Saturday, October 20, 2012

General Strike

The museum was closed on Thursday due to the general strike in Greece. This was good from the point of view of myself and Dave, because we were running a theoretical seminar at the Irish Institute, and it gave use extra time to prepare. When we went out for lunch at about 3, Exarchia was full of riot police, and we passed some protesters burning boxes in the street - I have no photos of any of this, for all the obvious reasons. This seemed pretty much par for the course, and it was only when I got messages from the UK asking how everything was that I realised the international media had been running a riot story - something must have happened within view of the bar at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, as the old joke goes.

The seminar went well, although it wasn't as like this as we'd hoped:

Walking back from a local bar after the seminar was over we encountered the remnants of some hours-old teargas trapped in a concrete overhang, so I can say that I have been very slightly teargassed. This is endlessly amusing to my dad, due largely to this song

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Raining, In The City Near The Sea

Tonight in Athens there's a thunderstorm over the hills to the east of the city. Proper forked lightening, too, which you see so often in the Mediterranean, but so rarely at home. It's something of a relief, as the hot weather here has been something of a shock to someone used to British Octobers - I caught the sun by walking through the city yesterday.

I've been in Athens for a week now, working as an assistant on a project in the archives of the National Museum. It's a great opportunity, and I'm hoping that I'm making the most of it.

The thing which most people reading this are probably wondering is what changes I'm seeing in the city due to the economic crisis. I'm not the best placed to answer that, unfortunately, as previously I've at best spent a couple of days in the city. I know that there were some riots on Monday, coinciding with Merkel's visit, but the only evidence I saw of that was a burned-out taxi by the museum the next day. Walking through Exarchia  the other night had a sort of 1980s dystopian feel to it (assisted by Bowie's "Heroes" blaring out from one of the bars), but Exarchia's probably always felt like that, being the main anarchist/punk/junkie area since well before the economic crisis began. There's also the matter of confirmation bias: to some extent, I see the city I want to see.

Over the weekend I've been down to the Kerameikos, the area just outside the main gate of ancient Athens, which was used as a cemetery from the Iron Age down into the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It's a nice site, as no-one seems to go there much, and it acts as a surprisingly quiet little park almost in the centre of modern Athens. One of my main highlights was seeing the wild tortoises which live down there. I even got to see a tortoise fight, which I think was inconclusive, as most tortoise fights probably are.

Today I went down to the new Acropolis Museum, which I've never had the chance to go into before. It's a really great building, although I'm not sure all of the material is displayed in the most useful way. And while I've never been much of a fan of Classical art (I prefer Hellenistic), the Parthenon Sculptures gallery is really good, displaying the material (mostly plaster replicas, of course...) around the outside of a rectangle the same size as that of the Parthenon. This is much better that how the British Museum displays its collection of the originals. The Museum's design also shines in the views you get of the acropolis from the gallery while you're viewing the sculptures.

I'm hoping to take in a football match while I'm here, so that might be my next post.