Being so close, I had to visit Syntagma Square in downtown Athens where all the riots had taken place. By the time I had arrived in Athens things had calmed down considerably, however there are still tents set up, political signs everywhere and people protesting outside the parliament building.
Some of the locals I have talked to say they feel it would be fine to let the country default as all the new taxes and cutbacks to their programs have already made them broke and they can't afford anymore taken away from them. With the country defaulting the politicians would finally be affected where, so far, they seem to be living just fine.
The Greek also feel to be at the mercy of the richer countries of the E.U. and no longer in charge of their own destiny. Always interesting to hear the situation from an ordinary citizen and not the dramatized version from a politician or bad TV pundit with their own agenda. You can see the middle and lower class people's frustration by the large amount of graffiti everywhere criticizing the "rich".
Since we had missed going by only a few weeks, I made sure to visit the new Acropolis Museum on this trip. They hadn't opened yet in 2009 and finally did just weeks after we were here. It's a beautiful setup being very open and not cluttered with "stuff." Unfortunately they don't allow pictures to be taken so you'll just have to visit sometime for yourself. The top floor is interesting as the walls are all glass so you can look out on to the Parthenon on the Acropolis just up the hill. It is also set up to be a representation of the Parthenon where you can walk along the outer edges of the floor and look up to see all all the marble relief panels in order as they would have been when the Parthenon was all one piece.
The Athens museum has some of the originals but unfortunately the British Museum has a good majority of them as they were taken from Greece in the early 19th century. This is a great controversy and Greece's version varies considerably from England's when it comes to why the panels have not been returned to Athens now that they have this incredible museum. I encourage you to do a search on it and read for yourself. If England did return the Parthenon panels, that would probably set a precedence of other countries wanting their objects back, but I can also see Athen's side as the objects were removed when they were ruled by the Ottoman's and not by the Greek people. Tough situation and it's a shame to see the holes in the Athen's collection just at the base of the incomplete Parthenon above.
Everywhere they dig in Athens, they have to be painstakingly careful as there are almost always ruins found below. When they built the new museum, they found the remnants of the city that encircled the base of the Acropolis back in the centuries BC. To avoid destroying them, they designed the museum to basically float above the site on pillars.
Even with the museum completed and open, the excavation of the ancient city below is ongoing. Along the ramps leading to and from the museum from the street, they have used thick plexiglass so you can walk over it and look down a the continuing work below.
Tomorrow morning I'm up early to get to the Athens airport for my flight to Milan where I'm meeting Paul for the last stretch of the trip. Greece has been a great time for the most part although I could have done without some of the events over the last couple of days :)
More pictures below....
After a crappy "welcome" to Athens on Tuesday, the last couple of days have definitely been better. Paul and I were here in 2009 and had a great time -- the people were friendly, everything was clean and it was lively. This time it was a little different. Yes, I had some things stolen but it's more than that. Greece has a lot going on with their financial crisis and it's apparent in the locals in Athens who are not quite as friendly or engaging. They desperately need the tourism but without being a happy people, it's hard to leave a good impression on a visitor.