Rent a riot

53607146_625491167912622_1976335922878218240_nFor nearly a decade Athens’s Syntagma Square was the country’s theater of war, where Greeks angry at wage and pension cuts protested outside Parliament in a hail of stones and tear gas.

But on Sunday, it was just a theater. Actors replaced anarchists. Extras stood in for riot cops. Everything rang mostly true: roars as protestors charged the police, smoke swirling from fake tear gas, a fire burning in a skip, debris.

It’s so ironic that Greece is trying to make its archaeological sites and pristine beaches the drawcard for film and TV productions when in fact it’s its more recent history as the epicentre of the European financial crisis that is more attractive to film-makers.

Investment is key now to support a recovery after Greece received what the government vowed would be its last bailout loan in August 2018. So fencing off the city’s central square on a sunny long weekend is a small price to pay for the business and publicity a big movie could bring after the bruising austerity of recent years. One of the mock protest banners at the film-shoot read:  “Greece – not for sale”. Ok, but maybe now open for business.

 

If I ran this country …

the trains would run on time!

I got in from Thessaloniki this sunny Monday morning and decided I would take the Metro into town from the airport rather than a taxi. It was a gorgeous day, I didn’t need to be anywhere at any particular time and I didn’t feel like shelling out 38 euros for the trip home by taxi.

So I got to the platform about 9.30 a.m. The flight back had been very smooth — just 35 minutes, no delays, no hassles. I was a bit surprised to see the next train out of the Athens airport to the city centre was at 10 a.m. and that they ran only at 30 minute intervals. Seems a bit poor given the number of tourists still pouring into the city for holidays. The platform began to fill up with travellers around 9.45 a.m.  At 9.55 a.m. I got out of my seat to wait for the train. I look up at the display …  and suddenly it’s saying the next train is at 10:30 a.m.

Wait, what? Where’s the 10 a.m. train? It’s vanished like it was Hogwarth’s Express. No announcement, no explanation. I look around for someone to ask — nobody. Like the other travellers I stay glued to where I am because, well, what choice do I have? Having decided to throw in my lot with Greek public transport I have none.

A train arrived at around 10:10 a.m. Now, was this the 10 a.m. train, late? Or was it the early 10:30 a.m. train? Given it only stuck around for a couple of minutes before taking off, I am assuming it was the late 10 a.m. train.

Guys, would it really be so hard to make an announcement saying it’s running a little late instead of leaving us in uncertainty about whether a train will ever arrive? Maybe you could put more trains on? In the end, I spent more time on the platform in Athens waiting for the Metro train into town — 40 minutes — than I did in travelling from Thessaloniki, a city 300 kilometers to the north.

Fail.

 

Quit :)

Social media can get a bad rap sometimes, not least from me, but what an immense change it’s made to our lives. When I first moved to Greece I was completely cut off from what was happening in Australia. We had to write letters. We had to write them, post them and then wait for a response. Mobile phones were non-existent. Even regular phones were a patchy preposition in Greece at the time — it took me two years to get one.

Now, I wake up in the morning, reach for my phone and send “happy birthday” messages to the friends Facebook tells me are celebrating. When my eldest was studying in Melbourne, we kept in touch with Facebook messaging (“What’s English for kritharaki?” he texted once from the supermarket.  “Orzo,” I texted back.) My 18-year-old son was delighted the other day when he got a letter from the bank. He’s never received a letter, he said. (That’s not technically true, thanks to his godmother, but you get the gist.)

So all of that above is a rambling preamble to my main point — today Quit Victoria sent me an email to tell me I have been a non-smoker for 12 weeks, having saved $1,848 by not buying cigarettes. Yay, me. And thank you Quit Victoria for the regular emails to support me. That was the last email I will get from them, they said. Now, I’m on my own.

Ok.  We can do this.

Day 1, a little later

Pondering the jaffle. I discovered this morning through a check with Dr Google that a jaffle is Australian — a fact I did not know. The only reason I am writing this meandering thought is to introduce the fact that I, too, am Australian. Which provides me with an opportunity to post this quintessential Australian photo, a vista of the suburbs, circa July 2015. Miss it. 20150702_161230