twice, we have had two different governments and going for the third, right before the elections fires ate up part of the Attica forests, pharmacists refuse to provide medicine for the social security patients claiming that they have not been paid for months, the new Prime Minister goes to hospital together with the new Financial Minister, pensioners do not know how much pension they are going to get!

How can one react to such a situation? Pretend to be Zorbas and start dancing or, with temperatures around and over 35 degrees, hit the seaside. This is in accordance with Melina Merkouri’s interpretation of Medea: no tragedy, no killing of children, a happy family which, after the father’s minor lapse, get together again and head to the seaside. How can a woman, even a barbarian, kill her children?
With these thoughts in mind I have started looking for the perfect island for this year.

Seychelles Ikaria style

Ikaria, Nikaria according to the locals, is very popular with the Greeks but not so much with foreign tourists. According to friends coming from the island Ikaria is a well-kept secret.

I was invited to the 100 year anniversary of the Ikarian revolution, a revolution whose existence I ignored but it says something for this tiny island’s inhabitants. During the 1912 Turkish – Italian war the Ikariotes took advantage of the conflict and rebelled against the Turkish guard (a very small guard to be honest) and declared the island an independent state with its own national anthem and flag. They were incorporated to the Greek state five or six months later but they still threaten with independence when ignored by the central government and always vote left. “The red island” among its friends, Ikaria boasts archaeological sites, lovely beaches, geological wonders, villages that wake up and start work after 10 o’clock at night (!) and endless fairs: Saint this and saint that are reason enough to have a celebration that includes eating, drinking the famous Ikarian wine and a lot of dancing. Ikariotikos is a very popular island dance performed on every occasion and often without any occasion.

Maganitis: village and beach with interesting geological phenomena. Reminded me of Meteora.

Well, Ikaria is not an easy destination but definitely a different, interesting, vibrant, colourful small island.

Greece in fire alert – strong winds and negligence the main factors

According to Greek daily Kathimerini the fires raging in the North East of Greece, in the Thrace area and very close to the Greek Turkish borders, have destroyed more than 15 thousand acres of wooded and agricultural land. About 10% of the nature reserve of the Dadia forest have been burnt while there is no danger for villages at the moment.

The south east part of the

Dadia Forest - summer 2007

Dadia Forest -summer 2007

prefecture of Arcadia, in central Peloponese, is also on fire. The particular area is far from the sea and had so far been secure from land mongers. Its forests and scenery were almost magical and unique in the south of Greece. Unfortunately, as I have seen with my own eyes, there is no environmental policy or awareness in Greece. In the most beautiful gorges you see dumping sites. The weeds that grow in the winter are not cleaned up so when they dry in the summer they are the best food for forest fires. The communities in the surrounding areas are not equipped with any fire fighting mechanisms (fire engines, hydrants, volunteer fire fighters, etc).

The Greek governments, present and previous ones, have never bothered to educate the people on fire fighting techniques and prevention. The authorities should know by now that August is the most dangerous time of the year and help minimize the climate risks. Instead they legalize buildings that have been built in non-residential areas with understandable results!!

Fires in Εvros – Thrace but also in Athens

A fire that broke out in Thrace has been rekindled this morning. The strong winds that blow in the area are pushing the fire towards the Dadia forest, a world famous forest reserve, home to many wild birds of prey.

A fire broke out yesterday in a southern Athens suburb – Ano Glyfada. It is a densely populated area and there was grave danger for the inhabitants.

This is the season of strong winds, they reach 8 and 9 Beauforts, which make the operations of the fire department extremely difficult and dangerous.

It must be noted that empty lots all over Athens but in the country side too are left to weeds and used for dumping which is an obvious fire nurturing practice. Some municipalities in Athens take care to remind the owners of unbuilt land to remove debris and dry weeds well before the summer season and thus help avoid fires. Unfortunately, the uninformed Greek public has a very low environmental awareness and continuously create new dangers.

G3 -Greek Government gaffes: new episodes

After accusing taxi drivers of harming the tourist season and defaming Greece as an international destination the Greek government decided to give them a helping hand by making things worse!
As from September 1 the VAT for foodstuff served in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, fast food shops etc will go up from 13% to 23%!! The Small Entrepreneurs Association has issued a statement claiming that this move constitutes a “suicidal choice”, will lead to further loss of jobs and many small enterprises to bankruptcy.
This law proposal applies to about 14.000 catering enterprises employing more than half a million people. Greece will thus become one of the most expensive tourist destinations, according to the Association.
I would like to point out that the VAT for hotel rooms has been lowered in an effort to balance the situation but what actually happens is that the local population will bear the bigger burden, once more.

Midsummer celebration – Dekapentavgoustos

Panagia Church on the island of Tinos

Dekapentavgoustos (fifteen of August) is the greatest summer celebration of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is the day of the dormition and passage to heaven of Virgin Mary or Panagia as the Greeks call the Mother of Christ.
Panagia or Virgin Mary is one of the most popular figures of the Greek Orthodox Church. The most popular pilgrimages are dedicated to her: foremost the island of Tinos but also the Panagia Soumela in Northern Greece and the Ekatontapyliani in Paros. Many less famous Churches and chapels celebrate all over Greece and attract a great number of visitors.
The icon is from the Monastery of Panagia Soumela, connected to the Pontian community

icon is from the Monastery of Panagia Soumela, connected to the Pontian community

The feast coincides with the annual holidays and there are fairs and events organized all over the country dedicated to Virgin Mary but also providing entertainment for the whole family.Virgin Mary’s dormition-often called the summer Easter – is preceded by two weeks of fasting so you can imagine that the celebration is accompanied by the inevitable meat feast. Especially on several Cycladic Islands the feast includes common dinner on a local speciality sponsored by a different family every year.

Panagia or Virgin Mary is also famous for performing miracles and curing all sorts of ailments. The custom is to “promise” a special offering in exchange for a miracle. For example a golden arm in exchange for the healing of a broken arm or a candle as high as the person you want cured!! The relative churches are so rich that they auction the offerings every now and then and use the money for philanthropic causes.