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Athens: A Commentary

GREECE | Thursday, 15 September 2011 | Views [1676]

Riot police at the ready, Athens

Riot police at the ready, Athens

The aforementioned taxi strike is over.  The trash bags that spilled over the sidewalk and into the street are gone.  You can drink the water but you can't flush your toilet paper.  Riot police are still around, dressed if not to kill, at least to avenge.  There are no protesters but plenty of graffiti.  We have walked around and seen much of central Athens and I believe it is time to make some observations.

For a city of only three million, Athens is dirty and noisy. The air stinks from motorbike and car exhaust. The traffic isn’t as bad as Cairo, but then what is?  If you don’t die crossing the street, second-hand cigarette smoke will probably get you.

Men are generally well dressed but dumpy looking, especially when compared to the fashionable French.  The women are mostly stylish and generally pretty hot in that Mediterranean way.  I haven’t noticed many kids but stray dogs roam at will, especially among the ruins.  No one seems detailed to pick up their poo.  And Athens is the first place we have seen panhandlers and drunks (or worse) sleeping in doorways and sidewalks, which are already crowded with parked motorbikes.

There is no shortage of restaurants.  Food is a bit pricey but we haven’t had a bad meal so far.  There may be as many shops selling Orthodox icons and religious paraphernalia as restaurants. You can hardly swing an incense burner without hitting one.  We wonder who buys all the stuff.  And why?

We have heard more “American” spoken here than anytime since we left the ship in Barcelona.  Half as many (5 million) Greeks live outside the country as in it and I suspect a lot of them live in the US and visit Athens on holiday.

The architecture of Athens today is a hodgepodge.  It is said that Athens has no architects, only civil engineers!  I haven’t seen anything I could call an architectural “style,” which is odd when you consider the classic lines of the Parthenon.  The exceptions are the Greek Orthodox churches, both large and small, that seem to be everywhere.  Yesterday was the celebration of the “True Cross,” a biggie in the Orthodox Church.  We peeked into tiny church which was tucked under another building.  It couldn’t have held more than a handful of worshippers and more crowded the sidewalk.

On the plus side, the weather is fantastic!

 

 

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