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If I ran this country ……..III

no one in a Greek courtroom would be allowed to make a noise while people are giving testimony.
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I was in court for work this week. Not oddly, I had to keep notes. This was near impossible with all the activity — none of it necessary.

It was like being in some kind of Turkish bath. People milling around, slapping one another on the back, lounging around in corners, gum being chewed and snapped loudly, private conversations unrelated to the proceedings going on between people in the court.

I don’t understand. This was a murder trial. The family of the victim have travelled from the U.S. to attend this trial.  Their child had been brutally killed. The least bit of courtesy that could be extended would be … attention? Respectful silence?

Instead, a T-shirted policeman would cross the room to chat with newly-arrived female lawyer friend, who just stood in front of those attending the proceedings. People would just wander in, like one unshaven man with a cap who got annoyed when a policeman told him to take off the cap in the courtroom. A lawyer involved in the trial left his desk at the bench, wandered over to the where we were sitting, spoke casually with his interns about another matter, used his cellphone to call a friend, then wandered back to his post.

And of course, there were the usual camp followers: those strange people who do little errands like bring bottles of water. There seemed to be a handful of them in court today.

It was hard enough to hear what was being said because witnesses speak to the judge/jurors, not to the people present. Add to that the translation that was running concurrently with the testimony (no translation booths in Greek courts!). The glass entrance door to the courtroom did little to muffle the noise from the loud conversations outside.

This is about basics. It’s not really good enough to have people lounging around and schlepping in and out of the courtroom. Shows complete disrespect for everyone. My solution: lock the doors after the session begins.  (Of course, having written this, for all I know I just showed disrespect for the court!)

If I ran this country …. II

not only would the trains run on time but passengers could actually buy tickets for them.

Time stamp: 9:30 p.m. Place: Syntagma Sq. Metro Station

QUEUES. Everywhere. Queues to top-up or buy tickets at the 4 machines (one not working). Queue at the only staffed ticket window. Queues are at least 5 to 6 deep. We gave up waiting and walked home.

But wait – there’s more. On the way into town Damon went to buy a ticket – we had no change, just a 20 euro bill and there was no staff on at the ticket window. So we tried buying it through the automated ticket machine. Won’t accept 20s. We tried to get the 20  changed in the station. No go. We had to walk out of the station and try two establishments to get change, then go back and buy the ticket.

That was 7 p.m. at the Acropolis metro station. Not exactly the quietest of stations on a summer evening. Why is there no one on duty?

Dear Metro and Government. Above is testimony to the fact we’re trying. It’s time you did your bit too.

Another Fail.

Little house near the beach

This is the house on the land by the beach my father left me.

sounio house 1My Aunt Katina at the house in Sounio.

Or, rather, this is what it looked like.

Since that photo was taken, maybe in the late 70s, the roof has fallen in, the marble slabs that covered the grape press in the back have been ripped out and the walls have caved in.

The building has been around since the 1930s at least. It survived fires, earthquakes, Nazi occupation.

Now, it is at risk of becoming another victim of Greek bureaucracy.

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The house by the beach in the background of a photo circa 1932. My father is the little boy on the running board. The vineyards were my family’s.

As long as I have been in Greece I have wanted to renovate it and make it into a serviceable beach hut. And for as long as I can remember I was told that I had the right to repair and renovate the existing dwelling because it existed before some key date and there was documentation to prove it.

But I was always stumped at how to get a permit to renovate it. I knew I couldn’t expand beyond the existing footprint because the land it was built on was less than the 4,000 square meters required by law.

Then I heard I was now in a position where I couldn’t get one at all. Because it had always been marked down on papers as an agricultural warehouse rather than as a dwelling, I had to prove it had once been a dwelling to get the papers, like a document from the water or power company.

This is near impossible — the small dwelling got its water from a well and there was no power.

All this in the shadow of my three neighbours who have built extensively and illegally on slivers of land they bought from my father. And once their homes were built — all of which had access to water and power — they were able to take advantage of amnesties that allowed them to pay to reclassify their buildings as legal constructions, regardless of laws that prevent me from renovating my existing building.

One of those laws is that related to forestland — in parts of Sounio you must have at least 4,000 square meters to build a residence. My land is 2,500 square meters. My neighbours have at most 200 square meters apiece.

I’ve been watching the news over the past few days and a recurring theme has been the beginning of work to knock down illegal buildings and houses. That’s something that’s been put into action after the horrific July 23 fire at Mati, when almost 100 people died, many because they couldn’t get to the seaside because of homes illegally built along the coastline that blocked access.

My little house doesn’t block access — it never did. It wasn’t built as a beach house but as a dwelling for my family to tend to their vineyard and make wine. It was built for a purpose and used for decades without any incident.

So there isn’t a lot I can do except watch my poor inheritance fall into disrepair and wonder why those who flaunt the law in this country always seem to get rewarded for it.