Sunday, May 9

Making headlines

We’ve returned safely from vacation in Greece. Our final days were spent in Athens, a city very much in the news this week as images of violent riots and protests outside the Greek Parliament were broadcast around the world. We were understandably anxious as our aircraft landed on Thursday less than 24 hours after the worst of the violence. However our fears proved unfounded. While the scars of violence were evident law and order had been very much restored before our arrival.

Our hotel was situated on the main boulevard that runs south from Syntagma Square where Parliament is located (it's the large yellow building in the top right corner of the photo below). We originally booked the hotel as a result of its rooftop bar offering an uninterrupted view of the Acropolis. However, this outdoor vantage point proved ideal on our first evening for watching an enormous peaceful protest march make its way towards Parliament. Hours earlier the road outside our hotel had been blocked off by police which enabled tens of thousands of people to pour onto the streets, waving banners and chanting slogans. This was clearly a peaceful family affair as we saw plenty of parents pushing children in strollers.

As you can imagine, we chose to dine in the rooftop restaurant that evening rather than venture into the city. However, as darkness fell, the road below reopened and the city seemed to return to normal. News stories later reported minor clashes with police after the main protest had dispersed, but we saw none of this from our hotel. We saw no further protests after our first night and felt safe on the streets at all time.

Instead, every so often, we’d come across evidence of the week’s earlier violence. Cracked shop front windows, including our own hotel’s lobby, could be seen along the street and on our last night we stumbled upon a burnt out car dumped in a side street. We even had a news reporter in the room opposite our own, making regular broadcasts from his hotel balcony.

The final irony of this entire affair was the return of volcanic ash to the skies of Europe. Protests and riots paled into insignificance as we watched airports close in Scotland, Spain and France on our final day. We were left unsure if our flight home would be delayed until we checked in at the airport. Fortunately all was normal. Our flight actually departed ten minutes ahead of schedule, landing at Heathrow almost 30 minutes earlier than expected.

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