Thursday, May 6

Having a riot of a time

We’re off to Athens tomorrow afternoon. We’re not quite sure what to expect. There were riots in Athens today as protestors took to the streets in protest at austerity measures imposed by the near bankrupt Government. Sadly, three people were killed earlier this afternoon after becoming trapped in a bank set alight by molotov cocktail welding protesters. Earlier in the week we saw protestors vandalizing a Hotel Grande Bretagne in the main square opposite Parliament.

The images of men attacking the hotel left me cold as I’d almost booked us into this venue last week after being emailed a remarkably cheap last-minute deal. The temptation of five-star luxury was almost too good to refuse. Fortunately, we’re still booked into a hotel on the south side of the Acropolis, almost a kilometre away from Parliament and the focal point of angry protest. However, I think we’ll probably give Constitution Square a miss while we’re in town.

Tomorrow's holiday snap?
Image courtesy of Reuters

A 24-hour strike was also called today, the third to hit Greece in as many months. Flights were cancelled, trains and ferries stopped running and public facilities remained closed. There was little sign of the disruption in Santorini. We’re also hopeful our afternoon flight will depart as normal tomorrow, as flights are scheduled to resume in the morning.

It seems that public protest is a regular feature of Greek life. Almost 20 years ago, my first attempt to visit Athens was foiled by a nationwide public strike. We arrived in Patras by ferry to be greeted by power cuts, trains and buses not running, ATM machines not working and chaos everywhere. With our money running low and little hope of reaching Athens in a timely manner we abandoned Greece after 24 hours and returned to Italy.

Ironically, our travel plans this week were also disrupted by a strike. We’d originally booked a ferry from the mainland to Mykonos. However, a week ago I was advised by the ferry company that our sailing had been cancelled in response to a scheduled strike. I secured a refund and put the money towards an airfare instead. This change of plan proved fortuitous. Our flight arrived several hours earlier than our original ferry booking, enabling us to enjoy a wonderful sunset from our hotel balcony.

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