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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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31 August 2007

Greece on Fire... what happened so far

My personal account

For those tuning in late or having only heard some information on international news media, I'd like to give a little bit of overview and background information about the fires in Greece in the summer of 2007. As far as we got right now, because some of the fires are still burning. Let's start in chronological order. I'm following my own experience here, if you want dates and exact places, have a look at 2007_Greek_forest_fires on wikipedia. If you want to read how I (and the people here around me) experienced things here in Athens, read on...

First big fire in Parnitha, first series of fires

One evening at the end of June I came home to see a large cloud towering in the clear blue sky. It looked a bit like the cumulus clouds before large thunderstorms, but it was alone and it was somehow "laying on its side". I couldn't place it. In the evening my flatmate was sitting outside on the balcony, studying and being showered in tiny flakes: Ashes were coming down. Remarkably it took me a while to find out what was happening: The forest of Parnitha was on fire, the largest forest area on the Attika peninsula, the lungs of Athens. In fact the fire was reported for days, not being taken serious by the fire brigade, and of course not extinguished while it still was small. Instead it turned into a firestorm that ate through almost all of that huge forest area. Even when the size of the catastrophe underway was clear, fire brigade forces were diverted to the casino/hotel in the area, instead of being deployed to work on saving as much forest as possible.

Athenians were shocked. But we were shocked and couldn't believe it. We were aware that we had lost so much, but couldn't really place that information. The fire had burned *what*?

The first demonstration

Some people started to understand what was going on. A handful of Greek bloggers called out and called everybody to protest on the main square of Athens (Syntagma square), outside the parliament. This was not going to be something organized by political parties, this was the people going to show their concern. The "invitation" travelled by mobile phone text message, e-mail, and on blogs. An estimated 2500 people assembled outside the parliament and cursed the politicians for their negligence, for their uselessness, and the damage they had done. Most TV stations and major newspapers ignored the protests. They didn't fit in with the usual party politics.

I called some friends and found out they were going too. We arrived by Metro and noticed others arriving. All age groups were there, including families with small children. We went right up to the memorial for the unknown soldier, where tourists usually take pictures of the traditional "Evzones" guards. The guards weren't very confortable, they were surrounded by demonstrators who were shouting at the parliament. Each of them was protected by four army officers, since they had to stand still themselves.

About a week later hand copied posters showed up in my neighborhood: "Now we have to watch over Ymittos!" Ymittos are the forested hills on our side of Athens, just a short hike from where I live, up the slopes that go almost all around Athens. But it didn't take long for the fires to start again.

When Ymittos was set on fire (reports by nearby residents point to arsonists), the police was ordered to facilitate the approach of the firetrucks. The result was a traffic chaos that even our already traffic plagued metropolis hasn't seen very often. Firetrucks arrived often an hour after they woud normally have been expected. It took a while and more than necessary burned down, but the fire was in check after some time. Thiswasn't the only fire though: In more than a few places all over Greece fires had started up. They seemed large at the time, some of them causing adjacent national roads to be temporarily blocked.

Second fires, planes over the roof

That series of fires came to an end and it seemed that this was the usual summer fire spectacle, a bit larger than usual, but still well in the normal range. Things quieted down. My vacations started and since my girlfriend had to leave for a few days on family business for Germany, I visited a friend near Patras. I came by some of the burned forests there. Quiet days followed, We travelled some more, visited a few Greek islands that were under alert for fires, but so far have been spared.

We came home at the end of last week (on August 23rd), relaxing in Athens, buying some furniture for my room. On Saturday we were having our typical Greek siesta, when we heard planes overhead. Those weren't jet planes, and they were flying low. We went up to the roof of our building to have a look. A couple of Canadair fire fighting planes and a russian Beriev (in the same role) were repeatedly flying over to a patch of dark smoke coming from Ymittos forest at the outskirts of the city. So Ymittos was buring again, and this time the fire fighting planes were droning directly over our house. I took a picture. It took them three hours to control that fire.

Fire near Athens, fires on Peloponnese, Evia, other places

What we also saw on the roof was another source of smoke, coming from a more northern direction, and not with a so readily identifiable source. Where was it coming from? We didn't know, but it was a huge brownish, blackish cloud. It almost blotted out the sun, leaving it shine yellow and faint, painting the like as if it was sundown. There are spectacular pictures of this out there, for example at thrilOS website.

We went down to check the news. All hell was coming down. Greece was burning in Evia, on Peloponnese, in some other areas. News reported rumours about fires in Athens parks. A mess was going on. Soon the reports of the first deaths arrived. From this moment on, all of Greece has either been glued to their TV sets for news... unless they were defending their fields and villages with whatever means they had. We followed the news like people follow the news of a war.

The air started to become thick. It got hard to breathe. It wasn't only that there was "stuff" in the air, ashes, particles. It was also that there was oxygen missing. I felt short-breathed. I didn't feel like I had the power to do much, even if I wasn't being told to stay inside and close all windows by the news. It was hot (I don't have air condition at home), but we closed all windows. Ashes started to come down like snow. The ashes got everywhere, even days later we found ashes in unexpected places like closed wardrobes. And the smell: It smelled like burned wood, constantly. The thick air and the burned wood small plagued us for all of Sunday and were noticeable even on Monday. It helped to remind us on the catastrophe, in our wall of civilization and concrete.

Days and days

The following days were an avalanche of bad news raining down on us. Fires seemed to be everywhere. The pictures of flames and scorched earth were indeed everywhere. Most tv channels did not have anything but endless news reports. Again we were reminded of a war, with different fronts where we tried to follow on the progress of the good (the firemen, the villagers fighting for their homes) and the bad (the flames, the new fire herds coming up).

The really bad news started to come in too. People who had died. People who had to evacuate their villages. The ever growing destruction. The wall of fire that did not seem to be stoppable. The wind, always working for the fire, always re-igniting what seemed already to have been saved. It also often hindered the fire planes from doing their work, along with the night. I remember the first nights of that period, when I would lie awake at night, thinking about all the destruction, all the struggle.

How did these fires start?

Another thing started to be discussed very much in these days: How did the fires start? With the first fires and especially with the fires close to Athens, arson was invariably the primary suspicion. And rightly so, since unscrupulous people have been burning down woods to get their greedy hands on land to build on and sell. The police, the courts, and the politicians don't seem to care about this. Recent studies showed that convicted arsonists received very little punishment. The profiting from burned forests was tolerated almost publicly.

In the past these people were considered (by everybody but environmentalists) like minor criminals who destroyed public property for their personal advantage. Now they should be considered manslaughers: The firefighting planes that took three hours to make noise over my home and control the fire near Athens would have been desperately needed in the Peleponnese, where people were dying in the flames.

But arson isn't responsible for all of these fires. Negligence is another big factor. People are not acting responsible. In two weeks of my vacation time I've seen twice people burn dry leaves in their garden, something that should not be done at all in the fire season. Do these people believe it can't happen to them? Do they think they are in any way different from the construction workers who ignited one of the deadly fires by grinding ironworks or the old woman who didn't think of the sparks coming out of her wood oven? Those were just two cases where we read about people being arrested by the police.

What made the fires so big?

There are a couple of intertwined reasons for the fires getting out of hand. The start can be searched after the last elections (but of course the roots go even farther back). With the change of the ruling party, parlamentarians from the "new" party in government started to push people from their voters and supporters into key roles in the fire department. Older and more experienced fire brigade officers had to leave to make room for "party line" people. Victims of some of the first fires reported that the fire brigade people ran up and down, with no idea what to do. The fire brigade was neglected on a longer scale already though: I've read reports of their manuals being from the 1970's, and other reports of volunteers not even being given gloves (not talking about the farmers and townspeople who try to fight the flames with whatever they have, even with branches). Fire protection of the forests is in the dead center of control of four government agencies, where one agency makes the emergency plans and another agency is in charge of bringing them into action (often without knowing the plans at all).

There are other, more natural reasons though. I already mentioned the wind, and the night. We also had a very dry winter, and a very hot spring and summer. The underbrush is dried out. A fire that sprang up near a village on Peloponnese was reported to have reached a width of 1km within one hour (still it was reported to have been checked very fast, likely because it was spotted early enough).

A lot of fires were rekindled, because the weight of the fire brigade operations were put on the planes. Once the planes had managed to check a big fire, attention of the fire fighters moved on. Instead it would have been important to go by foot through the destroyed forest and extinguish all the smoking, lingering flames.

Who is to blame? What should have been done?

The politicians, the leadership of the country carries a very, very heavy part of the responsibility for the catastrophe. Their ongoing sabotage of the fire brigade service, something as vital and necessary for the country, can not be excused.

The politicians have become weary of the fires. The fires have lessened, but they are still raging, with this evening four more villages having to be evacuated. The media and the politicians have enough of this though. The government is running forward with giving money to the victims of the fires. Or rather to everybody who comes along: The 3000 Euro emergency funds for fire victims are given to everybody who shows up at a bank and fills out a form, signing it and showing an ID card. The politicians are fighting on a different front from the rest of the country: In a couple of weeks we have elections. They want to be remembered for having given money, not for having f* up when they should have helped their people.

The silver bullet and the terrorism scare

One of the first actions of the prime minister was to get more fire fighting airplanes into the country. This has been considered as a good move, but it is only partially so. Other important steps (like rounding up support from forest workers and the armed forces) have been neglected. The politicians are looking for the silver bullet: "Where can we spend some money, show off and solve it all at once?" But fires don't get put out only with airplanes, see above.

Next line of defense of the politicians were a conspiracy theory hunt of terrorists and foreign agents responsible for the fires. Nobody has ever seen any trace of foreign agents and no terrorists have come forward. In the same line goes the expression of "asymetric warfare" that is toted around by the government. There is no such thing happening. In fact the term was laid into the mouth of the minister of public safetey by the suggestive question of a journalist. Minister Polidoras, way beyond his mental capacity and with the back to the wall, grabbed the phrase as if someone had handed him a gun in a swordfight and he is shooting around with it ever since.

The demonstration in black

Last Monday, in the midst of the news storm, a mail reached me from a co-worker. A flyer for another demonstration, quite similar to the first one I had described. This one was going to be a demonstration in silence, dressed in black. We were going to express our sadness, our grief, our shame, and silently our anger. Again we would assemble on Syntagma square in front of the parliament, but this time we would not shout out our anger, we would rather shut up and let the silence speak.

The demonstration was scheduled for Wednesday evening. I arrived that morning at work, already dressed in black. I noticed several of my co-workers wearing black too. After work we left for the city center. In the Metro, more people dressed in black. On the way up it started to get thicker. The place was already swarming with the "blacks", but people were late in arriving. But they came and came. Even an hour after the "official" start of the demonstration, the exit stairs from the Metro were choked full. There were much more people than in the last demonstration (which was back then estimated at 2500 people). The square was overflowing into the side streets. Again, word of mouth, sms, emails, blogs had alerted the people.

The police was more prepared this time. A line of riot police with shields and batons was "protecting" the grave of the unknown soldier and the "Evzone" guards this time. Maybe they were expecting the little children in the demonstration to do some damage? We stood there in the crowd, adding our silent voices to the silent choir. Again people of all age groups were there. 70 to 80% of all attendants were wearing black.

I've read reports about the end of the demonstration not having been as friendly as it should. Apparently at some point the police started to shoot lightning grenades into the people, wounding some people.

What will happen to the people who lost their homes?

People who are victims of the fire receive an emergency amount of 3000Euro right now. People who have lost their home can get 10000Euro. The politicians are fast in showering out some money - it's not their money and if they get reelected, then they consider it well spent - if they don't get reelected, then they don't get to pay the bill as the next party will have its turn. Help is also coming in from private and public companies and persons and from donors from all around the world. This help is very important and the people are very thankful for it.

There isn't only the question of money. A lot of the people who have been uprooted were living for generations on their land. Their olive trees were often 400 to 600 years old. Their land, their animals, their houses... that was their life. They will survive, but their heart is broken. Some of the people who died were those who denied being evacuated from their soil, because they said they would be nothing with their world destroyed.

How will Greece recover?

Yes, Greece will live through this (remember, at the time of writing the fires are still raging, and the summer is not over yet). Greece will be around afterwards too. There may be negligence leading to such a tragedy here, there may be irresponsible and corrupt politicians. But there are also very human and strong people here. These people have survived occupation by foreign powers for centuries. They may be currently confused by the clash of their traditional ways with modern life, but in the end they will come back up.

The forests will come back, even if it takes, long, even if it takes a hundred years as some experts claim. A lot of Greece is still there, the fires destroyed much, but still a large part of the country remains intact. The wounds will heal.

Should you still travel to Greece?

Yes, certainly. I am a foreigner here, I came here because I like it here. I intend to stay here, and in my free time from work I intend to continue travelling through this country. If you planned to come to Greece, my message to you is to still come here, now even more than ever! Tourists failing to come and visit the beautiful and still intact parts of the country would be another economic blow to the people. The hospitality of Greece did not falter, you are still very much welcome here.

Posted by betabug at 00:49 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
10 September 2007

Lost and Found: Bookshop

Nice place too

In a few previous posts about "Bookshops in Athens" (Dec 2005, Feb 2006, Nov 2006) I was looking out for "Compendium Books", references to which I had found on the web. I had considered them lost, since they had moved and I did not find them at their new address. Last week the gf and me took a stroll from Syntagma to Thision and while still near Syntagma we happened by chance onto a Book shop... and it was indeed Compendium, alive and well.

The shop is nice enough, with a big used books section (a bit hefty on the "romance" genre though). I'll be coming back there for sure. Unfortunately as with all English Bookshops in Athens, their Science Fiction section is confused: It consists to 90% of Fantasy stuff with almost nothing that is really SF (not to speak of Cyberpunk).

So, where are they? They are at the very end of Nikis street in central Athens (Syntagma area, towards Plaka), on the corner on 5, Navarhou Nikodimou street. phone 210 322 1248. Link to a map.

See also: The list of all "my" English language book shops in Athens.

Posted by betabug at 11:33 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
13 September 2007

My List of English Bookshops in Athens

Put them in their place!

I've written about English book shops in Athens a couple of times. Those posts stretch out a bit over time, so in order to give readers a directory I've put a page on the papakiteliatziar wiki which lists all "my" English language book shops here.

Posted by betabug at 10:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 September 2007

Blue Container Recycling Revisited

More recycling observations

I've reported about The Blue Containers for recycling in our part of town a while ago. In the meantime we've been good kids and used the blue bag supplied to us to collect all kind of (suspected) recyclable material. Usually when I emptied it in the blue containers I had a good look inside to see if others were using them properly or if they'd just end up as normal garbage containers. I was surprised about how much the recycling containers were used appropriately. I even observed other people emptying their blue bags into the blue containers.

Today when I went to the blue container nearest the apartment, I noticed it full up and overflowing, with stuff in bags. Theoretically this could have been recyclable stuff, but I really doubt it. Went to the next one, same game (there were even normal garbage containers next to it, practically empty, so either someone had a lot to recycle or else they just started to dump their garbage into the first container they saw). The third try was successful.

I would really like to learn more about this recycling program: How high is the recycling rate? Where are things separated, where are they recycled? Haven't seen any resources on this so far.

Posted by betabug at 19:11 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
02 October 2007

Wo bin ich denn?

Man riechts doch!

Wenn man längere Zeit in einem "fremden" Land lebt, kommt immer mal der Moment, wo man sich fragt, ob das Feeling noch da ist. Ob man eigentlich noch merkt, dass man "woanders" lebt. Für mich sind dann die Gerüche immer ganz hilfreich. Sonntags am späteren Vormittag bei uns das Treppenhaus runter gehen und die Koch-Gerüche riechen, vermischt mit dem typischen, nicht wirklich beschreibbaren "Hausgeruch".

Dann auf die Strasse, in die Sonne, die auch Ende September noch schön wärmt. Etwas Regen würde mich im Moment gar nicht stören, es ist schon mehr als drei Monate her, dass ich Regen gesehen habe. Auf der Strasse riechts dann auch nach Mülltonnen, weniger angenehm, aber irgendwie gehört es dazu. Am Bäcker oder Gemüsehändler vorbei und ich werde wieder anders verwöhnt, bin wohl auch ein Geruchsmensch und fühle mich damit hier wohl.

Posted by betabug at 19:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
18 October 2007

Thursday Night at the Benaki Museum

A tipp for a Thursday evening out in Athens

This evening we went to the Benaki Museum in Kolonaki, Thursday being the ideal moment for an expedition to this historical museum, since the doors are open till midnight and entrance is free [1] on that day. So for everybody who works, it's the chance to visit with the artifacts of ancient and modern Greek history. This time I enjoyed especially some of the paintings from the 19th century, the heroes of the Greek revolution and their ships.

Some of the highlights of the museum: The manuscript of the Greek national hymn, the traditional dresses from many areas, the reconstructions of two visiting rooms with rich wood carvings and that special relaxed atmosphere (which many "oriental cafes" try to reproduce). It's also especially nice that you can get a survey of Greek history in one place, no need to visit 5 museums.

[1]Except for the special exhibitions, fair enough.

Posted by betabug at 20:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 November 2007

Visit to a Rainy Acropolis

Have a view from the top

Living in Athens means that I have the privilege to go and visit the Akropolis from time to time. I'm there in under an hour from home. The entrance fee is a bit hefty, but between 1st of November and 31st of March it's free on every Sunday (see official Acropolis info). So yesterday up I went. The day was cloudy, dizzy, with an occasional rain shower here and there, and the sun sending a rare ray through from time to time...

Sketch of the view point on the Acropolis

The good thing about the weather was that it wasn't hot for once. It seemed to me that I had all the time I wanted to look around. I spotted beautiful details on finely chiseled column heads. The caryatids, and the olive tree Athena gave to the Athenians.

I was looking out for things to sketch. The Parthenon? Way beyond my abilities, I admitted to myself. Not only would I have to find a way to shortcut all the details (or choose to stay there for an hour, trying to get everything right), but more to the point, I could not get it all into my field of view, I was much too close. I definitely need to practice more. Maybe I should have chosen one detail, work on one column or so.

Instead I wandered around, and then I saw the viewpoint platform, where lots of people gathered to have a look at the endless sea of concrete below. Looking over from the rim of the "sacred rock" at the viewpoint, it gave a nice, deep perspective. Click on the pic to get an enlarged view of the scan.

At first, when I went up there, the place didn't strike me so special. You see, I've been up there a lot. Sure it's great, but one gets used to it. I liked being there anyway. After doing my sketch, I sat down, thumped through my notebook, looked alternating at old sketches and at the scenery. I wondered how I could draw any of the bigger stuff up there one day.

When I went down again, something strange had happened to me. I was smiling. I felt strong and full of power. Before I went up, I had joked that I would sing "I can see clearly now the rain is gone" up there. Now I really felt like singing. I think the old place up there is empowering really. It's not just old stones and a high rock, there's a secret sauce they're not telling us about. I'll be back for sure.

Posted by betabug at 10:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 December 2007

Strike Tomorrow


Just in case you are living synchronously in Athens and under a rock: Tomorrow Wednesday 2007-12-12 will be a big strike here. Public transport will be mostly out for 24 hours, other public services will be totally out for 24 hours. I will work from home, I don't think it's worth it to try to get on the street and compete for one of the taxis - which will be overcrowded, overcharging and driven by bad tempered (even more than usual) drivers.

Before any foreigners unused to strikes complain: The reason for this strike is the situation with the various pension funds. As far as I get the situation, various governments have helped themselves to the money of those pension funds to plug holes in their budgets. There has to be a way to make a point, even if it inconveniences some people who are not responsible for the situation.

Posted by betabug at 11:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 January 2008

Άλσος Ηλίθιων

Που είμαστε;
Ο χάρτης στο Άλσος Ιλισίων

Άντε να βρεις το δρόμο σου με αυτόν τον χάρτη. Βρίσκεται σε μια είσοδο του Άλσους Ιλισίων και θα ήταν πολύ χρήσιμος, μόνο που τον γεμίσανε αφίσες, γκραφίτι και μουτσουριές. Δεν καταλαβαίνεις τίποτα και χάνεσαι στο δάσος σαν την μικρή κοκκινοσκουφίτσα (ή τους Χάνσελ και Γκρέτελ, όλο τους μπερδεύω).

Posted by betabug at 16:50 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
25 January 2008

Sunlight In Green

Who says Athens is only gray?
Grove in the Alsos Ilision, Athens, Greece.

After a very interesting evening out yesterday, I went home early from work today. Normally when I leave work, it's already dark outside. Going home early for a change has the benefit to see the famous sunlight of Attica at work. There were many scenes where I wanted to take a picture, but I must admit I was too lazy, sick and hung over to get my camera out (or even the phone).

Instead I'll throw you this picture I took last Saturday in the Alsos Ilision and then stitched together to a small panorama using Hugin. I've had this picture open for all this week on my work computer, couldn't get enough to look at it. It's very much different from the montage/panorama pictures I made with my phone cam with their crazy eeriness and homemade air, but still I like it. It's just a nice little grove, and it shows me that there are some very beautiful places in our city.

Posted by betabug at 19:44 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
10 February 2008

Weekend Metro Service Until 2AM

Going out and coming back
Metro station on Saturday night

This weekend was the first of a two month period where the Metro / Treno of Athens will be servicing users till 2AM. We came back from a concert and according to the picture were at a Metro station at around 1:15AM. There were a lot of people, it really looks like Athenians appreciate this extra service.

Traditionally the way to get back from going out is to take a taxi. Taxis in Athens are cheap, but with the cost of living rising a lot lately (and salaries of course not rising), saving a few precious Euros for a taxi ride is a good idea. The "trial period" for the extended Metro times is supposed to measure the demand of this service. In my opinion, if the passenger numbers stay as high as on this weekend, demand should be proven. Oh, and I didn't see any scenes of misbehaving or drunken passengers, it was all a quiet and civilized atmosphere.

Posted by betabug at 15:31 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
19 February 2008

Oh, yeah, the Snow in Greece

Guess I should be writing about this

Everybody is writing about the snow in Greece and in Athens. I probably should be doing the same, as Google sends a lot of people my way who look for information about this. Well, I'll keep it short, because I'm busy with a lot more personal stuff. None of your business, thanks for asking. Here goes:

It started snowing Saturday evening. I was out of Athens, Sunday morning there was a white blanket. You can see my friend Panos filming some of the first snow from his balcony. Later the balcony and the flowers were covered with snow. graffic and me had a bit of a fun time returning to Athens, as by that time traffic had started to break down.

Monday was even more fun. It had stopped snowing, but due to the snow on the streets and the cold the city had come to a standstill. Nobody was in my workplace, I didn't really have a means to get there, so I stayed at home and worked from there. This morning I plan to go, but I'm still waiting if indeed someone will show up. Don't want to fight my way through the frozen streets just to discover the office closed.

Posted by betabug at 08:31 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
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)
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