Bombs and Strikes in Athens
Noise. That’s the first thing we noticed about Athens. Whether it was the groups of spring breakers, the couples on the plane, or the constant sound of protestors just a kilometer away, noise is the running theme. So we decided to get away from it all and head out to the Greek isles. It was our attempt to survive bombs and strikes in Athens.
We headed to the subway stop near our AirBnB which is also the stop for Parliament, only to find it closed and blocked by armed policemen with gas masks and riot gear. We could hear the protestors about 1km away, and decided to walk to the safe subway stop that one of the riot cops recommended. Yet, despite our best attempts to avoid the protestors, we ended up smack in the middle of them. With hearts racing, and Kelly a bit anxious, we snuck pictures yet stayed quiet. Since we didn’t know why the Greeks were protesting, I thought it best to keep our American mouths shut and not create targets. (Sorry for the quality of pics. I was trying to shoot, walk, and not draw attention.)
We made it to the subway to Pireous, the ancient port of Athens. All the boats and ferries were docked…and not going anywhere. The entire country was on strike, and nothing was moving, not even the tourist ferries. Alas, we made lemonade with our Greek lemons and did our own walking tour of Pireous.
After enjoying Pireous, we did a bit more shopping then headed home. We discovered the reason for the strike. Most of the protesters were government employees who were raging against the fact that they are only being paid about 75% of their agreed upon wages. Austerity has kicked in, and the balance of their wages, they believe, is going to pay down their debt to Germany. They want their money back!
The next morning, I swore I felt an earthquake. I soon found out it was a car bomb only eight blocks away. A radical groups of Greeks was protesting Prime Minister Merkel from Germany’s visit. The bomb was not intended to hurt anyone, just to protest the financial situation of Greece and its relationship to Germany. It was planted outside of the Bank of Greece. Regardless, although our location wass prime to everything tourist, it’s also in the heart of all this turmoil. We felt a renewed attempt to hit the island of Aegina had merit. So off we went to Port Piraeus again.
We jumped on the ferry to join 250 spring breaking, 16-year old girls. 90 long minutes later, we arrived on the small local island of Aegina. We had no plans, and the one block of “town” quickly became uninteresting. Thus, we grabbed some bikes for a few euros and headed out to the sites.
The bike salesman was just that–-a salesman! He said it was a beautiful 10 km ride to all the sites and no hills. Haha. After 15 km straight up on bikes where the low gears didn’t work, and 5 km downhill with squeaky brakes, we actually thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Although not Santorini, we found blue and white churches, abbeys on tops of hills, and wonderful olive groves and vineyards.
The rain came and went throughout the day, but the warm Grecian sun was enough to dry us off just in time for the next shower. We biked the entire island, it seemed, then ended up at a quite fishing village. Lunch of fresh calamari and olives punctuated by fresh tomatoes filled our bellies before our last leg of this unexpectedly long bike ride. But it was worth it! Despite rain, hunger, and thirst, we saw some of the best sites ever, and we successfully figured out how to survive bombs and strikes in Athens.