2010-12-15

A clear, if dirty, picture...

If this blog aims to be one thing, that is to provide potential visitors of Athens with a clear, even "boring" or brutally honest perspective of what is going on in the city and its surroundings without the usual fake enthusiasm and exclamatory remarks found in - too eager to sell - travel guides and articles. High expectations lead to disappointment, nine times out of ten, so it's much better to bring all the deficits and shortcomings to the fore rather than pretend to ignore them or hide them under the rug. When something good happens, and lots of things do, I will try to present it as well, but there are many others who do this and one more site with nothing but love and admiration for the city wouldn't have much to offer I believe.
Why am I saying this?
Take a look at the two pictures below [sorry for their low-quality]. As I hinted in my previous post, a series of strikes, work actions and internal restructurings of the city has resulted in piles of garbage gathering up in most streets of Athens during the last 3 weeks. Even though the center of the city (where most tourist attractions lie) is being kept mostly clean, side-streets and passages and far-out neighborhoods are suffering, as garbage pick-up is much more scarce there. And not all residents are helping to the extent that they could.

A street in an Athens neighborhood, 2010-12-14
 
Merry Christmas in Athens! Love the Xmas lights? Athenians just won't give up that easily...
Now, no travel guide will tell you that Athenians and other Greek urbanites are faced with pictures like this about every once a year more or less (for a few days or more) and - for lack of other options - have become "accustomed" to the annual strikes of garbage collection personnel who are asking to receive tenure and / or to be transposed to other municipal services ("behind a desk").
Now, if and when you come to Athens you may see none of that, either because the strike will be over or because you will move in the limited area of the, better cleaned, city center. But wouldn't you rather know what is going on around you, or of the potential to encounter pictures like this, instead of relying merely on the picturesque images painted even by sites like TripAdvisor which, today, highlights Athens as the No. 4 "history and culture" destination in Europe with this raving description:
"Once known for smog, traffic and tacky architecture, Athens is a city reformed thanks to fortunes brought by the 2004 Summer Olympics. Spotless parks and streets, an ultra-modern subway, new freeways, an accessible airport and all signs in perfect English make the city easily negotiable."
The underlined part (by me) is the part that is true. The non-underlined part (and what's implied by it) is probably the result of hallucinogens! Of all things, I couldn't for the life of me understand how the Olympic Games could have helped any city get rid of its old architecture, tacky or not! Was the city razed and rebuilt for the Olympics? I don't think so! And this is not just TripAdvisor, which I use myself quite often in order to plan my trips, but a great many travel guides.

So, instead of that hoopla, I will choose the option of giving you the clear, even if dirty, picture...


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