To be absolutely correct — my apartment. My 47 square meters of Greekness. That’s roughly 505 square feet, I think.
Thursday I arrived in the domestic terminal at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport in Athens. I picked up my bag, changed some money, and got to the taxi stand. Not knowing what to expect in terms of costs, I was pleased to see an announcement about a flat rate of 35 euros to the center of Athens, and to my surprise that was accurate. Before I’d been in Athens an hour, I was getting into my apartment.
Everything looked good — clean, in place. Once I rolled the suitcase into the bedroom and the carry-on stayed in the living room, I gathered my money and keys and headed down the street to the supermarket. Three plastic bags and a filled backpack later, I was back in the kitchen unloading things. Except garbage bags. Of course I’d forget that.
I unzipped the big suitcase and began throwing clothes into two piles, whites and others. The whites got piled into the washer and soon that first load was filling. I got a big glass of cold sparkling water, sat down and tried to get onto the Internet. Since I’d gotten a new provider in December before I left, I hadn’t actually used the new service. I had a piece of paper with what appeared to be the password. Wrong.
After a while, I simply gave up. Maybe I was too tired, I figured, to get it right. Maybe I needed a nap.
So I lay down about 2. When I finally woke up it was 7. So much for not being tired! Unloading the washer, I took the whites out to the balcony to hang on my wire clothes dryer. Then the second load went into wash. I read for a while, watched some TV, and cooked some spaghetti.
By 9, I was back in bed, reading again. Sleep came quickly after about 10 p.m.
No alarm woke me — and unless that’s necessary, I won’t be using one for a while. I simply woke up, checked the clock, and began to sort through the other suitcase items. I simply created like piles on the floor. Laundry in, laundry out. Puttered around a while, trying internet. Finally got an answer I’d emailed to the Athens Centre about the password, and I was online again with no trouble. Turns out that on the bottom of the modem there’s a key listed there. Who knew?
Anyway, I was connected to cyberspace again, and so I logged on for a while. Then it was back to reading, watching television, and reading.
About 4, I left to meet friends at my favorite hangout, Cafe Libre. First I stopped at the corner Jumbo store (a department store) for a few items, then picked up a bottle of cold water and some trolley/tram/bus tickets. I walked a couple of blocks to the trolley stop and sat down, waiting for the #4. Once it came, I climbed on, sat down, and waited for my stop. Three stops later, I got off across the street from the cafe, walked over, and sat down with my friends.
We chatted for several hours, catching up about everything. Elections, especially, came into the conversation. We compared notes about what we’d seen and observed. Phil and George and I agreed that this time around, people seemed more resigned to a hard time ahead, no matter which party “won.” No one knows what will happen — but everyone speculates about the first step, forming a coalition government. What will it do? Will it have any chance of success? The winning party, New Democracy, followed by Syriza and then Pasok, are the top winners and only Pasok agreed to cooperate. Yet Pasok didn’t provide many key figures. So here we are, watching Samaras (the new Prime Minister) and wondering what will happen.
The elections were on Sunday, the day after the wedding, and that meant lots of people traveled to their home precincts to vote. That’s one reason we rented the Jeeps — the buses were going to be packed. But the Jeeps were frankly more convenient anyway. I only turned the television on in my room once, that Sunday night, to see the outcome of the election. It was over earlier and quicker than I had anticipated.
Which post office did I use, Phil asked? The one down on Immitou near the supermarket. Not anymore, George said. It closed. It’s been consolidated with one farther away. And who did I use as an electrician? Sotiris, I answered. Once again — not anymore. It turns out he’s gone back to his village, with his family. I’ve read a number of articles in The Athens News and E-Kathimerini that this is the case with a growing number of young people. In Athens, even with work, it is increasingly hard to stretch their money. Without work, it is impossible. So returning to their villages means they have a safety net, a support system. They at least can eat and live with family. So Sotiris, the young electrician I’ve used in the ten years or so I’ve had my apartment, has joined that exodus.
So the three Americans, the only people in the cafe for a long time, sat and talked Greek politics. We also discussed the upcoming tour to Jordan that Phil and George are leading, the one I’m going on. Everything sounds so amazing and I’m looking forward to the trip.
After I left, I took the #4 trolley back toward my place. It is a circuitous route, but I wanted to see things, to look at stores. Every block showed me a store (at least one) that had closed since I was last here in December. More places are up for rent. I know that rental prices are down, because I used to get 650 euros a month for my place, and the last renter paid 500 euros a month. This is how everyone is adapting.
I’m sure real estate values are down as well, and even so, places go unsold. Who has the money to buy?
My ride on the trolley showed me lots of stores closed — big ones, too, not just small ones. I was happy enough that my supermarket at the bottom of the street is still open, and that my favorite hangout, Cafe Libre, is still open.
What will things be like in the center? I’ll go down to Syntagma on Monday, I think, because I need to go to the large electronics store there, Public. Things are quiet enough, and no demonstrations have been announced, so I’ll be okay.
But before that, I’ve got a new problem to solve: my key for the front door to our building doesn’t work. Apparently, they’ve changed that lock. That’ll be easy to take care of, IF I can figure out who collects the monthly koinochrista (sort of like HOA fees). It’s changed, of course, and I don’t know who to contact. I’ll have to bother the Athens Centre once more, on Monday morning, to find out.
It’ll be a quiet weekend. And that’s fine with me. I will enjoy my balcony later in the day when it’s cooler. I’ll finish unpacking.
I’m home again. To spiti mou.