Athens, here I come! Who cares…
Although I have been in contact with a few people, trying to arrange a place to sleep for the time I was to spend in Athens, nothing was set when I walked off the plane. Tired after a nightly stopover at Gatwick airport, I just wanted to get to a base but had no base to go to.
Also, I had the brilliant idea of changing my smartphone to a new one a day before my trip without updating the contact list, so I had no numbers to call. C’est la vie!
Lost in the maze of streets
The one thing I did have was an address in Vironas, so I figured it would be a good starting point.
Athens is very peculiar when it comes to the street layout. Some areas are like a really dense maze where all the buildings look the same, streets are narrow and there’s no sense of parallel and perpendicular properties. Vironas felt exactly like that the first time I went there. And every time after that too.
Facebook to the rescue
No one was at the apartment, so I looked for WiFi, hoping that Facebook would solve all my problems. And it did! Several hours later, I was able to enter the apartment where I met Jay – a young filmmaker from Austria.
My friends were at their house in the island of Lefkada and didn’t plan to come back until late at night, so I took my new friend for a walk downtown Athens.
The tense atmosphere in Syntagma
The streets were closed around Syntagma Square and a vibrant crowd has gathered in front of the parliament. The empty roads, which usually are bustling with life, were so alluring that I used every opportunity to enjoy a walk right in the middle of them, feeling a bit rebellious.
I guess the atmosphere reigning in the city was rubbing on me, as this was a very special time to be in Athens.
During my stay, I was going to Syntagma Square a lot, wanting to hear what people thought about the upcoming referendum. It was interesting to see how divided the society was. I heard a lot of contradicting opinions and at that point it was impossible to tell which way the planned referendum was going to go.
Feeling the vibrations of the nation
This time, the protests had nothing to do with the rallies of 2011-2013 when violence was severe and the streets were literally burning.
Talking to people who participated in the extreme situations of the past years, I heard that they didn’t want to go to Syntagma this time, as seeing innocent people being abused by the police was transforming them into uncontrollable vengeance machines.
There’s no way of knowing how a protest will turn out, especially since Greek people are under a lot of pressure. With 25% unemployment and further talks of austerity, they are really tired and impatient with the situation in their country.
The closing of all banks on Monday sent a ripple of fear through the citizens and long queues forming in front of ATMs were a standard and saddening sight. On the top of that, the flow of money in the country froze with people not getting paid and not knowing if they will get paid in the future.
Xenia still flourishing in Greece
Despite the nervous situation in the country, Greek hospitality is still at an extremely high level… The concept of xenia comes from antiquity when it was thought that gods mingled with people and you never knew who was your guest.
I stayed with my Greek friends and was overwhelmed by their hospitality yet again. One would think that I should get used to it after so many trips to Greece but no – I’m always impressed.
Even though the Greek minds are preoccupied with the turbulent situation in the country, there is always warmth in their face, eagerness to laugh and share a meal.
People uniting & surprising themselves
On Sunday, the 5th of July, through a referendum, Greek people decided to reject the EU’s austerity measures with over 60% of votes. This was a big surprise even for the people who actually voted NO.
The referendum’s outcome doesn’t change much in Greece’s situation at this point but I’m very curious to see what the future will bring.
I’ve got no idea what is better for Greece, especially that I fully understand the rational reasons, which people use to support their arguments whichever way they lean: YES or NO. Everyone has an agenda and his or her best interest in mind. Even when it’s projected onto the whole country. Everyone has a vision.
Where is Greece at?
I’m leaving the answer to this question to people smarter than me but one expression of sorrow coming from a Greek friend struck me:
I’ve known you for 15 years! And in that time, Poland went from being an “Eastern European” country to having a Pole as the President of the European Council. Greece has gone in the exact opposite direction.
Has it? Only time will tell this tale. We don’t know what future holds. And it’s a great journey that we’re being taken on, wherever it leads. Of that, I am sure.
Until then, go to Greece, enjoy the magic of the country and the amazing energy of Athens. Xalara.