Tag Archives: Syntagma square

Thanatourism in Greece

At the beginning, the Greek crisis was interesting just for foreign correspondents, economists and political analysts. After the first year of the crisis, I started observing an increasing interest by scholars and post-grad students who would come to Athens for a week and try to speak with as many people involved & influenced as possible.

Activists followed suit. Last February I met a 20-year old anarchist from US who came to Athens and got in touch with local comrades in an attempt to carry ideas back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In December 2012, while working with a Norwegian team of journalists, we mingled with a rioting in the anarchist Exarchia district of Athens and witnessed tens of “riot tourists”. Some were here indeed out of sincere solidarity, consciously supporting the struggling Greeks but some were obviously kids on a European city escape who, rather than throwing a coin in Rome’s Fontana di Trevi, chose to throw a stone to a Greek policeman. Don’t ask me if they made a wish in advance.

In February 2012, a close relative who is now working in Middle East told me of a Ukrainian guy who visited Athens ahead of a general strike. His aim was to witness the foreseeable riots that usually accompany our strike demos. Right then I started to feel that Athens is slowly becoming a sort of a spectacle in the same way tourists visit Chernobyl for photo opportunities with radioactive plastic dolls, blood-thirsty Italians visited Bosnian trenches during the Yugoslav war or like Toshifumi Fujimoto, a Japanese truck driver who enjoys visiting war zones instead of dreamy beaches.

Tourism in Bosnia kept dealing with the war. Even now, almost 20 years after, one of the major sight-seeings of the capital Sarajevo is the so called War Tunnel. A quick google search will give you several companies organizing walking tours about the civil war there. Funky Tours, to name but one, is organizing the Sarajevo Total Siege Tour.

Soon humanity coined a neologism for this kind of tourism. You can look it up under the self-explicit War Tourism or even Dark Tourism, which involves travel to sites associated with death and tragedy. There is also the synonymous, but less popular in use, Thanatourism, which derives from the Ancient Greek word Thanatos.

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC.

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC.

Having all these in my mind I knew something like this was coming. Especially after last summer, when I came across the website of Political Tours, a London-based travel agency founded by former New York Times Balkans Correspondent Nicholas Wood. The travel agency’s motto was “Intelligent Travel for Inquiring Minds” and I read that they were organizing tours in North Korea, Libya, Turkey as well as a trip to the US during their elections. So guess what was their latest tour? “Greece and the Euro”, a 8-day phantasmagoria of Greek crisis, misery, unemployment, destruction and poverty. Among speeches with political analysts and journalists, their detailed programme included a “visit to Sydagma Square, where the demonstrations protesting austerity measures have culminated and where many riots have started. We see the damage done by the unrest and then move on to Ermou Street, a place were it was once impossible to find a shop to rent. Now many are empty and pawn shops are prevalent“.

Today I have found a second foreign travel company organizing such a tour. It’s Context. I copy from their website: Context is a network of scholars and specialists—in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and classics—who, in addition to our normal work as professors and researchers, design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of intellectually curious travellers. Their new Athens tour, titled Greek Crisis in Context is basically a walk in downtown Athens that ends up in a taverna where the intellectual tourists will fight their thirst with a sip of some Greek wine. This excerpt is from the tour’s description:

Depending on time and how our conversation unfolds we may end the walk in a local wine bar where we can conclude our discussion with the possible solutions and precautions for a brighter future in Greece. As we take a sip from the local Greek wine (not retsina), we will emerge with a much clearer understanding of the Greek economic crisis and its social elements.

The prices for the walking tours are 70 euros per person but there is a possibility to book a private tour for 300 euros.

Which, coincidentally, is a bit less than the much-talked new minimum monthly wage in this country.

Athens – Social Meltdown

Here’s a short documentary on the social repercussions of the Greek crisis and an attempt to understand the rise of violence, but also of solidarity in Greece. It’s made by Ross Domoney, a colleague and friend from the UK who did not parachute himself to Greece for a couple of days but spent several months in Athens.

Athens: Social Meltdown – Greek subtitles from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

One more note left behind

A man shot himself yesterday in the very center of Athens. He is the latest in hundreds of suicides during and because of the crisis. Dimitris Christoulas  chose the place (Syntagma Square) and the time (rush hour) to pass his message. Many have called Christoulas “the Greek Bouazizi“. Christoulas’ message was handwritten on the note below.

The handwritten note that was found on Dimitris Christoulas

Here’s a translation of it:

The collaborationist Tsolakoglou government has annihilated my ability  for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone (without any state sponsoring) paid for 35 years.

Since my advanced age does not allow me a way of a dynamic reaction (although if a fellow Greek was to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be the second after him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance.

I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945 (Piazza Loreto in Milan).

Note: Georgios Tsolakoglou was a Greek military officer who became the first Prime Minister of the Greek collaborationist government during the Axis Occupation in 1941-1942.

Wake up call

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A message below the statue of a runner in Athens’ Syntagma square.

Merry crisis

Some photos to “celebrate” the day… This is Christmas 2011 in Greece.

“Naked Christmas” by bleeps.gr (photo by G. Nikolakopoulos)

Season’s Greektings by Greek illustrator Spyros Derveniotis.

Season’s Greektings by Spyros Derveniotis

 Daniel, a British Erasmus student in Athens, sent me this photo – it’s a motto that has been around since the 2008 killing of Alexis Grigoropoulos by a policeman, an assassination that caused a rioting chaos in Athens for more than a month. Daniel took this photo in Panteion University.

Photo by Daniel @ Panteion University

Here’s another photo from the same door (not that it makes more sense, I just found it by chance)

Merry Crisis @ Panteion University

This is a graffiti on the external wall of Athens University’s old building (now mainly used for graduation ceremonies). I think the graffiti has been taken off by now.

Merry crisis @ Athens Kapodistrian University

The motto inspired a stencil artist too. The location is unknown.ste

Merry crisis stencil

If I am not mistaken, this graffiti was on the external wall of the Central Bank of Greece, at Panepistimiou street.

Merry crisis @ the Central Bank of Greece

Here’s a video from the city-sponsored Christmas tree in Syntagma square, back in 2008. Its burning was an unforgettable view. For almost a decade, the city’s mayors were proud of wasting thousands of euros to build “the tallest christmas tree in Europe”. This shallow megalomania that only needed a spark to show the void spirit of our corrupt politicians.

At first, people decorated the tree with garbage bags.

Then the tree was set on fire.

As you can see, that night, riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. It was a very moving view.

Finally, here’s a video by Ross Domoney, with a short historical background on the Alexis Grigoropoulos’ assassination and footage from this year’s demo which commemmorated the killing.

Exploring Revolt in Greece from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.