If anyone wants to see why our western civilization might be in decline, one does not need to look at the US and its political disorder, its social tensions and or its moral decay. No, instead go to the city of Athens, populated by humans for more than 3 thousand years and the center of democracy for 2,500 of it.
(Salaried job for hanging around on the corner watching tourists)
Today, it is the Greek center of political strife, which is clearly visible on almost every major street corner. Greek delta police forces in full riot gear are ensuring "peace and quiet" to the tourist industry. Without those millions of tourists we see all around us Greece would be in a worse economic shape.
|Saw hundreds of them everywhere in the city|
If those tourist dollars did not flow in, not even this show of police force would be able to contain a probable boil of the masses most likely aiming for its failed corrupt leaders. And yes the average Greek has clearly in the public forum found the people who brought them into this pickle: the politicians and the money grabbers that put them there. Democracy at work ??
Prices indicate how bad Greece is in need of currency inflow. Waiters when asked, open up to discuss the daily woes of living under the present government, looking forward to the next elections, and then shrugging that it most likely will not make a difference after all, because after all, all politicians are the same.
In every restaurant signs welcome you: "stating that if no invoice is presented to you after the consumption, you do not have to pay". Another way for the government to collect taxes.
|The slogan blare machine|
|How long still, I need to get my children|
Demonstrations chanting "prefab" slogans, blared from a car fitted with loudspeakers, dutifully repeated by the following crowds, are lawful signs of barely contained human tension that simmers daily in the otherwise "happy" city.
|Exiled Cuban at work|
We arrive in the late evening in Piraeus after ferrying back about 12 hours from the furthest island visited. George, the husband of the lady who had rented us, through Homeaway, the apartment - two streets away from the Acropolis, had waited already an hour for our arrival and so at almost 10.30 we drive into a street with "no parking" signs all around. George wants to park anyway to help us into our place for the week, but then curses and lets us out quickly as he spots three policemen hard at work.
Here, we witness a completely new and innovative way of "writing" parking tickets: one officer bent on his knees with a screwdriver and another standing besides him with a plastic bag to collect both license plates. The third officer takes all car particulars down on a form with collection time and street location. The driver is now allowed a "license plate free" ride to the station, where against an appropriate price, which includes the violation fee among other charges, he can regain his license plates.
(Acropolis dinner night view)
We chuckled, seated around the corner from there, facing up at the Partenon throughout our late evening meal, as we discuss this novelty in parking fine collection systems.
Athens has a wonderful metro system. A 14€ week card would bring us the following days, riding the system one or two stops each day, to 8 different neighborhoods, as we visited the sights and smells of Athens.
(Metro on Sundays)
I do not think many people pay for the privilege of using the metro system, despite posted warnings, that violations, when found, would result in an immediate cash penalty of 60 times the ticket price. There are no gates to the trains. Just ticket machines in the hallways and validation posts that should be used. We hardly ever saw anybody validating tickets before proceeding to the trains, let alone buying tickets.
(Can you see the validation posts downstairs?)
George chuckled at that story, when he collected us at the end of the week to bring us to the airport, indicating that people considered, that they have suffered enough in recent years under the yoke of changes forced upon them. He told us, that it is the intent of the government to place gates at some date in the future, but that it might not be the right time to impose another "hardship" on the people.
(He does not pay real estate taxes - I hope)
He then told us that August 1 was the real estate tax collection date and that he and his wife had to pay a 30% increase in real estate taxes over last year. It seemed, that the need to pay the EU back brings all kind of recent changes in tax laws.
He lamented, that prices in real estate were down about 50 percent from a few years ago and the government promises to adjust assessment tax rates to fair housing market pricing in 2017. This year however, they still assess pre-recession housing price levels while upping their rates, though tiered by income level classes. George complained that he, a construction engineer and his wife an architect, were both impacted by the strong decline in the construction industry. Nevertheless they were considered upper tier income people and thus the 30% tax increase over real estate they owned which they could not even sell without taking a 50% loss.
George expected that many Greek tax paying citizens were going to refuse the payment and offering the tax collector the real estate instead. For a few years now non-producing homesteads, often inherited from family, somewhere on a mountain slope were assessed too, something that never happened before.
(These girls are worth every penny)
All this to let all of you complainers about your government know, that you, my readers have a good life under your respective yokes.
Next week some vacation stories about Athens and why we never climbed the 500 foot limestone rock across from us, to wander among the ancient ruins.