Friday, 12 December 2014

Athens rains – and we all get wet

Rain doesn’t suit Athens.
It’s all the concrete that’s the problem, I think.

At least when it rains in London, the green gets even greener (and there’s probably more square metres of green space per capita in London than any other city in Europe), and there’s nothing to beat the smell of Regent’s Park after a shower. The thing is, London was built on the premise of its dampness. Just like Stockholm, which is built on a collection of islands in the Baltic Sea, it’s at peace with the liquid element, its natural habitat.

Athens’ natural habitat, however, is not damp. Its element comes from the Attica Sky all right, but not in the form of raindrops, rather in the form of heat from Apollo, the sun god.

So, when it rains in Athens, it is just not right. Everything looks soggy and grey and uninspired. It's almost as if the city is sulking.

This week has been an especially damp one, starting with some spectacular rainfall on Monday as I was making my way across the city to the office after a couple of weeks off. In the hour it took me to make my way by public transport from Holargos to Piraeus, I reckon it dumped the equivalent of the Aegean Sea on the city - the Attica Sky has been heavy with brooding, dark grey rain clouds. It didn’t take long for new rivers to form in the roads, raging torrents that seeped through the seams of your boots and soaked you from the ground-up, in spite of the brolly you’re gamely carrying.

Athens doesn't handle wet weather well – and nor do its residents. Just one good drenching and the number of cars on the road quadruples, dusty pavements become as slick as skating rinks, traffic grinds to a halt, public services change pace from slow to stop and debris-filled drains explode with gay abandon like geysers. 

Athenians feel cheated when it rains.

Unlike northern Europe, things are not designed for the rain here. Many homes have tile or mosaic flooring – great in the hot summers, but chilly in the wet autumn and winter months. Tumble driers are a rarity, and with more and more people avoiding turning on their radiators due to the past few years of crisis and enforced penny-pinching, there are times you think your washing will rot on the line long before it has the chance to dry.

It was against that sad, grey background that I was making my way to the office, when I suddenly spotted something that changed everything in an instant. Standing in the Metro station was a middle-aged man chatting on his phone – like thousands of other commuters that pass through every day. But in his hand he held a simple bunch of bright yellow roses.

It was the kind of sight that makes you wish your eyelid was a camera shutter, that you could capture that single fleeting image for all eternity.

That simple splash of yellow amid the rain-washed grey of Athens was the kind of image that reminds you that even the most overcast of days holds the potential for colour. It was a sight that… ...on the other hand, somebody better stop me before I start to sound like a bad greetings card.

Meanwhile, the rain goes on, and on, and on...

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of your eyelid being a camera lens shutter, oh how fabulous that would be. I hope it has dried up now and you have a fabulous Christmas. Mich x