Freezing your butt off in sunny Athens...

The vast majority of Athens residents live in blocks of flats (a.k.a. 'apartment blocks') regardless of economic or social status. The domestic migration to urban centers, and mainly Athens, that took place from the 1950's to about 1980 has resulted in a scarcity of land. Most single houses have been torn down and sold to developers, to make room for apartment blocks. So, when winter comes and you want to warm yourself, you need to work out a deal with the other tenants (or owners) of your apartment block as there's a central heating system, pumping hot water through pipes running all over the building.

Heating body / Radiator in Athens apartment

The law sure has provisions on the subject, but in the middle of a deep economic crisis, with incomes severly diminished (or entirely cut off) for almost everyone, and with a wave of taxes on heating oil and hikes (lesser ones) in the price of electricity, things get complicated. People will prefer to forego their heating (and bill) as it is no longer considered a bare necessity in these circumstances. I have heard of many apartment blocks where tenants have collectively agreed to not buy heating oil this winter. And I'm talking about "middle-class" neighborhoods. They will, instead, rely on using their electric heating appliances, when absolutely necessary. I have my doubts about how efficient this will turn out to be, heating-wise, but it gives you a clear sign of the challenges people face these days.

Temperature control for individually heated apartment
Newer buildings give each apartment the option to be heated individually (which is fine in theory but innefficient heating-wise if each apartment warms and cools at different hours of the day). Yet, even in that case, all residents have to pay a minimum percentage (e.g. 25%) of the collective heating bill (the cost of oil purchased by the block) as they benefit from the heat transfered by neighboring apartments and that can also be a cause of friction (different kind of heat here...) between dwellers. It's been a very mild autumn thus far -a virtual windfall for all of us- but the 3 months from mid-December to mid-March are always the coldest ones in the calendar.  By March we'll know if the title of this post has become reality or not...

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