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The fall of Greece

The fall of Greece

Greece has come a long way from the prosperous community it once was, to become the debt-saddled country struggling to keep up with commitments – badly needed to guarantee rescue loan payments and long-term Euro membership.

“No society ever reached the heights that were attained by ancient Greece. It was the cradle of culture. It was a happy country. What happened? What made it fall? Historians don’t satisfy me. Wars, politics… Something’s missing, something personal.
I want to walk where Aristotle walked. Socrates… I can’t explain it. I don’t know. I have a feeling I’ll find something.”

(Quote from ‘Never on a Sunday’)

I walked, just like amateur philosopher and American tourist Homer from the great 1960 Greek film ‘Never on a Sunday’.

This is what I saw.

There is a prevalent anarchic element in Athens. It’s about the way the city looks and how things work.

During our two month stay we were faced with Greek mentality that seems to be forming rules as they go along. It’s many small things that made me wonder.

Like the flat owner telling you to screw the middleman when booking, getting offended because you point out the mouldy washing machine, increasing flat rates because you would like to prolong your stay. It’s crossing red lights as if they didn’t exist. It’s the museum cashier letting you in without the ticket because they are about to close. It’s disappointed tourists standing in front of closed sights, which have been closing earlier than they should.

But it gets bigger than that.

It is about having one official job, but doing another on the side, preferably screwing public employment. It’s collecting bills for friends and family so they can save on income tax. Illegally building a big shopping complex in Athens. Paying ‘extra’ to get a doctor’s appointment or for medical treatment.

Tomek’s auntie, a Greek resident gave 350 Euros to the practitioner for an eye operation which is paid by health insurance. She was asked to add a 50 Euros tip for the anaesthesiologist. No receipts. It was amazing to hear about the common practice of bribes and the generally accepted pension abuse.

Screwing the state that does not seem to care is mirrored by the behaviour of its people. Greece is facing a crisis. It is monetary, yes, but it is a moral crisis of a corrupt state just the same.

 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT, CARS AND TAXI SCAMS

Anarchy is what you get in the city. The bus driver not letting an elderly women board because a parked car blocks doors and he can’t be bothered to drive up to let her in… drivers opening the front door generally as they please which always causes confusion amongst people waiting at the bus stop… buses never running according to schedule.

The taxi driver adding 6 km to the way, only to rip you off one more time by adding 20% extra charges to the amount displayed on the meter. Tourist police telling you to pay what drivers demand and to visit their offices to complain another day. [If you want to stay safe, pick your driver accordingly. We have had very good experiences with the elderly, grey haired honest, calm drivers who are generally not the macho-impulsive-aggressive drivers coming from the frustrated younger generation.]

Car owners have the habit to follow egoistic convenience, parking anywhere in the city. That includes the very middle of the road, on pedestrian crossings or blocking bus stops. If you don’t let a car pass on a pedestrian crosswalk you might get honked at.

A typical scene.

car on pedestrian crossing Athens Greece

 

Same here. No one inside the car.

Parking on the road Athens Greece

 

Waiting for the bus, the Athenian way on the road.

Bus station chaos Athens Greece

 

Buses stop where they please.

Bus station chaos Athens Greece

 

POLICE

Police are perceived as unpredictable, switching from helpless-passive to overly-agressive.

Policemen during protests Athens Greece

 

Police line up for arriving protesters. I love this picture for the laid back lady in red boots sipping her drink before the storm.

Police near Parliament during protests Athens Greece

 

Heavy police presence to protect the parliament building.

Police at Greek Parliament during protests Athens Greece

 

Crossing red lights doesn’t bother state authority much. Greek police does not have an eye for minor offences like these.

Police crossing red light Athen Greece

 

Generally, while patrolling the city, police are confronted with little appreciation.

Fuck the Police graffiti Athens Greece

 

 

EXARCHEIA

Welcome to the dark side

 

Many socialist, anarchist, and antifascist groups are accommodated in Exarcheia, a neighbourhood in central Athens (located around the Athens Polytechnic). They plan rallies and demonstrations targeting symbols of authority and capitalism. Generally speaking, they are the main troublemakers in Athens. Exarcheia sort of governs itself, paradoxically not really being controlled by police who stay out for fear of instigating more violence by their presence.

occupied house Athens Greece Exarcheia protest poster Athens Greece

 

Exarcheia – the symbol of governmental failure, revolution and protest. But also an interesting place to hang out with some organic stores, used books, CDs, records and comic shops, theatrical shows and concerts (and a lot of graffiti, of course).

Graffiti Exarchia Athens Greece

 

THE OCCUPIED ATHENS POLYTECHNIC

The so called ‘Athens Polytechnic’ is in Exarcheia. A famous place occupied by a mix of students, older anarchists, immigrants and thrill-seekers protesting everything from police brutality to globalization to American imperialism.

occupied Athens Polytechnic

 

The National Technical University of Athens, as it is officially called, was established in 1836 and is one of Greece’s leading schools. Since the 1980s the main campus is located outside the city centre, leaving its beautiful neoclassical buildings to the whims of protest groups.

The university administration seems to view the squatters as uninvited house guests who overstayed  so long ago that they have become part of the system. Unfortunately, squatters mainly hold demonstrations and destroy university property.

The Athens Polytechnic was the site of historical events in 1973 when a student uprising marked the beginning of the fall of the military junta and dictatorship.

Under an asylum law instituted after the police brutally crushed the student rebellion, the Greek police are not allowed on university terrain!

The fence, bulldozed by a military tank  in 1973 is now a monument on university grounds.

Athens Polytechnic bulldozed fence from student uprising 1973

 

During our stay, on the 17th November 2012, around 30,000 demonstrators honoured the dozens killed in the 1973 revolt. At the same time voicing disgust at the recent austerity policies imposed on loan-dependent Greece. Banners read “We can topple this new junta” and “No to the fourth Reich” or “Our revolt will become your nightmare”.

protests commemorating 1973 student uprising Athens Greece

 

An endless line of police buses barricaded the US embassy. 7,000 policemen were on high alert in the city that day. The traditional march began at the campus of the Polytechnic and ended at the embassy.

Protests often vent at the US embassy. The US is not very popular amongst demonstrators as it was backing the military dictatorship in Greece which lasted from 1967 to 1974.

Police at US Embassy during protests Athens Greece

 

Protests are on every week, during our stay there were demonstrations almost every day.

Yesterday (6th December 2012), students, left-wing groups and anarchists marched to commemorate the fatal shooting of a teenager which led to three weeks of heavy rioting throughout Greece in 2008. A police officer who disobeyed orders to withdraw from the confrontation site, fired warning shots at provoking youths in Exarcheia.

The shots ricocheted and killed 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. The officer received a life long sentence. The teenager has a plaque on the wall with his picture which has grown to a shrine.

Every year the incident is an occasion for frustrated youth to relieve anger. Recent protests ended with demonstrators throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the police, shouting “cops, bastards, child killers”, as well as vandalizing and looting nearby stores.

 

VILLA AMALIA

The oldest occupied house in Athens has been in autonomous hands since the 90s.

Villa Amalia occupied by Greek squatters Athens Greece

 

Police have tried to evacuate squatters three times with no effect.

Villa Amalia occupied by Greek squatters Athens Greece

 

Athens is the place to find international squatters’ symbols all over town.

Villa Amalia International squatters symbol

 

Squatting in Athens is commonly seen and tends to be a mixture of anarchist and socialist movements.

House Amalia Athens Greece

 

Rent free for life. Yeah!

Anarchists poster Athens Greece

 

GRAFFITI

Show me one building in Athens that has not been adorned with graffiti or posters and I will post it. The walls and grounds in Athens reflect the crisis.

View of a typical street in Athens (with unusually few cars).

street in Athens Greece

 

There are very few examples of great graffiti. Most of it is just crap.

Crap Graffiti Athens Greece

 

Those ‘girly’ paintings were frequently dispersed around town.

Girly Graffiti Athens Greece

 

Here are two standing-out examples.

Orthodox church cashing in graffiti Athens Greece Double vision woman Graffiti Athens Greece

 

End of the world scenario in Athens, well done artistically.

oxygen mask graffiti Athens Greece

 

It’s not just a financial crisis.

I want to hold your hand stencil graffiti Athens Greece

 

No comment.

Tomek graffiti Athens Greece

 

Symbols of anger.

I see dead yuppies

 

Summary of the crisis.

crisis t-shirt Greece Political Graffiti Athens Greece

 

The international monetary fund is not well liked, prompting Greeks to reform their system.

Political Graffiti Athens Greece

 

Chain reaction. The effects of government ‘screwing’ its people.

Political Graffiti Athens Greece

 

The gods have long left Greece. It is the time of monotheism now.

Political Graffiti Athens Greece

 

This place knows what it is dealing with. Greek anarchist protesters are renowned for serious material damage. All stores have roll-down metal security gates which are adorned with graffiti smears.

Hotel protest barricade protection Athens Greece

 

Removing graffiti from a hotel façade after protests in the centre. Everyone owns a bucket of acetone. In Athens, vandalism is when you try to remove anarchist smears.

Removing graffiti after protests in Athens Greece

 

Public and private property is suffering at large in Athens.

Children taking apart the wreaths marking the name day of Saint Dimitrios on the 26th October 2012.

Name day of Saint Dimitrios (26 October 2012) Athens Greece

 

Dimitrios is a popular Greek name. I recommend you to watch an authentic Greek  low budget movie, called ‘Super Dimitrios’. It’s funny in parts, largely silly but placed in Thessaloniki and makes for a good introduction to Greece.

 

YOUTH

The younger generation are angry and there is a widespread feeling of frustration about specific economic problems of the country, partly seen as a result of the global economic crisis. The rising unemployment rate and general perception of inefficiency and corruption in Greek state institutions isn’t exactly uplifting.

Crisis meal anyone?

Crisis menus Athens Greece

 

Cafés are filled at all times with young folk.

Cafe Athens Greece

 

‘I didn’t go to work today… I don’t think I’ll do tomorrow. Let’s take control of our lives and live for pleasure, not pain’.

Not going to work sticker Athens Greece

 

A Greek joke goes “Did you know Jesus was a Greek? He believed his mother to be a virgin, she treated him like a god and he didn’t start work until after he was thirty”.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy has turned to ANARCHY and an era of low level political violence. Athens is a city of ancient splendour in ruins.

crying face attractive woman stencil graffiti Athens Greece

It’s not all that dramatic. Just watch ‘Never on a Sunday’ with famous Greek actress Melina Mercouri and enjoy some happy Greek culture, food and bouzouki.

 

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