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Strikes: An Integral Part of Athenian Life August 8, 2011

Posted by msmith78 in Travel Log.

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The strikes and protesting here have shifted from inspiring, to convenient, to frustrating over the course of my time here in Athens. Based on my conversations at work; I am not alone in my assessments, but I am a little less accepting of this method of promoting change.

The initial protests were more like carnivals with street vendors with gyros and popcorn, campers in the square, stickers and signs declaring “Oxi”, frappe sipping, and families strolling. I felt this was a beautiful way for a country with past protest issues to stand as a symbol of a higher standard with the volume and diversity of the participants speaking for the cause rather than violence.

As for strikes, I have had three days off of work total, not due to my office striking, but due to work cancellations based on the transportation strikes. Two of these days were conveniently when my mother and sister were visiting me so I got to spend more time with them, but unfortunately these transportation strikes were in the middle of the Special Olympics Games in Athens which inhibited my family’s attendance as well as others I am sure. To limit the accessibility of the games for spectators, limits the amount of impact the games can have on bringing new international spectators to the games. The Special Olympics’ mission is to spread the message of inclusion and unity and unfortunately their abilities to do so was limited.  I must say the Special Olympics did a wonderful job of overcoming these difficulties for the athletes and their families with alternate transportation, and a single line of the metro was kept open to run to the games. However, the starting station for that line for my family (and many other tourists) to take it was Syntagma Square, the political center and heart of the protests.

My mom, sister, and I were unable to see the Parliament or the National Gardens during their stay, but they did get to witness the Zappeion Garden lined with police bikes and the view of the tear gas cloud over Parliament from my roof. One of the most powerful moments for me was my sisters reaction when we were watching the Greek news coverage of the protests live from Syntagma Square. A protestor broke free to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He then danced on the grave before laying on top of it. I do not know exactly what that translates to in Greek culture, but my sister at sixteen and more patriotic and sensitive to the men of the armed forces then I gave her credit, would not have any of it. The television was turned off and her interest in the protests was over; for her, this man had crossed the line.

There have been some protestors up on the acropolis, but for the archeologists, architects, engineers, etc. working on the project, it is not the place for a Greek protest. The protestors use the location for the assured attention they will receive, but the acropolis is an internationally significant location and should be left in peace as that symbol and not exploited.

(Picture of protestors that I only got to see carrying in their signs through the Propylaia towards the Parthenon from my view in the Propylaia Restoration office)


For the last three weeks or so, just in time for my brother and sister-in-law-to-be to visit, the taxis have been on strike. These protests have involved not only strikes but also clogging of major transportation centers such as the port and the airport. Although this meant safer walks to work and cleaner air, it also made my directions to my brother and other arrangements exponentially more complicated. Thankfully, I have taxi driver friend who is a “rum runner” of sorts who posed as my uncle for a couple of excursions. Beyond the trite effects on my life, what has this meant for the Greek economy? These strikes have been so detrimental that the tourism minister has been making statements asking the taxi drivers to seek an alternate method or time for declaring their frustrations because it is the peak of the tourist season.



At this point, the tents are down in Syntagma and the taxis are back, but who know what might be next.



1. Ezra - March 4, 2014

Amazing steam showers, we had a unit installed around 5 years ago but
it may possibly do with upgrading, would never buy a boring
old typical kind of shower again

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