Sunday, December 7, 2008

Remembering Exarchia...notes from afar

It is so sad and frustrating that the media continue to present the current political movement as a confrontation between anarchists (or extremists) and the police.
What is happening in Athens is a continuation of the massive public unrest with the current Karamanlis government, and its unfair policies. Out on the streets now are social democrats, students, socialists, and workers.
We saw the general strike, lasting for weeks, resulted in a resounding deafness by the parliament to the needs of the majority of people. When a prolonged general strike does not affect the Parliament votes, of course now we have the culmination of the public frustration and the demonstrations roll on. The government should call for a re-election Now.
Light on Athens
Of course it is not only the Karamanlis government but the ignorance and biligerence of the police.
The police shooting of a 15 year old boy did not run by without a resounding response of shock and action has stirred and pushed all of you to march in anger at the continued police brutality in Greece! I also liked George Monbiot's description of this phenomenon.

Friday, June 6, 2008


my computer doesn't work. so blogging has not been easy, and i forgot about it.
....i'm also abandoning Athens for a few months, but until we meet again..

Saturday, May 17, 2008

naxos in my heart

i'm writing in the middle of a midnight cornflake snack, disorientated back here in smelly Athens after a fantastic five night break on Naxos, where i strolled on long deserted beaches, ate delicous food and sat chatting to the locals until 2 am in Naxos world music cafe. Its wonderful to be so close to the sea, with so few cars around. There is an odd sense of desertion and evacuation there too, a little sad that the islands were emptied of there populations in the 60's, when people went to Athens for work. The few young adults that remain for the year seem a little lonely and bored. I'm all for decentralizing public authorities and the like, to re-populate the islands.

Long walks on the beach, good food, good boyfriend was even offered a few jobs in an excessive display of hospitality, and a few raki's with honey, the latter he accepted willingly of course.

If you are going to Naxos then I would love to suggest some hotels, restaurants, bars etc. Particularly as I was so disappointed by the lonely planet Greece guide and the rough guide to Greece. In the end we just have to write it ourselves don't we?

We stayed in the Apollon hotel---and i had a few problems with it although it wasn't bad at all. the hotel was empty, given its low season, and we stayed a full five nights, so a discount would have been fair, but we were unfortunately charged the full 50 euros a night, which is high for this season. The toilet didn't have ventilation, which is unbelievable to me.
Glaros hotel on Saint George's beach would have been better, we went to see it, and it was prettier with a nice owner and better location, and windows in the toilet. Cheaper option - Mike's studios has been recommended to me but we didn't go take a look. In August if you stay on Saint George's beach the raucous partying might play on your nerves. But in May the beach was quiet.

Restaurants were so plentiful it was hard to choose, but by far the best was The Good Heart (the sign is written in English too) on the waterfront Paralia. We ate roasts, roast lamb, pork and chicken, although they do a lot else. The family who ran it were so kind, and at about 11.00 they all sit down to a huge meal at the restaurant.

For souvlaki and fast food Kozi was really great, so much better value for money than in our neighbourhood Athens joints. We had the best pizza in Greece at Suzanna pizzeria.

Bars --- don't miss Elia (the olive tree) and Naxos Cafe both in the old town, the owners have rebelled against trendy radio hits, and the atmosphere is really intimate and nice.

There was one sore point though - the enormous mobile phone mast on OTE's building in the centre of town, with a hotel at the same level as the mast, bedroom windows only a few meters from it. Apart from an eyesore, the health effects of such masts are questionable. It is really irresponsible of Naxos to allow this in such a busy area. While i'm on the subject i must say that the masts are noticeably larger and more frequent in Greece than Sweden.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Night of the living mosquito

people don't talk enough about mosquitos on the mediterranean - maybe they just have more to talk about....  Every night one or two mozzies come and suck my blood and buzz in my ear.  its not as romantic as it sounds.
My boyfriend has become a savage mosquito hunter, and there are blood stains on our head board and the wall.  as for me i act as the look-out and find them hiding camouflaged on the wallpaper.  

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Orthodox Easter

This week is Orthodox Easter, and until this evening it looked like a week where everyone uses their holiday time to hit the shops...scarcely one woman could be seen without a shopping bag or three draped off her arm...stores were open all day, siestas were forgotten....

But then this evening my cynicism was given a shake, when we went on a walk and were sort of called up a hill by the chanting from a beautiful white Orthodox Church.
The chanting was very beautiful and loud, and there were lots of people standing outside the Church like us...just listening , or waiting for the procession, which would come out carrying the effigy of Christ.
we missed the procession as our hunger pains and gurgling stomachs called us back down the hill into baser activities.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

no where to go...

The NGO responsible for the rights of trafficked women found in Athens told me they don't have a safe-house for victims in Athens. What would it take to find a secure home for the victims?

Meanwhile the girls are granted police protection only if they testify against the traffickers, they must bring forth evidence against the criminals involved, and most of the girls actually know very little about the criminal organisation.
Further there are very few victims identified by police.
The NGO's main activity seems to be "awareness campaigns"and maintaining a network between countries of origin and destination countries.
We can consider further effective action with all of this EU money : a comfortable secure "safe house" for a start, extensive medical care and therapy.
How about changing the law on prostitution to be more in line with Swedish law prosecuting those who purchase sex? Going to a prostitute should be considered one of the most violent forms of physical abuse and a crime.
However the statistics show that prostitution is accepted in Greece, with about 1 million males visiting prostitutes, that is half of the male sexually active population.

Monday, April 14, 2008

An Afghan Welcome

On arriving in Greece from Italy, outside the docked boat, there were dozens of young men origin unknown, very poor and dishevelled. and not speaking Greek.  They sat on the ground in a line.  They were literally the first people I saw in Greece, and now only a few months later, their welfare is a top priority for the UNHCR and European Commission.  

They seemed to be waiting, for what I couldn't tell. But now it all comes together, they must have been from Afghanistan, and perhaps waiting to go to Italy.  This article explains the dire situation for Afghan migrants, many of them children, in Patras... they stay there with the bare minimum,  one last stop after a long, harrowing journey.  They had a make-shift camp, but the police tore it down to leave them without shelter.  They are under threat from police abuse and traffickers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

turn on the light and stop!

Roads here in Athens are lethal, and just when it seems safe to cross the road, a red sports car or angry yellow taxi cab hurtles at you, and you can almost detect the glint in the driver's eye, shining with some sadistic pleasure at seeing you jog in high heels to the other side of the road.

that sums up my afternoon.  traffic lights are very difficult to find, by the time a pedestrian makes the detour to the nearest traffic light they are pondering grand philosophical questions...

there is one usefully placed traffic light in my neighbourhood, however the vegetation has grown over the light, so the cars don't notice it anyway,, which makes the whole set-up very dangerous.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More Precious than Gold, more uplifting than Prozac

Here is a riddle,

in a new city, where you don't speak the language, and where there are many who want nothing more than to make a fast euro. and tear up the bathrooom..what is the most precious thing of all???

a wonderful, dependable electrician and plumber! And today, he woke me up bright and early (its a Sunday!), and fixed the boiler within an hour. he was funny he made jokes - it was great!
Though, he did tell me that this boiler is ancient -- 22 years old, if you convert boiler years to human years its like 92 years old. it's a grandfather of an appliance.
but tell that to our landlord, she couldn't give a hoot.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Everyone's an expert....

(above is Lemonis, in action on the football field, whilst today he was taking a long time over his coffee, three seats away from me).

Two days ago, there was a long drawn-out debate on Olympiakos' outstanding defeat 4-0, to Aik.  Discussions on Greek football take on complex dimensions and last until its time to sleep or eat with a full mouth.
Just before this record defeat, the Olympiakos' coach was fired, without a reason, and yet he was considered to be one of the best coaches the team has ever had, taking Olympiakos to win a Champions League away game for the first time.

So, who would I sit next to today, but the former Olympiakos coach - Lemonis!?!  

Once again, like with the Panionios players, my partner didn't tell me until it was too late and I had already made a fuss about the distance between the table and the seats, and asked to move across the room, before we had a chance to listen in....although some lines of the conversation were picked up by my boyfriend's supersonic Ears.  

Like any newly unemployed person, he was discussing job opportunities with some teams, while sipping coffee, smoking, and eyeing up women.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mushroom Soup Sky...into the Wild

Greece has a reputation for a warm climate and blue sky.  But once a week Athen's sky is not the post-card blue...but looks a lot like cream of mushroom soup.

And there are far too many stray cats here.  On a ten minute walk around the neighbourhood, you may see about twenty cats.  And, it being Spring, many are pregnant.  A month ago, I saw...erm...a gang rape of the cat world.  (she managed to wriggle free eventually, although the males were brutal).

And these cats make hideous wailing sounds in the dark, really loud. It would be kind for an animal rights group to distribute contraceptive pills to all of these cats, disguised in their food. 

There's also a turtle in a park just next door to me, the sight of it gave me a lot of pleasure.  And then there was another in someone's garden just down the road and another and another.  Turtles?!?  In England and Sweden they  may have been in children's petting zoos, but I never saw one.

Friday, March 21, 2008

what an anticlimax!

A disappointing end to the two week strike : Parliament voted last night, and the pension reforms were approved.  

It would be very pleasant to see the MP's collect all the garbage that has gathered on the streets during these two weeks while the local sanitations services were on strike.  

Thursday, March 20, 2008

News Freeze!

Ever watched live basketball without the sports commentators? 

Well, when  journalists go on strike, we watch live sports without commentary.

Another thing to avoid when there is a general strike is deep breathing...after a jog around the park, I was still panting and sucked the rotting garbage scent deep into my lungs.
Some rubbish bins in the area have been emptied...a cruel twist of fate has our closest bins still full and overflowing.  
The parliament will vote tonight and most likely the bill will be passed, despite the mass opposition.  The ruling party is called New Democracy ( passing laws that enrage the public is not a new form of democracy).  

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


In the previous post I complained about the lack of coverage on BBC regarding these ongoing strikes.  Finally today we can read about the strikes in Athens : here

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Censorship and the strikes

The 24 hour strike has commenced, everything is shutdown, you name it : electricity, waste collection, journalism, flights, banks.

For an accurate report on what is happening in Athens now click here

But why does BBC not cover these strikes?...check out and the sorts of articles they have prioritized in the Europe section of the World Service.  Once again I am disappointed by mainstream media.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Faith & Governments

To the left is a photo taken from a pro-war march in America, held by little boys in military dress.  In this banner there is a strong religious message regarding America's war with Vietnam.

The call for a secular society, "division between religion and the state" is certainly vague.  

I am concerned that Turkey's chief prosecutor prepares his case to ban the ruling party, on the grounds that its policies undermine the country's secular Constitution. For more news on this click here.

Religious freedom and democracy ought to be respected.    What can the affects be of banning the democratically elected government?  Does this move give more power to the military?

(that there is so much focus on the issue of headscarves seems misplaced, 
the issue of headscarves is dressed as a feminist issue, but
if politicans and journalists are so concerned with feminism, then there are more pressing matters such as equal wages, extensive and well-paid maternity leave, etc.)

While some journalists continue to discuss the value of separation between religion and state, others point out the hypocrisy - for example - NO separation of state and OIL in the US government...for more information on the relationship between the US government and oil companies please go to

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pheweee! Strong smells in the dark

The strike continues.  (both the power company and the garbage collectors). ..and although I do support the workers' unions and their action...walking on the streets here in Athens is not so pleasant. 

It's still not as bad as the photo I pasted above, at least the trash is contained in bags.  But every corner stinks of rubbish, and there are unsightly piles of plastic bags filled with waste...
A woman with a loudspeaker walked around the neighbourhood telling us to keep our trash inside the houses.  That was this afternoon, (well we put the garbage out before we heard her, fortunately).
Let's hope this strike accomplishes something!  Karamanlis and his center right party must not go through with the proposed pension reforms, but instead enter into negotiations with the unions.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The electricity first, Now the rubbish

There is another strike, this time with the city waste department.  Which means for us in Athens, our neighbourhoods are full with overflowing rubbish bins.  

Only the second day of the strike and the trash is mounting high, plastic bags full of rubbish on every street corner.
I only hope there are no rats, or at least not too many.

Friday, March 7, 2008

barefoot in the dark

Periods of time in each day when there are no lights, no stove, no internet, no tv, no laundry machine.  It's quite jarring now on the third time around.  They last about 2 hours each time.  And it makes me nervous to put on the washing machine.  So we have no socks :(.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Strike Continues

The electricity company is still on strike today and this will continue until Wednesday.
We woke up to an electrically dead appartment, 
which meant no tea or coffee to wake up to....that was hard have to admit that.
A morning without tea or coffee is like a week without a shower.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lights Out!!!

A black out on my block!  Well in the middle of listening to a BBC documentary, the electricity cut off.  To tell the truth, I was lolling about anyway, and the black out was a great excuse to continue doing nothing in the late afternoon.
The story is that the electricity company is on strike, and taking out neighbourhood by neighbourhood, little by little of Athens at a time.  Of course I'm not complaining : I fully support those who strike!!

But then the sun went down, and the black out was not funny anymore.  Especially as we were not prepared : no candles, no flashlight.  
Off to the local taverna!  The walk to the taverna was spooky with no street lights...we could not see the other pedestrians' faces.  
We reached the taverna safely and a feast of roast chicken, beer, salad, and chewy bread followed.
The table next to us was filled with fellow victims of the black out.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Good neighbours do not build nuclear power plants where the land is prone to earthquakes.  Turkey plans to build a nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean Coast, at the city of Mersin. 
This is a concern for all of us who like to bathe in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and dream of the fantastic beaches of Greece and Turkey.  

Turkey should not proceed with its plans to build nuclear power plants, given their threat to human health and safety.   The plan for nuclear energy is a short term fix to a long term problem and  the potential consequences of nuclear power plants are far too dire to justify its construction.  There are less hazardous alternatives to fossil fuels.  Ok? Greenpeace says it better than me at this link

Monday, March 3, 2008

Star Gazing in Nea Smyrnh

Just another lunch in the local taverna. On entering, I noted the really sexy young guys sitting at the front table...they were wearing sporty clothes including Africans and North Africans. They seemed very different from the normal middle aged and elderly clientelle.

Then having settled into our seats, my partner said, "Aren't they Panionios players?"

After ten more minutes of just plain staring, and finally questioning the waitress, there was no longer a doubt in our minds that they were indeed football celebrities. They were speaking English with each other with a smattering of French. And talking about the long summer days of Finland! They included a French Algerian, a Malian, and a Finnish-Albanian (we realised after google-ing and wiki-ing)
They were also double parked outside the restaurant.

The rest of our lunch was eaten with a certain euphoria! Although my beloved partner didn't think I should stare too long at them!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Flying Saucers!

Waitresses in Athens work too hard : in and out, in and out, walking from the barrista to the customers outside.  Actually they might be really overworked..and this can have its consequences...

Well, today I received a large bang to the back of my head by the waitress's tray.  ouch.  And afterwards, not even a free coffee.  Indeed she even seemed annoyed by me.  
The archetypal waitress is smiling, polite and friendly, but this discounts their low wages, physical exertian, and dealing with customers of all sorts.  Raise the wages, reduce the working hours, and boom - nice friendly service.
Until then, lazy Sundays in cafes with the newspapers will never seem safe.  

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cafe Ole

Today, a glorious spring day in Athens, on the square of Nea Smyrnh, we found the 2 euro espresso, which beats all of its competitors.  It was found in the Pop Up Cafe on the central square.  Delicious, not bitter at all.  

However the seats hurt the toosh, and some girls broke successive glasses, without blinking an eye (some of their eyes weren't covered by huge sunglasses).  Frequent CD merchants (if you life in Athens or have visited you know that this is just a part of sitting outside).  

A Coffee not a Steak?!?

We pay at least 2.30 euros for a coffee here in Athens.  In Italy, Sweden and in France it was half this price.  Why this difference?  

The EURO! yes, when the currency switched to the euro prices of basic things were suddenly rounded up and multiplied by ten.

Putumayo Cafe

A beautiful interior, elegant and spacious.  The music in the cafe is really good, from Latin America to the Balkans, and the crowd various and pleasant!  

The espresso is extremely bitter though, and of course over-priced.  The elegant waiters have a lot of piercings ...and was that a studded leather belt he wore today??? hmmm.
Its in Nea Smyrnh, just by the Panionios stadium and the central square.  

Athens News!

Here is Athens, Greece...chaotic, packed with cars and angry drivers, where pedestrians are almost an extinct species...but beautiful blue sky and strong sun.  

On Fridays, it has become a routine to trot down to my kiosk and buy the latest edition of Athens News!   This is the weekly newspaper that has national and international news, upcoming events, recipes, suduku, crosswords, and more!  It focuses more on environmental and immigration issues.