Greek Strikes

27 October 2010

Kerameikos closed

Here in Greece, it is hard not to notice that the Greeks are angry at their government, which can only prevent a state bankruptcy by taking desperate measures. For example, people can no longer retire in their mid-fifties. They will have to work longer, even when they have a right to an early retirement. Or another case: many people working on the archaeological sites haven’t received their wages for twenty-two months. I do not know to what extent the situation is comparable to my own country, where I find some economic measures hard to swallow because the people who have gotten us into this mess have remained unpunished: the CEOs, the bankers, a couple of politicians, a handful of accountants, a lot of economists. To some extent, I can sympathize with the angry Greeks.

This morning, the inevitable happened: we found an archaeological site closed. Everyone at Kerameikos was on strike. I should probably count my blessings that this afternoon, they will reopen the museum and the excavation. Yet, strikes create victims – and it is a stupid to focus on foreigners. They won’t influence Greek public opinion for the strikers, but can influence foreign public opinion against Greece.

Targeting foreigners is not only stupid, it is also ungrateful. After all, to keep the euro stable, the other member states have had to offer loans to Greece, and this money must come from somewhere. This has added to the problems in northwestern Europe. My parents could benefit from a pension when they were sixty-five but I will probably not be able to retire before I am sixty-eight or sixty-nine, partly because of the Greek bail out. It has long been known that my generation has to pay for the babyboom and I have learned to live with it sometime in the late nineties, so it’s fine with me, but I think the Greeks cannot reasonably ask that they can retire at fifty-eight when this means that others have to work until they’re sixty-eight.


The Dutch Tourist Dilemma

26 October 2010

Only people without historical knowledge will buy it

I’ve been in Athens now for two days and I have twice been forced to leave my bed at 6.30 – which is pretty hard for someone suffering from DSPS – because I wanted to visit the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. You need to be there very early, preferably when they’re opening, and with a reservation; it is the only way to actually see something. Even then, you will enjoy it for only an hour, because at nine, large groups of tourists start to arrive from the cruise ships in the port. Like cattle, they are driven along the sights, and to be honest: they don’t seem to understand the things any better than a cow would do.

It’s not just the Acropolis Museum. I’ve not blogged about the Agora Museum because I found it too crowded to enjoy. In Delphi, the well-meaning visitor will face the same problem after eleven o’clock, when the groups from Athens arrive. Fortunately, after four o’clock the shrine of Apollo is quiet, almost serene. I have beautiful memories of sitting near the temple, watching the sun go down, completely alone, except for one guard and dozens of birds.

What to do with tourists who are visiting a place because they’re expected to do something, but have not the faintest idea about what they are seeing, and are spoiling it for people who have prepared themselves? I once read an article in La Repubblica, in which this was called the Dutch Tourist Dilemma. Florence suffers from many Dutch tourists, people who at the end of the year decide to use the last free kilometers of their company’s car to go on a holiday and chose Tuscany because you can reach it in one day. They cannot distinguish a Botticelli from a Boccaccino, and make it difficult for those who do know the difference to understand it.

The author of the article did not know what was the solution. On the one hand, museums are within their rights to send away people when they make it impossible for other visitors to enjoy the works of art; on the other hand, even barbarians might learn a thing or two if they’re allowed to enter the museums. I don’t know the way out either, but I feel increasingly dissatisfied with modern museums. They do anything to attract visitors, and the people who do most to prepare themselves and study them, are forced to accept Vatican-like situations. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Rose-fingered Dawn

24 October 2010

View from my hotel at Cenchreae (24 October 2010)

Fifty Museums

20 October 2010

Dog charging a hare (urn from Mende; Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki)

Regular readers of this little blog will have noticed that I often put online brief articles about the museums I sometimes visit. Today, I made available the fiftieth part  of the series, and there’s still a lot to add. After all, there are many small museums, and those are the nicest ones, because over there that small dish, that headless statue, and that insignifcant urn suddenly catch your attention, while they would be lost among the great works of art in the larger museums. So, my list will continue to expand. If you haven’t noticed it before: it’s here, and tomorrow, there will be a special edition.

SMS from Turkey

3 October 2010

Tarkasnawa of Mira

In 2003, Marco and I rented a car and made a trip through Turkey. As always, we didn’t have time to visit the most important sites (I still haven’t been in Perge or Pergamon), because we lost way too much time on silly trivialities like finding the rock relief of king Tarkasnawa of the Hittite vassal kingdom Mira. It is not terribly important, but it’s mentioned by Herodotus, who believed it to be an Egyptian relief (more…). I think we spent about two hours, searching in vain, before we decided to give up. At that very moment, we spotted the small stairs along the road that indicated the place where we ought to climb to the rock. I will never forget the shout of Marco, who was the first to go up, that he saw the object of our quest.

I most have told this story several times, not ignoring our futile attempt to ask a Turkish woodcutter, who spoke only Turkish, whether he knew the relief. Apparently, my stories must have made some friends curious, because the other day, I received an SMS from two friends who were, at that moment, standing next to Tarkasnawa, and knew they would cause me great joy by letting me know where they were standing.

More here; satellite photo here.