Our hike up to the Acropolis left us hungry and thirsty, so we headed back down to the touristy restaurant row area near the Roman ruins for an early dinner.
We’ve noticed during our travels through Greece, especially here in Athens, that many of the shops are shuttered and closed, though the restaurants and tavernas continue to do a thriving business. I’ve read that the general unemployment rate in Greece is now over 25% and for young workers in their 20s, it is in excess of 50%!
But even more emblematic of the dire straits of the Greek economy than the closed shops is the terrible graffiti problem throughout the country, far worse than anything I have seen anywhere in the world. And here in Athens, it looks like the local authorities make no effort whatsoever to prevent or clean up the spray paint scribblings that multiply daily as more and more young Greeks despair of their future here.
But when the graffiti even covers the ancient ruins, you really have to wonder if there is a functioning governmental authority here in Athens at all. I say this because Greece IS history, and if the government won’t protect the nation’s historical treasures (built in the days when Greece was the most advanced land in the world), I think that the country of Greece will soon be history.
Like I said in my rant the other day, they can’t export their beaches and they have almost no productive industry here whatsoever, so tourism is all they have to earn their way out of the outrageous debt they have taken on.
And, so, as we passed the ancient Roman Stoa, spray painted with graffiti, on our way to dinner, I stopped to take a picture (the picture, below, is actually one that Kelly took; in fact, all the pictures of this and my last two posts were taken by Kelly on her camera):
I ran to catch up with the ladies, who had found a restaurant just down the way, then sat down at the table, set my iPhone on the table, took off my hat and laid it over my phone to order. Kelly snapped this photo: still life of table with hat:
Not a minute later, a panhandler came up to our table, just as our waiter arrived. I turned to look at the waiter as he shooed the beggar away, then gave him my order. Once he left, I reached under my hat to pick up my iPhone to put it in my pocket.
Our beggar was a professional pickpocket and he had grabbed my phone and made off through the crowd before I could spot him.
Too bad for him that my iPhone is worthless to him since I have it set to auto-lock and it is password-protected.
Too bad for me that all 2,000+ photos that I have taken of our six weeks in Turkey and Greece were on my iPhone, lost to me forever (except for the ones I have posted in this blog, which I hope to be able to recover when we get home today).
We were all very sad about this turn of events.
The maitre ‘d, Niko, insisted that I go to the police station and file a report; he even tracked down a couple beat cops to explain to them what had happened and they feigned that they would keep their eyes open for the crook (who they said had to have been an immigrant, probably a Romanian; “but, certainly not a Greek”).
Though I really didn’t see what good it would do, when Niko offered to take me on his scooter to the police station, I said, “Okay, let’s go.”
…not so much because I had any expectation that the police would do anything, but I couldn’t resist tooling around Athens on the back of Niko’s scooter; plus, I thought it would be interesting to see the inner workings of the agency that is supposed to protect the populace and prevent graffiti.
The police station wasn’t much to look at and there were no officers to be seen, although there were three of them inside that little kiosk, watching a soccer match on TV.
Niko and I went upstairs where the receptionist (yep, that’s the police station receptionist in that photo) was busy watching TV, too (she’s holding the TV remote).
Niko sat down and explained what had happened to the “detective” on duty (the guy in the green T-shirt); he was unimpressed.
I was told to fill out a form with my name, passport info, address in the USA, parent’s names, birth date, and a little box to say what had happened. There was no place for me to give them any contact information in case they found the crook or my iPhone, but, then, I don’t really think they had any intention of looking for him or it, anyway.
My form was stamped with a great flourish by the “detective” and then promptly filed away for eternity in the bookshelf behind the receptionist.
On our way out, Niko said “hello” to a couple Australian women that were coming in to file a claim; Niko knew them from the restaurant. Hmmmm.
Then, off we went on the scooter, back to the hotel to join the ladies.
Here’s a view of the street near the hotel, typically covered with graffiti, all the shops boarded up.
I hope that Greece can find a way to clean up their politics and government. It’s a beautiful country with amazing historical sites.
On top of the Acropolis, the Greeks have raised their flag:
For now, though, all we can do is say what the reporter, Edward Murrow, said years ago, “Good night, and good luck.”