Is Athens Burning? – Austerity kills

athens public telephoneSo I was recently at Athens, undoubtedly one of my favourite places food wise, weather wise, people wise! And I was nothing short of shocked. One keeps reading about the wonderfully pathetic situation the lawmakers have brought this beautiful city to, but when you see it first hand, it blows you away, makes you sad.

There’s nothing Europe about Athens anymore. Not long ago, say just about 10 years ago, the word Europe for an Asian meant cobblestone sidewalks, clean air, balanced ecology, public works and the associated maintenance at its best! At Athens, its all gone. There were times when I felt like I was walking through the most written-off back alleys of Bangkok with open, overflowing garbage cans (wet), graffiti galore and the homeless scavenging for food.

The Deserted Main Avenueathens street

The street to the left was once one of the busiest in Athens with high end brands decorating the avenue and shoppers galore. Today, the shutters are down, the shoppers are all gone and the brands have all but dried up. Now all one can spot is a Mobile Phone store here and there with a very Asian look and feel to it. While entrepreneurship is appreciated in any form and by anybody, especially in a place as financially battered as Greece, a lot of these small businesses are taking away from the European look of the city.

white supremacy graffiti

The White Supremacist

Its funny how graffiti, while controlled can actually be quite artistic, but in a place like Athens echos the sentiment of the average poor man on the street. A few years ago I would have considered graffiti of this sort very offensive, but given the situation Athens is in and owing to uncontrolled immigration across the board, can we really blame them for act like this one?

The Homeless Manhomeless man in athens

When did we start seeing this in Europe? And not just one or two, hundreds of them! The bearded vagabond with a seemingly mistimed case of Parkinson’s disease, a rug sack, some trash bags walking aimlessly around the city has become a regular feature in Athens!

The Burning Carburning car vandalism in athens

I stepped out for a bit in the evening to get a Shorma Roll from the restaurant down the street and guess what? 2 students from the community college decide to set a high end car on fire. Why? They were seemingly ticked off with the unprecedented rise in tuition fees. It took the Fire Department and Law Enforcement more than 20 minutes to get there! What’s worse, the local student population seemed to be enjoying the spectacle.

The European Athens I knew is almost all gone. That being said there still is tourist value at Athens with Syntagma Square’s change of guard ceremony and the famous Parthenon. While signs of poor maintenance have begun to become obvious in these places as well, one can only hope Greece does a turn around in the near future. That of course, never stops me from wanting to go back to this beautiful city again and again and again!

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2 comments

  1. Jono Cusack · · Reply

    It’s very sad isn’t it? I was there not long ago and it just seemed the whole city was broken in spirit.

  2. I can write articles like that for any capital of any country in the world. I can find streets like that in the center of London easily I must say. What does this mean? that England sucks?

    You are a bit harsh. This is not the general view of Greece. Sure Greeks have many problems and the biggest one is Austerity. But that undeniable fact doesn’t change the truth, that Greece is a beautiful country. Its true that in Athens ( as in all capitals) those problems are more intensive and visible, but really that it, nothing more or less.

    Tip: If you are still in Greece, ask you travel agent or any serious Greek ( you’ll find a lot of them ready to help you out with instuctions) what to do and where to go. Its a pity to leave Greece and keep that wrong impression.

    Tip2: The day you took photos is the same as the day you wrote the article? Because although its near Christmas and shops are open in the last 2 Sundays of the year, Greeks doesn’t shop the first one ( that is this one you are writing). If you are in Greece, go to the very same spot in the morning (the last Sunday of the year) and post a new photo. What main avenue it is by the way?

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