Monday, 13 February 2012

The morning after the night before - Athens update: 13 February 2012

The sharp sting on my tongue, a reminder of last night's 'troubles', is the first thing to greet me as I emerge from  the bowels of the Athens Metro into Syntagma Square, in front of the country's Parliament, this morning.

Though an army of city workers is already out on the streets in face masks and high-visibility jackets clearing up the debris, the acrid remnants of tear gas and torched buildings still hang in the air. Commuters coming out of the station or heading for the bus stops clutch scarves, handkerchiefs or coat sleeves across their faces to prevent the stench of another night's anger and disappointment catching in their throats as they scurry across the square on their way to work.

A city worker hosing down debris in Syntagma Square
It's almost a dream-like scene - like a transplanted Lowrie painting - and most uncharacteristic of Greece. 

A damp mist is draped over everything as a man from the council hoses empty tear gas canisters, the apparent remains of Molotov cocktails and assorted rubble into neat piles dotted around the square. 

The place is strangely silent, an oddity in garrulous Greece, and people are going about their business (at least those still with some) with their eyes cast downwards and a look of grim resignation on their faces. 
Arsonists targeted several buildings, including the central Post Office

The weather is uncharacteristically sombre for country known best for its sunshine and good times, at least to foreigners who have enjoyed their two weeks  of holiday here. The mood too is subdued as folk try to carry on in the face of ever-increasing hardship and the sense of betrayal by the politicians they have honoured with their votes over the years. There's a sense too that ordinary Greeks are being punished for the sins of an elite group in charge, who will be the last to feel of vicious pinch of austerity already biting deep into most lives.

The Greeks are a proud people. Proud of their legacy of culture to the world. Proud of their unique character and beautiful country. Proud of the resilience of their national character that has seen them through occupation and starvation during the Second World War, followed by civil war and a military dictatorship. They've been through a lot, and it looks like they've got a lot more to get through.

It's unlikely to that they will get through this latest 'punishment' with their dreams of a better life for their children intact. Right now, the most the majority aspire to is simply getting through this crisis with their heads just above water...

It's an scary and uncertain time for most Greeks.
Most are making superhuman efforts to 'carry on'.

The latest addition to Sytagma's graffitti collection.
Clearing the mess from the long night before.


  1. A well-balanced and surprisingly non-judgemental piece. Your love of your Greece and the Greeks shines through, and does you all justice.

  2. Scary times, and it's difficult to see where it will end exactly.

  3. Very interesting piece of writing. From the news you can't really understand the personal impact.