sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Hellenic Republic

I take pick-up work from time to time if the money is right. I met with a friend and took a bit of work that will take me to Greece again. I included the YouTube video below because it's somewhat representative of the Plaka (old town Athens). When in the greater Athens area I prefer to stay in private residences in  the Piraeus Harbor area or in the old city. The food is better in the Plaka and you walk where you need to go until you need to go outside the old city. 

Or sometimes you don't. When I was there in 2003, I tried to catch a taxi but they were on strike. I asked a guy why and he explained that the prostitute's union went out on strike and the taxi drivers union went on strike in support of them. It makes sense in Greece. Much of the time that I was in Greece, I was hauled around in an armored Mercedes Benz with an armed escort. It's never a bad idea. There is a riot almost every day in front of the US Embassy and getting in and out (even through the back way) can be a hassle because the streets are very congested. Taxis just drop you off in the middle of the riot because they don't want to get involved.

If you ask the people who are rioting and demonstrating why they are doing it, they never have much of an answer. Usually it's simply because it's the thing to do. It's Greece. There are a lot of Albanians in Greece. The Greeks don't like them. I got along well with the Albanians. I don't know what that says about me. The Albanian Mafia is far more reasonable than the Athens Mafia and if you need to get things done downtown, you go to the Macedonian Mafia for results. Just saying. You run the turf, you have to know who you can rely on.


Greece in the winter is COLD. Unless you've been there, you really can't relate. Tourists don't visit in the winter and they don't understand that Athens can get 6" of snow and Thessaloniki can get even more. The photo (right) was taken on a clear day overlooking Athens - and as best I recall, it was taken in February. 

It's almost impossible to get proper Greek food outside of Greece unless you have a Greek person from the old country actually doing the cooking. Greek from Brooklyn doesn't cut it. Even then they have to get the ingredients from Greece or it won't taste right. 

When in Greece, I run with Greeks (or Albanians) or Macedonians if there's a problem and I need armed back-up) It means that I'm not cheated on the bar tab (most bars are run buy one of the several mafia groups - to include Bulgarians) or anywhere else. It's also a lot more fun because these folks LIVE TO PARTY. I have never been to a country where the party has an absolute priority over work EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK. Naturally, that is reflected in the tepid Greek gross national product.

I have a few things to do before I go to Greece and may be able to stretch the trip for a month until the weather improves. Athens today, high of 55 and a low of 46. That's about 20 degrees colder than Southern California, and far too cold to go for a swim in the Aegean. Then again, there is ozou, and while it warms the blood, it has the side effect of immobilizing you.

One of my favorite places to visit when in Greece is Mt. Athos (LINK). Women can't visit the Holy Mountain because it's made up of ancient monasteries, but it's an incredibly cool place to go, particularly if you are invited.


19 comments:

  1. Greece has been in party mode since 1952, when they joined NATO. Once under the defensive umbrella of the US, no more need to blow all of that dough on battleships, tanks and soldiers, nuts to that. They started to party like it was 1999 (as Prince would put it).

    That never ending party has to end one of these days. May as well visit the place when the partying is good. I have heard the same thing about Greek food: can't get it outside of Greece, reasons unknown.

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    1. Athens is a dump, but the food is good. There are about a dozen people who make the decisions there (not unlike the USA) and the place has been looted three ways from Sunday as they continue to milk the European Union. The islands are better - Santorini is highly recommended.

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  2. You should be able to get some nice small paintings there.

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    1. Mt. Athos is the place to go for icons because the monks paint them there.

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    1. They did it to set prices and stop "scab labor" from Eastern Europe dragging down the price per piece

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  4. I don't think I would want "scab labor" from a prostitute. Scabs tend to turn me off. And those guards... I don't understand the funny walk or the clown shoes. But I guess it has some meaning to the Greeks.

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    1. I don't get the traditional uniforms or the style of march that the Greeks find so interesting either.

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  5. I hope the trip goes well! The last time I was in Piraeus, they tried to blow my ass up...

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    1. 17 November is a terrorist group that boasts the killing of a US Serviceman every November 17 as a matter of tradition.

      You need to surround yourself with your "immortals" who are willing to take a bullet or jump on a grenade for you. After all, Greece IS the Middle East even if they don't want to admit it.

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    2. Yeah it is... Bill Nordeen was killed two years later by them.

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  6. I had a great time in Athens years ago and wouldn't mind a return match. Never been to Athos, oddly. Have fun.

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    1. Mt. Athos needs to go on your bucket list.

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  7. Hookers' Union - - - - hummmmmm, did you join?

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  8. Since the Communist Coalition Party (SYRIZA) won the election yesterday, the Greek Communists feel that they won't have to pay back the loans from the EU. We'll see. It's all very stereotypical.

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  9. I'm in the middle of my second read through Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos Markides. Fascinating book. If I were allowed, Mt. Athos would be the place I would start saving my nickels and dimes to visit next, asap.

    When I lived in Astoria a couple years ago (a historically Greek and Italian part of Queens), I was astounded by the food in certain tiny restaurants. They liked my kids' chubby cheeks, and so we were treated well. I'm certain being accompanied by mafia would get one similar treatment. :)

    I've never been to Greece and am jealous of your adventures! Sounds like it'll be a good trip.

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    1. The only way to get you into the Holy Mountain would be to do it by giving you a haircut and pretending you're a man. You're too pretty to pass for a guy and if you're too pretty - the priests might show an unwholesome interest...

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    2. Don't put it past me. I'd be a shameless transvestite for this cause (ahem, and ONLY this one) except many of the monks out there are very advanced Christian mystics. They literally travel through space and time and heal people across continents by touching a photograph... I'm pretty sure they can discern a blatant lie standing in front of them. And then I'd probably go to hell or something.
      So.
      I'll just have a bit of respect, from a distance, jealously.

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