Posts tagged ‘Athens’

It has been a long while since my last post. I have no excuse. The situation in Greece, social, economic, political has been such that a general feeling of insecurity and uncertainty is prevalent.

I chose to tell you  two stories that have slightly changed my mood today:

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  One of Shedia’s vendors

A. The Greek street magazine Schedia (the raft) is now on its 6th year of publication and continues to come up with new events and activities to render our homeless compatriots visible again. The magazine is its first care and main source of revenue. In addition to the Homeless Soccer team they organize literary evenings, a cafe -network all over the country where homeless people can find a coffee waiting for them paid by other customers, thematic city tours and exchange visits with homeless fromuother countries who publish their own magazines.  They have a site but there is not much in English. For those of you who can read  Greek  http://www.shedia.gr/

B. Idomeni – the make-shift camp refugees have set up on their own near the Greece-FYROM frontier,  saw a gleam of light and joy today. Two young Syrian refugees decided to get married inspite of the difficulties and hardship they are facing. Friends and volunteers chipped in for the preparations and the women managed to form a heart of red rose petals on the newly weds bed in the tent they will share from now on. Does love conquer all? I don’t know but it sure made our hearts a little lighter today

 

 

Greece: Good news for a change

On Sunday, 2 November, 18 small Athenian Museums will be open to the public free of charge. The museums are situated in central Athens and will be open from 11 to 16.00.

The initiative is called Open Walk Athens 4 and is organized by the Atenistas group (you can find them at …http://atenistas.org/2014/10/27/owa4/)

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The Popular art Museum

I have to admit that I was unaware of at least half of these museums and have visited only one!!  They cover a wide variety of subjects but are within easy reach of each other making visiting more than one easy and comfortable. A map of all the participating museums can be collected either in the Athens Jewish Museum (Nikis 39, Syntagma Square area) or the Popular art Museum in the Monastiraki area.

In addition to the two mentioned above you can visit a Museum that houses a collection of the characters of the Greek shadow theater as used by Haridimos, one of the most famous players, painter Vassiliou’s studio under the Acropolis,  the History of the Athens University Museum, a Museum dedicated to  children and my favourite: the folk music instruments Museum. This last one is situated in the Plaka region, the old Athens, and has a minute garden, often used for performances during summer.

Culture cannot cure everything but it opens a window to hope…

A day in downtown Athens – August 31 2014

 

Today I have to go into Athens to renew my bus card (a card that allows me unlimited travel on all buses and the tram and costs 20 Euros), something I cannot do in my neighbourhood for reasons only the Greek state comprehends. I chose to go by bus and return by tram to do other chores too. After a 15 minutes wait the bus arrives. It is not the one I would choose since I have to walk another 10 minutes to reach my destination but it is better than waiting for the right one since no one knows when it will come. The official explanation is that summer time is the time drivers have to go on leave too and the services are erratic. I doubt it since when I asked for a bus timetable I was told that they run a bus service and not an airport!!ws-athenstraffic2

The bus ride is very educational. People are complaining to whoever is closest about the pension cuts and the announcement that bus fares will be increased before the end of the year. Paulina, a 65 year old retired high school teacher explains that since the beginning of 2012 her income has shrunk by approximately 200 Euros. She has no car and therefore depends on mass transport for her moves. Her only consolation is that after September, when she will be 65+ and officially a senior citizen she will be entitled to a half price bus ticket provided the reduction is still in operation. Another passenger explains that the bus service is bad today because of the rally organized by the “uniformed” forces. Who are they? The “uniformed” are the police and army employees who are threatened with major cutbacks and are protesting in Syntagma Square which is where our bus terminal is located. A young woman comments bitterly: “Civil servants protest and get their own way, like the employees of the State electricity company. It is left to us, the people in the private sector, to pay for everyone. If we strike we are sent home”.

Thank God the bus service booth is open and I renew my card. Now for the way back. This time I am going by tram: a means of transport that started operating during the 2004 Olympics and is criticized for being extremely slow. Its critics are proved correct today since it took 20 minutes to arrive! It is packed to capacity and there is no inclination to talk this time.

It is full moon tonight – time to make wishes and dream. People speak on their mobiles and arrange where and how they will spend the evening. Lots of free events have been announced and the mood is lighter.

In conclusion, courage and the ability to adapt and find ways to be well together with a sense of humour are the ingredients that help the Greeks carry on. Let us hope that the supply is endless…

Writer’s correction of herself: I have, since writing this note, found out that I could have renewed my card at any tram station – and that happens to be 10 minutes walk from home… Well, next month… unless I want to visit downtown Athens and need an excuse.

A mixed bag of news, thoughts and arguments

Today is the first really cloudy, autumn like day in Athens. News is rampant from all sides and citizens go about their business with their heads lowered and lost in their thoughts.

The prevalent mood is despair and insecurity. While the government announces that we are on the “road to development” the Troika talks about new taxes and austerity measures.

The neo –nazi formation of Golden Dawn is officially accused of being a criminal organization and its leader is in prison. According to news reports the Greek Parliament will tonight discuss and vote on removing the immunity of three Golden Dawn MPs so that they can be prosecuted. At the same time the Metsovion Polytechnic School staff is staging a concert in memory of the 32 year old anti-fascist rapper murdered by Golden Dawn thugs.

The news broadcasts are dominated by long and detailed reports on Golden Dawn acts: attacks against immigrants, actors, and speeches during which leading members of the fascist organization openly threatened democracy!! To the viewers the reporters’ “surprise” at the Golden Dawn doings is to say the least insulting since it is obvious that they knew the activities and just chose to keep silent.

Three out of eight Greek universities have submitted the names of their administrative staff that can be laid off. The European Commission has given the green light to the takeover of Olympic air (the private company that “bought” the state run Olympic airways) by Aegean air. In this way a state monopoly is replaced by a private monopoly system. In a press statement SYRIZA, major opposition party, underlines the fact that this constitutes a threat to the country’s cohesion.

On the other hand, .there are still people struggling to keep their spirits up and safeguard their livelihoods against all attacks. In Chalkidiki, in Macedonia, in Aghios Panteleimonas in Athens and so on. It is an unfair battle but let us hope that justice and right will prevail over greed and might.

 

Journalists targetted in Athens, Greece

Homemade incendiary devices exploded outside the houses of five journalists early this morning in various places all over Athens.

The gas-canisters caused small damages but triggered extensive reactions from the political parties and the journalistic world. They came on top of the invasion and dismantling by the police of two villas that had been occupied for over twenty years by squatters groups.

The New Democracy, predictably, issued a statement blaming SYRIZA for “covering up” the hooded self styled anarchists. SYRIZA on the other hand condemned the attacks unequivocally,  stressing that such acts serve as an alibi to the government to continue its “curbing of democracy”.

The Democratic Left also condemned the attacks stating that “the vicious circle of violence is acquiring dangerous dimensions”.

What’s new from Greece

A weak earthquake (4,9 Richter) shook Athens awake this morning. The epicenter was 30 Kilometers north of Corinth and there are no reports of any damages.

The centers of Athens and Thessaloniki will be closed to traffic all day to mark the European no-cars day.

According to reports Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air, the two private companies operating in Greece at the moment, are concerned over their losses and plan “austerity measures” of their own. There are unconfirmed rumors that the present Government plans to privatise regional airports. This of course means that usage costs will skyrocket for the airlines which are at the moment pressing the Athens International Airport to lower its fees. Eleftherios Venizelos has in the past been labeled as one of the most expensive European airports and international airlines have also applied for lower fees. In a country that relies heavily on tourism anything that threatens affordable transport acquires larger dimensions. At the same time, remote islands risk staying without means of rapid transport in an emergency.

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.

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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.