One thing I just love about the Brussels-am-Berlin approach to repression is the way that, the instant an ice-pick has been thrust into the heart of a ClubMed economy, in bounds Olli Rehn to tell the cadaver how keen the EU is to help with the funeral expenses.
Pretty much since the start of the Greek debt crisis, the Troika’s agents of mass distraction have been putting out a commentary about Greece which runs as follows:
“The Greeks are dishonest donkeys who sit around in string vests drinking Ouzo all day and dreaming up new ways to cheat the taxman. Now that they have descended into self-inflicted debt, their social systems are chaotic, their false accusations against Germany are nothing more than self-pity, and the Greek economy is revealed to be dysfunctional.”
This approach has been honed over time, a truth clearly visible in the bullying EC’s approach to Cyprus. Allegedly, the Cypriot banking system was based on an unsustainable model of offering high interest-rates to Russian crooks, and thus had to be ‘rescued’ by Brussels.
The truthful alternative to that Spin From Berlin is, ‘Cyprus banks 0bserved EU rules at a far higher rate than Germany, and at a level of total gdp half that of Luxembourg. Far from being unsustainable, the model was going from strength to strength until the Eunatics begged Cyprus to back the Greek bailout. From that moment on, Cyprus was doomed. Not only has it not been rescued by B-am-B, Nicosia’s reward for backing the Troika over Greece has been to have its depositors and taxpayers forced to pay for their own bailout’.
But setting this aside, allow me to explain (with pictures too) that despite all this, Athens is not remotely chaotic…and its sights are more wonderful than ever.
I call these next few pictures ‘Work in Progress’. if only because Athens sites don’t look after themselves…but while preservation and further archaeology continue, good local planning rules ensure that good sight of the tourist sights continues.
Hadrian’s Arch for instance (left) has a timeless sweep to dwarf the contemporary crane. But equally (below) the humble scaffold is vital for the restoration of noble arches. The ‘architectural’ paving and street lights that surround the overall structure, however, complement the original perfectly.
There truly is something of a grey/beige softness to the natural stone here that is quintessentially Greek. The classic postcard from Greece shows a stark white of a church dome, but the Acropolis in Athens has every couleur doux on offer, from sand to lime
There is virtually nowhere in Athens where you can’t see the Acropolis. Even from the far side of a three-lane highway (below) well to the north east, it still stands out as a monument to ancient Greek civilisation.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus provides perhaps the best site from which to get a sense of Athens in its setting. There can be few cities on the planet with a more breathtaking location, taking in mountains and sea beneath: any shot taken on the open ground of this site gives away that location superbly.
But away from the monuments, Athens is a place of secret surprises wherever you wander. Parkland, forests, small oases of restoration
The smells, meanwhile, are dizzying at this time of year: the heady scent of orange blossom, and – in many of the coniferous woods – that flinty smell of pine-sap that makes you long for a glass of Retsina. (And the next morning, makes you wish you hadn’t)
That’s not to say Athens lacks its fair share of ghastly mistakes in sculpture and architecture. There is, for instance, the running green man sculptural monstrousity to commemorate the last Olympics on the Vassileos Konstantinou: it looks like a veg-humaan grafting failure from the botanical garden of Dr Moreau. And there is in turn a hotel where black-smoked windows must’ve seemed to someone like the perfect backdrop to five gigantic kitsch terra-cotta window-boxes. I didn’t photograph either eyesore, for fear of putting you off.
In truth, with the right – that is to say, fair – publicity, it would be hard to put anyone of discernment who likes cafe society, good food and warm people off Athens. But somehow, those beautiful people who brought you the euro, apple mountains, wine lakes, bailouts, bailins, Wolfgang Schäuble and the Troika seem dead set on doing so. All the more reason, then, to come here anyway.