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The city itself, big, fat, loud, stinking, sitting in the middle of Attica and growing. Athens, Greece, to be sure.
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20 March 2008

Status Report From Here

Maybe blogging is about this too

So we had strikes for the past 3 days or so (actually much longer, but these are the more noticeable ones). Maybe this blogging thing is about me writing about this too, not just my personal little stuff, so here are a few observations and views...

Tuesday the Metro/Treno was on strike. I went to the bus station, noticed the crowd of people waiting for a bus. They could have filled half of a bus all by themselves. After ~20mins a bus of one of "my" lines turned up, already full to the brim. I picked up the phone and called the office to tell that I'll work from home. Which was quite nice and productive. It's good to be able to work from home instead of having to fight at all cost through the chaos of traffic that the shutdown of the subway system brings.

Wednesday was "general strike", no busses, no trolleys, no subway. Stay at home, hack some more code (currently CSS, which frankly I feel to be quite boring by now - there was a time when I thought it's cool and all). No going out in the evening, instead we had a few select friends over.

Today I discovered that the Metro/Treno was on strike again. But after looking at the same situation on the bus stop, it turned out there came 2 busses and the second one had a little corner of space left for me. Back at the office, doing the same thing, but with company.

Then of course, for something like 10 days, the garbage is piling up in the streets. It stinks, it's ugly, it's unhygienic.

So, what's it all about? As you will probably hear on the news, these strikes, along with the very annoying strike of the garbage collectors, are there to protest the reforms of the pension system. Hmm, they might be. But they might also be to protest the thieves who stole huge amounts of money from the pension funds (for their own pockets or for plugging holes in the government budget, where the money "disappeared" in some other fashion).

So, I can understand the reason for the strikes. I still find them annoying. Maybe that's their point. My oppinnion as an "outsider" is, that they hit the wrong guy. The politicians/thieves in their airy homes in Drosia/Politia/wherever nice suburbs do not get annoyed by their house maid having to put the garbage on a big pile 1km down the road from the entrance to their villa. They will maybe have to wait a little bit longer if their limousine hits a bit more traffic than usual.

So my outsider view is that the lack of democratic instruments for the people to express their will is what leads to these strikes as a mostly useless instrument to try to change things.

Posted by betabug at 11:02 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
21 March 2008

Garbage Strike is Over

Will take some time to clean up though
Garbage truck returning to work in the streets of Athens

According to, the garbage strike has been over at midnight Thursday. Indeed I had seen a garbage truck near Akadimias shortly after midnight, but since there had been "emergency service" trucks picking up garbage outside schools and hospitals, I hadn't been too sure.

This morning on the way to work I saw another one (see pic) and already some cleaned up garbage containers. Cleaning up completely all the sprawl of Athens will take up to 2 weeks though. There is a lot of garbage in this city and new one is produced continuously.

As I had predicted to myself, the concept of blue recycling containers has been totally annihilated by the piles of rubbish. That's a shame, since "reduce the amount of garbage" is one lesson we should have learned from those (almost) 2 weeks.

Posted by betabug at 09:15 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
25 March 2008

Greek Independence Day

25th of March
Spectators at the parade for Greek Independence Day in Athens

Today is the 25th of March, the Greek Independence Day. Yesterday I had spent some time to find out at what time the parade will be. Curiously enough that information was almost impossible to find. For future reference: The parade starts at 11am. Why the parade? Well, I hadn't seen it in a while and CFG hadn't seen it ever, time to go and see some local customs. So we went there, on a sunny spring day.

Wow, there were a lot of people. Coming from the Metro station on Syntagma square it was really hard to find a place with a little view onto the street. Lots of shoving and pushing. When we had found something, we discovered that it was indeed sunny, it got hot really fast.

It took some more waiting time till things got to move. I really don't remember to have seen so many tanks, military trucks, etc. etc. at this parade in past years. Maybe it's my memory failing me, or maybe I faintly remember that in some years they had scaled down the showing of military muscles. We escaped the masses at Syntagma square and instead viewed a bit more of the parade near Panepistimio station.

At noon we got us another traditional custom for this day: Today people eat Μπακαλιάρο (Bakaliaro, in English: stockfish) with Σκορδαλιά (Skordalia, garlic puree). We got ours together with friends at Barbagiannis in Exarhia. Mjam, it was good! They had a lot of people there and almost everybody was eating Μπακαλιάρο.

Posted by betabug at 20:26 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
05 April 2008

Island Art

The Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens
Exhibits at the Museum of Cycladean Arts in Athens

When I told w0lfshade that I would be going to a museum, he asked if I had been to all the museums in Athens. I wrote back that I haven't.In fact it's not likely I'll see them all, since there are a lot of museums in Athens. What we went to see then was the Museum of Cycladic Art, a place I hadn't seen yet, but had wanted to visit for some time now. It's in Kolonaki, not far from the Metro station "Evangelismos".

The exhibition does not appear very big. I think this is mostly due to the design and lighting: The room is quite dark, with light rays falling only on the objects in the vitrines. The image of the sculptures carved out of white marble on the black background is quite nice. In fact there are a lot of items to be seen in there.

Another reason for the exhibition to feel small is the division into different exhibitions: There is some special exhibition in the basement (we only passed through this), then the fixed collection of Cycladean art in the first floor, and in the top floor is a collection of ancient Cypriot art.

Vase with bird painting in the Cyprus collection of the Museum of Cycladean Art in Athens

In fact, given my limited ability to digest things in museums, the exhibition was really big enough. I saw a lot of very beautiful stuff in there. Marble bowls, ceramic objects with an airy feel. The typical cycladean figurines in white marble (see the main pic). Some things that stood out: Glasses and glass phials from around the 1st or 2nd century AD (impressive how something made out of glass survived that long), Cypriot amulets with human figurines in the shape of a cross (long before anything christian), and then this strange bird, almost dragonlike on a Cypriot vase (see picture).

That one had me fascinated. It was saad who pointed out that it's likely an ibis. The ibis has had significant meaning to the ancient Egyptians, while Cyprus back then had a lot of trade with Egypt. That aside, the picture doesn't look Egyptian at all, and it's style is totally different (at least in my humble oppinion) to anything else in the museum. It looks almost as if it had a Chinese or Japanese influence.

Posted by betabug at 21:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
12 May 2008

What a Wonderful World This Could Be

Best strike *every*!

The current strike of the truck drivers and especially the fuel truck drivers, in combination with the Taxi driver strike (that one only today) is the best strike I've seen ever. Where the garbage strike got on everybody's nerves, this one is wonderful: It's quiet! The streets are much calmer! The bus home was incredible fast, there were no blocked roads... this is what this city would need!

Of course the results for the economy would be bad, but please, please, could they keep the strike up for a week or so? I'd even ride my longboard to work if I had to, promise! (Or finally buy a bicycle...) I'm not the only one to notice the difference, lots of people mention it in the first words when you talk to them: "Athens is so nice like this!"

In case a prolonged strike is not feasible, I'd honestly suggest east European "socialist" style gasoline rationing. It would do wonders for air quality and ecology (by forcing people to think how they move).

Posted by betabug at 22:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
18 May 2008

Der Normalfall

... und wärmer wirds auch

Also der Taxistreik war nur einen Tag, der Benzinstreik war am Donnerstag auch schon zu Ende, der Normalfall ist wieder eingekehrt in Athen, die Blechlawine rollt. Heute Sonntag ist der Verkehr etwas ruhiger, aber die grosse Veränderung sind die Temperaturen, die sich langsam aber sicher in Richtung Sommer bewegen. Besser gesagt, in der Schweiz wären die 27ºC natürlich im Sommer auch schon gern gesehen. Tja, wenn man sonst keine Lust hat was zu schreiben, dann eben übers Wetter herziehen :-)

Posted by betabug at 16:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
27 May 2008

Open Source Conference in Athens

Yeah, missed that one

Noticed this morning that the 3rd conference on Open Source Software in Athens is under way today and tomorrow. I totally missed the event. Which is a pity since this afternoon for example Diomedes Spinelli is going to speak. The Schedule can be found at the conference site.

Posted by betabug at 10:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 May 2008

8th European Jazz Festival

28 May - 1 June 2008.. already underway

Another "calendar" type post: The 8th European Jazz Festival is already running here in Athens. Last evening this Sunday, concerts seem to start at 21:00 each night, they're in the "Technopolis" (Gazi). Here's a long description of what's going on at xpatathens-site and a short rundown at monsieurlu.

There's also a free downloadable album from Ειρήσθω εν Παρόδω (Iristho En Parodo), a Greek group performing at the event (thanx to monsieurlu for the tip). Just started to listen to it, and the fusion of Jazz and oriental sounds totally r0xx!

Posted by betabug at 10:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
13 June 2008

The Privileges of Living in Athens

Areopagos, the Festival, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company
sketch of Lycabetos, as seen from next to the Acropolis

Even though there are a lot of people who complain about this city (ok, sometimes with reason), there are really some great privileges that come with living here. For example you can sit on the Areopagos (just outside the doors of the Acropolis) in the evening sun, watch the tourist snap photo after photo of the "rock" (nickname of the Acropolis), while sketching mount Lycabetos on the other side of a sea of concrete. During winter time you can even go and visit the Acropolis itself - the sight is as beautiful as in summer, but it's not as hot.

Such a big city also offers some cultural events that are worth it. Right now we have the Athens Festival running, with the most famous venue being the Herodion theater. On Wednesday we went and watched the "Paul Taylor Dance Company". Normally my policy with going to the Herodion is very strict: I go there only when I'm 100% sure that I will like the event, because sitting on marble (with a small cushion) is hard on the "behind" and since you can't lean back, you have to sit all straight up and after 1.5 hours your back will make itself known.

This time I was lucky: Despite not being much into dance, I liked the show. The first part of the show was very graphic, very much flowing, with a very good integration of the visual movement and the music (something from Bach). Didn't like the 2nd part so much, while the 3rd was good again, but not as great as the 1st. I also had luck with my seat: There was no one sitting on the seat behind (and above) me, so I could borrow a spare cushion and from time to time lean my back against the marble of the next step.

The place itself is of course an experience each time. If you happen to come to Athens at the time of the festival, give it a go!

Posted by betabug at 19:34 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
25 June 2008

Blackout in Athens

Due to forest fire

A few minutes ago the power went out here in the office. Before that, there were some instants where the lights were dimming. Now we hear some building alarms outside. Traffic is still rolling normally, but I suspect in some areas there will be confusion when the traffic lights went out. Large areas of Athens (or in general the Attiki area) are without electrical power.

News sites report that this problem is due to a forest fire on mount Ymittos (as if we didn't have enough of those from last year). A power line went down there, despite "the anti-fire system having operated", as those sources say. They say the power failure will be on for a couple of hours.

In here it starts to get hot, as no power also means "no air condition". It also means "no work", since in our company (yeah, the link is dead right now) everything is done on computers... got to bring out the colored markers, scissors and glue soon.

Update 13:34 (14:34 in Athens GMT+2 time): power is back, at least for our area. The wait was much shorter than expected.

Posted by betabug at 13:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 July 2008

What to do in Athens when it's hot

... and it get's really hot here
Metal Ventilator Blades

It gets hot in Athens. The sky is blue, the water is wet, the Pope is catholic, you can't really doubt it. With many Athens summers under my belt, I've assembled a few tips. They go from the interesting to the banal, obvious and boring. Let's see what you can and should do when it's hot in Athens.

Stuff that goes without saying:

Drink a lot of water, carry water at all times with you. You can buy 1/2 liter bottles of water at regulated prices at kiosks if you run out of what you have with you. Regulated prices means 50cents per bottle.

Continuing with the obvious stuff (maybe I can bore you away): If you really have a medical problem with the heat, stay away or stay in a place with a/c - listen to your body, when you collapse it's too late to react. In general even if you're tough and healthy, take it slowly, avoid too much movement, stop to rest in the shade. The heat won't kill you, but it will try. Don't walk in the sun, see how the locals try to always walk in the shade. Wear a hat.

OK, that did it for the obvious category, you can find that kind of tips everywhere. Let's go for something more interesting. Except avoiding bad stuff, is there anything you can actually do?

In the morning:

Hey, you might be a tourist here, so if you want to see some of the antiquities, plan on waking up very early and get there while it's still cool (especially important for the Acropolis). If mornings won't do, plan on getting there late in the afternoon, but that won't work in the real heat (above 40ºC / 104ºF I'd say) and some archaeological places close early. Morning is the time. It's nice and cool in the morning, so it's the time to walk around and see things.

At noon:

Eat something light only, leave the big feast for the evening. The single biggest trick: Like the locals stay inside in the hottest hours of the day, take a siesta nap.

If noon caught you unprepared in the center of Athens, try the shade of the big trees in the national garden (near Syntagma square / Amalias street). Besides being a real nice place, it's also cooler (due to the trees), and quieter.

Cafeterias are expensive in Greece (not only in tourist places), but they usually have a/c. In a real Greek cafeteria, you can sit with one coffee for as long as you like - no need to throw it down in 5 Minutes like in Italy or even to rush it in 1/2 hour like in Switzerland. Try the greek coffee "frappe", which is cold and explicitly made to last for a long time. When ordering frappe, you have to tell the waiter how much sugar you want (glyko / metrio / sketo - sweet / medium / without) and if you want it with or without milk (me gala / horis gala - with mild / without milk).

In the evening:

Evening is good too, temperatures start to go down slowly. There are some nice things you can do.

Walk around the Acropolis, from Thision to Monastiraki (or vice versa). It's almost completely pedestrian territory (if you go all around there is a small part where you go through small streets that have cars). Also very nice and in the same area: Take a stroll up Filopappou, the green hill next to the Acropolis, you can sit there in the evening when the sun goes down and the lights on the Acropolis get turned on.

Total alternative: Take the bus to Falliron, walk to Kalamaki (or vice versa), stop for a swim even. There are a lot of people at the beaches there, but in the evening it's acceptable and the sun won't burn you so much any more. Did I mention that it's not a good idea to be at noon on the beach, no matter if you're in Athens or somewhere else?

There are lots of open air concerts, open air cinemas, open air bars, open air restaurants... They're all cool in the evening.

In general:

If it really gets too hot, leave the city, there are nice excursions even for one or two days: Aigina, Hydra, (... we have lots more islands), Delfi (but take care, it's hot between the ruins too), or even go up to some mountainous area like to Karpenisi (nice area, ugly town).

For a short swimming trip, go to direction of Glyfada, Voula, Sounion, (I already mentioned Falliron, in the same direction) or on the "other side" of Attika to Porto Rafti (and the coast around there).

Sleeping at night:

If you're a tourist, your hotel room likely has a/c. I don't really like the stuff and don't have any in my home, but when it got really, really hot last year, I would have even turned it on. If you don't have a/c and it's really hot, the trick is not to go to sleep before you're so tired that you will fall over in mid-sentence. If you lay down before you're absolutely going to drop to sleep in 5 seconds, you will just roll around in your sweat. That means if you don't work and can party all night long, clearly you win. Partying all night long also makes it easier to talk all the time (which you have to do in order to notice when you fall over asleep in mid-sentence). Besides that, a ventilator helps, but keep in mind that they believe in South Korea that sleeping in a closed room with an electric ventilator can kill you. Make your choices!

Spot the sleeping pattern here: Sleep few hours from late, late at night till early in the morning, then sleep some more in the afternoon siesta.

Posted by betabug at 13:56 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
20 August 2008

Breezy Hill

looking for...

I'm sitting on the hill Filopapou, which is a woody place just opposite the Akropolis. It's not too hot and there's a nice breeze.

I had drawn the Akropolis from here (right where I'm sitting now) almost two months ago. That evening I had lost the Rotring 600 ballpoint pen I was drawing with for the last years. An almost unreplaceable loss, as these aren't made any more - and even a new one wouldn't be "my" pen.

Sad to sit here now? No way, it was just a pen! I had not expected to have found it after all that time. What I found is the afternoon and the cool breeze.

Posted by betabug at 18:32 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
22 October 2008

Noch ein Generalstreik

Gestern wieder zuhause gearbeitet

Die ausländischen Medien haben über den Generalstreik von gestern berichtet. (Hier zum Beispiel die NZZ.) Hab mir noch überlegt einen Kommentar zu hinterlassen, etwa "business as usual, ein Streik wie so viele". Was die Politiker von Themen wie "Altersversorgung", "wirtschaftlich benachteiligte" und "Erziehung/Ausbildung" halten, haben sie mit den Blanko-Checks an die Finanzblase deutlich genug gezeigt.

Diese Streiks und deren aggressivere Nebenerscheinungen gibt es deswegen, weil es sonst keine demokratische Mitbestimmung für das Volk gibt. Wo es keine friedlichen Mittel zur Meinungsäusserung gibt, müssen die Leute wohl oder übel auf die Strasse gehen, um sich zu krassen Misständen zu äussern. Erinnert sei da an ein Zitat:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

—John F. Kennedy

Ich bin, wie in letzter Zeit immer bei solchen Gelegenheiten, zuhause geblieben und hab dort gearbeitet. Mit dem guten Wetter, das in unsere Wohnung flutet, war es fast wie Sonntag - mal von der Arbeit abgesehen.

Posted by betabug at 14:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 October 2008

Shot Marks

Historical artifacts?
Shot marks on historical facade in Athens, Greece

On my Sunday drawing excursion I came by this building which spotted some examples of what I guess are shot marks from WWII or the following civil war in Greece. I guess they are left there on purpose, because the building is in good shape otherwise, it's even listed in the "contemporary monuments database" of the "Archeology of the city of Athens". No mentions of the war wounds on the facade though. Also in the first and second floor the marks seem at least to have been partially repaired.

The address is Αμαλίας 42 (Amalias 42), just opposite Hadrian's arch and the temple of Olympian Zeus. Click on the image for a big panorama view of the scenery.

Posted by betabug at 17:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 November 2008

Non Sequitur

A conclusion that does not follow the rain and the riot

Two things happened today in Athens: It rained and it is the 17th of November, day of annual demonstrations in memory of the Politehneion uprising against the military junta 35 years ago. The two things have only limited relation: It might happen that due to the rain there will be less trouble at the demonstrations, everybody's mood cooled down a bit and tear gas probably not working that well. But given information out of context, one could come to interesting non-conclusions, as in when Wu heard me describe part of my way home. His reaction:

< Wu> what?
< Wu> in greece riot police go into the street when raining?

My way home was non-spectacular, despite arriving at the metro station closest to the imperialists foothold^W^Wamerican embassy and seeing a bit of the demonstration. Oh, and I got wet from the rain.

Posted by betabug at 20:09 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
08 December 2008

Betreffend Krawalle in Griechenland

Brandgeruch und Tränengas überall

Die Medien ausserhalb Griechenlands berichten allerseits über die Krawalle der letzten Tage hier und den von einem Polizisten erschossenen Jugendlichen. Ich selber habe natürlich keine Informationen aus erster Hand, denn ich werde ganz sicher nicht losziehen, um mir die Krawalle anzuschauen. Eine Freundin von mir war allerdings zum Zeitpunkt der tödlichen Schüsse ca. 50 Meter vom Tatort entfernt - natürlich ohne etwas direkt mitzubekommen.

Was ich zu den Berichten der deutschsprachigen Presse beitragen kann sind einerseits ein paar Hintergrundinformationen, andererseits einiges, was hier in den Medien gezeigt wurde aber in den Agenturmeldungen nicht auftauchte.

Der Jugendliche der erschossen wurde und die Gruppe seiner Kollegen gehören laut Augenzeugenaussagen (am griechischen TV gezeigt) nicht den "Autonomen" an. Es war nach dieser Aussage einfach nur eine Gruppe Jugendlicher, die im Ausgang war und die Polizisten verspottet haben. Nach einigen Beschimpfungen die hin- und her gingen wurden Plasticflaschen auf die Polizisten geworfen.

Laut Pressetext teilten die Polizisten der Zentrale mit, dass sie von "Autonomen" angegriffen wurden. Sie warteten dann aber nicht die Befehle der Zentrale ab (die - meiner Einschätzung nach - in der betreffenden Gegend den sofortigen Abzug angeordnet hätte), sondern verliessen ihren Streifenwagen. Einer der Polizisten warf eine Blendgranate, der andere zog seine Pistole. Laut Aussage des Schützen zielte er "zweimal in die Luft, einmal nach unten".

Der am TV gezeigte Augenzeuge berichtete, dass der Polizist dreimal direkt auf die Jugendlichen geschossen hat, auf kurze Distanz (andere Seite der Kreuzung).

Der betreffende Polizist fährt schon seit Jahren in dem Quartier Streife, sein jüngerer Kollege war das erste Mal mit ihm unterwegs.

Vertreter aller Parteien (ausser der regierenden ND) sagten fast gleichlautend aus, dass mit der zunehmenden Gewaltbereitschaft der Polizei ein solches Ereignis nur eine Frage der Zeit war.

Die Athener Innenstadt roch am Sonntag fast überall nach Brand und Tränengas. Viele Strassen waren noch länger gesperrt. Das Mass der Ausschreitungen dürfte auch damit zusammenhängen, dass bei bisherigen Verfehlungen von Polizisten diese jeweils mit einem freundlichen Klaps auf die Hand bestraft wurden. Daher auch die Aussage des Innenministers, dass die Täter "exemplarisch bestraft werden, sollte eine Schuld erwiesen werden".

Zum Hintergrund: Das Quartier Exarchia

Das Quartier Εξάρχεια (Exarchia) in dem die tragische Tat geschah, hat einen speziellen Status. Es ist die Basis der "Anarchisten" oder "Autonomen". Als solches sind seine "Grenzen" auch zu normalen Zeiten oft von Spezialpolizei mit Schildern und Schlagstöcken besetzt. Normalerweise begeben sich einzelne Polizisten nicht in dieses Quartier, da die anarchistischen Gruppen das als Affront betrachten. Eine Ausnahme bildet die Strasse Harilaou Trikoupi, in der sich z.B. das Büro der Partei PASOK befindet, das ständig von einem Mannschaftswagen der Polizei beschützt wird (seit mehr als 20 Jahren). Das ist genau die Strasse, die der Streifenwagen durchquerte.

Viele Vollkasko-Versicherungen für Autos haben eine spezielle Klausel, die die Haftung für Schäden am Auto ablehnt, falls das Auto in Exarcheia parkiert war.

Nachbarschaftshilfe und Selbstkontrolle funktionieren in Exarcheia noch relativ gut. Das Quartier ist bekannt für seine Künstler, es ist ein Zentrum der graphischen Branche. Es gibt dort viele Cafés, Bars und Restaurants, die florieren weil es keine mafiösen Strukturen gibt, die Schutzgelder erpressen. Die Anarchisten wollen keine Polizei und lösen solche Probleme deshalb selber. Durch dieses "wirtschaftsfreundliche" Umfeld ist es auch ein beliebtes Ziel, um Abends oder Nachmittags auszugehen. Ich gehe dort recht häufig essen.

Posted by betabug at 10:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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