Today sees the start of a 48-hour-strike which coincides with the politicians debating the future for Greece and the bail-out. I don’t know what will happen in Syntagma Square later today or tomorrow but I wanted to describe what it was like last Friday on a normal day. I’d been reading all the British and US press which told me that I was living in a city that was crumbling and burning, subjected to daily rioting and that Syntagma Square was a no-go area having been taken over by rioters and anarchists.
I’ve never written to a newspaper before but I came pretty close when I read Helena Smith’s article and how she described Athens here , ‘reduced Athens to a smouldering mess of shattered windows and shuttered storefronts, furious during daytime riots, derelict and desolate by night.‘ This is nonsense. In any capital city there are areas where it’s wiser, as a tourist, to avoid but Athens is not derelict and desolate by night. Apart from anything else no one goes out before 10.00pm.
On Friday I decided to go and visit Syntagma Square for myself and saw the ‘indignant‘ who have been camping out since May. To be honest it’s a bit like Glastonbury without the mud. Tourists wandered through the square photographing the protesters and their banners while the press photographed the tourists and then asked them just how terrified they were wandering through the streets of Athens. Tour buses were filled with travellers who watched the changing of the guard and then photographed the posters. There was a very low key police presence. It was fun, the sun was shining, people were laughing and I sat there for a couple of hours drinking coffee and cursing the flat battery in my camera.
Most of the protests are peaceful but they’re not reported because they’re not interesting. How dull would it be to read, ‘not much happened downtown today’ or ‘tourists enjoyed sunshine on Greek holiday’? It is true that there have been outbreaks of violence and I certainly don’t suggest that you plan to go downtown today or tomorrow. But Athens isn’t burning, she isn’t finished, she isn’t even tired. And so, after today, whatever piece of footage gets rolled over your screens time and time again remember that it is but one snapshot of one day.
(I will admit to becoming tired of the electricity strikes).