Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to Have a Rotten Time in Athens

Only have a couple of days in the ancient city? Follow our guide to making the most of a short stay.

Day One:
1) Observe the madcap Greek police in action.
In June 2007, a video posted on youtube showed authorities at the Omonia subway station ordering two young men to take turns smacking each other in the face. The two had been arrested for mugging an elderly woman. In the video, a police officer in a stylish black t-shirt and trendy jeans, jabs each of the detainees with a long stick to encourage them to hit each other. Four officers were suspended and charged with brutality. What rascals!

2) Contemplate the awesome power of a forest fire.
Through the summer of 2007, a series of infernos broke out across Greece. During the fourth week of July, 100 fires a day broke out. In total, about 1160 square miles of agricultural and farmland were destroyed. While some of the fires were believed to have been caused by environmental factors -- such as a summer heat wave with temperatures over 105 degrees -- others were not. Greek police announced the capture of three arsonists. Greece's ruling political party insinuated that the main opposition party may have been involved. Sing-alongs welcome.

3) Cheer wildly at a volleyball game in picturesque Peania.
In March 2007, a 22-year-old fan was stabbed and then beaten by other fans following a women's game in Peania, which is about 20 miles from Athens. A total of 18 fans were arrested with 12 of them charged with felonies. Go team go!

4) Evening is free

Day Two:

1) Experience an earthquake
Greece frequently experiences quakes and tremors and has an occasional whopper. In September 1999, a quake killed 143 people, injured 1,600, left 50,000 homeless, and damaged or destroyed 53,000 buildings in the Athens area. The preliminary damage was estimated at $655 million. Shake, rattle, roll.

2) Thrill to the sights, sounds, and smells of a workers' strike.
Like workers in other European countries, the Greeks enjoy a good employment strike. The U.S. State Department says that strikes are generally orderly, but they can get exciting, particularly in Athens. "There have been recent incidents…in which unruly protestors engaged in aggressive confrontations with police, often in areas frequented by tourists. Riot control procedures often include the use of tear gas." Bring it on…

3) Take in a rocket-propelled grenade attack.
Apparently, strikers aren't the only disgruntled Greeks. Some domestic radical groups act out locally against both domestic and foreign targets. In January 2007, a group called the Revolutionary Struggle fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. There was minor damage, and no injuries. Cool, man, cool.

4) Evening is free.