I remember now what struck me as we drove along the highway from the airport on our return to Greece in July. It was the huge empty billboards; a stark symbol reflecting the state of the Greek economy. Although the troubles have not affected us directly these last two months, it is certainly evident now in Athens where we have spent the last few days and the billboards are still blank.
This is our first visit to the city of Athens. The ancient sites exist in various states of solidity while the modern city that sprawls around and at their feet is very sad with boarded up shops and graffitied walls, strikes and protests. There is a noticeably large number of men on the street from all corners of the globe. We pass queues of them waiting patiently outside a refugee programme, are approached by others to buy all sorts of useless goods, watch as shopping trolleys are pushed by, loaded high with scavenged metal objects. Everything that is thrown away may have a use to others. It is very depressing. The streets are dirty with skips overflowing with rubbish and where homeless people doss down for the night. Little urchins plonk out tunes on accordions or bang drums and beg on the metro – very Oliver Twist.
But on the positive side people as ever are friendly and helpful. Syntagma Square is like Parliament Square, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square all rolled into one. The Changing of the Guard with their strange bird like leg actions and elaborate symbolic costumes was impressive and the Acropolis museum is wonderful. You can hardly walk a hundred metres without stumbling upon another thousand year old seam of history which makes it difficult when excavating for any new building works!
The observant among you, indeed those who bother to read this will have noticed that we have not ended up where we said we were going to! We intended to go West through the Corinth Canal and back north to the boatyard in Preveza. However northerly winds blew strong and long and stopped us from getting round the corner from the Argolic to the Saronic Gulf. We never like to rush, it is a bad thing to do EVER and we would not have been comfortable completing the journey in the time available so we altered our plans and arranged to go to the island of Aegina, a very convenient location for Athens just so long as striking ferries do not strand you!!!
It is such a wrench to leave Selkie Dancer for the winter; we feel we are abandoning a loved member of the family. We have had such a good time this year with three separate visits; from April and Easter to summer and autumn. The weather has well and truly broken now and we have found ourselves dodging or hiding from thunderstorms and rain and worrying about our ‘lift out’. We looked ahead and saw strong northerlies on their way so we called the boat yard and arranged to have Selkie Dancer lifted out early. It was sods law that the wind got up and there was a N/NE 5 blowing into the narrow space framed by rocks into which I had to reverse. It was a bit hairy but it’s done. The Kanonis boatyard is wonderful. Yiordanis came the night before to Aegina Harbour and introduced himself and then sent his son to escort us the next morning. We feel safe and cared for there and were delighted to see a ‘ kent’ boat – ‘Skyran’ from Granton. Gill and Malcolm and our sister Oyster “Counter Girl” will be lifted out in a week or two.
Thank you to our friends and relations who have joined us in the year. We love having you to visit - Wendy and Terry, Alistair, String and Ben. Sorry that a few of our ‘regulars’ missed out this year but we hope you and many more will find the time to join us next year.
Athens, 17 Oct 2011
Entrance to the Acropolis
Syntagma Square - Changing the Guard
Syntagma Square - Changing or .....
.... challenging the Government
Just off Syntagma Square - the rubbish builds up
Acropolis - people cropped out !
We could say so much more .... but it would be repetitive. It was a good year - the bottom of the Peloponnese took us back to Greece as it was when “Flotillas” had a more military connotation. The weather challenged rather more than it threatened but we finished the year 200 nautical miles short of our original objective - Aegina vice Preveza. Fortuitously we are well placed for 2012 and all that it brings - hopefully some resolution of our host country’s many problems.