Tag Archives: Attica

Salonica and the myth of the Olympus view

23 Nov

One of the lesser sells people use on me when they try to sell me Salonica, a city I really dislike, is the view one supposedly has of majestic Mt. Olympus across the Thermaico Gulf, especially in the winter when it’s snow-capped. The bigger sells are the city’s buzzing, genteel corniche, (I guess nice, but not nearly as beautiful as any of the promenades of Athens’ southern suburbs, from which you can see the sun set on Aegina, Salamina and the Peloponnese in the distance on most days), the food, it being the great refugee metropolis after all (uniformly mediocre), Salonica’s supposed διάχυτο romance and eroticism (?), and the many Byzantine monuments; the only one I buy is the last.

Salonica, like a lot of central and eastern Macedonia has a generally muggy and humid climate in the summer, and a foggy, misty one in winter, so I have never been in Salonica, in any season, on a day when I could see Olympus across the gulf. But…a few moments ago Nikos Michailidis@NikosMichailid4 tweeted a picture of the city from its older, upper town, captioned: “Ηλιοβασίλεμα και στο βάθος Όλυμπος…”“Sunset and in the background Olympus …”

And you know what?

I can’t see Olympus in this photograph either!

Keep trying.


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Never was a more perfect climate wasted on so undeserving a people: how Greeks drive you nuts

24 Sep

Hymettus Athens half-zoom-set-sun

After two months of brutal mid-90s and freakish humidity, it finally dropped to low 80s the day before yesterday.

And they’re cold, the whiney brats.

The feel of the air is crisp and cool.  The sky is its normal dazzling blue.  The oleander and jasmine and basil smell.  The pomegranates are ripening.  Soon there’ll be a landslide of oranges.  And forgive the cliché but the light, especially at lower angles, is working its magic again and creating all sorts of optical illusions.  There’s something about the clarity it creates that seems hyper-real or surreal.  It makes it impossible to judge distance for one: the mountain that you know is forty kilometers away looks like you can reach out and touch it; the eucalyptus tree in the yard looks like it’s at the opposite end of a football field.  No way to convey it photographically.  Everything looks totally clear yet almost flattened and two-dimensional at the same time, like an icon or a Persian miniature or a shot from a super zoom, where all optical levels and distance are reduced to one plane.  Plus it makes the ugly grayness of Athens look blindingly white.

The beauty all around is completely lost on them.  Take out your heavy hoodies, roll up the car window so that the draft doesn’t give me a stiff neck tomorrow.  They actually believe that, that drafts hit and freeze a certain body part that then hurts you for an x number of days.  Especially lethal is the rear passenger side window in a taxi.  So they run to the doctor at the slightest sniffle who gives them a beer stein of antibiotics to guzzle and that compromises their immune system even worse.  And then when they’re seriously ill five or six times every year they wonder how it’s possible because they stayed out of drafts and wore a scarf.

A screaming match in the gym by the treadmills.  She wants to close the windows.

“We’ll be sweating”, she says.

“Yeah, hon’ we’ll be sweating.  And sweat rising to your skin and drying up upon air contact is the body’s natural cooling system without which we would die.  That’s why dry climates, like this, are so comfortable and humid ones are not.”

Yok.  Now people just stay away from the treadmills when the crazy American comes.

“Stay away from the window, you’re all sweaty, you’ll get sick.”

In twenty-first century language: “It’s better to sit in your sweaty post-workout clothes, even if they’re a better environment for breeding bacteria, than to let them be dried by a draft.  Then when you get sick, wonder why.”

But as Swift said, it’s impossible to reason a man out of something he was never reasoned into in the first place.  Cold doesn’t cause colds?  Germs and bacteria that flourish in a sealed environment do?  Forget it.

“I like my mediaeval ideas, ok…” says the Right-wing Old Fart, the I-don’t-want-to-s of someone argued into a corner.  Like the “I didn’t like it” of the Macedonian.

Wish I knew wtf neuroses like these are about.

Feel the coolness of the perfect Attic night falling.  Then watch the giant Hollywood Hills windows onto the beautiful sweeping marble terraces roll shut like a prison gate and then be shuttered and boarded up on top like the zombies will get in otherwise.

And weep.

Oh, and the security door fetish.

They have their other charms, I guess.

Athens gross concrete

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Maybe we all look Albanian?

16 Mar

There are times, but especially in certain photos and poses, like this recently posted one:


where Djokovic looks so completely Albanian to me it almost gives me a start.  He was involved as spokesman for that controversial Kosovo je Srbija (Kosovo is Serbia) campaign, but he’s not known as a rabid nationalist and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my observation.  For all I know, it’s my imagination.  I only know that his father’s family is from Kosovo; he may look entirely like his mother and she may be from far northern Vojvodina and be as blonde as a German.  But…a Nole just like in this picture…thinner and more beaten-up by life, more sunburned and less suntanned, was a face you saw on every construction site in Athens for more than a decade.

But that’s not so much the case any more.  As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s gratifying to see how Albanians (once again) have integrated into Greek society, owning their own businesses, buying homes, and living as well (or as badly) as anybody else here.

I go to a gym here near the house of some friends I’m staying with in Athens’ Northern Suburbs.  Now, the “Northern Suburbs” are more than just a set of beautiful, pleasant, green neighborhoods, perhaps the most attractive part of the city, and certainly the areas that have most preserved the ravaged natural beauty of Attica.  The Northern Suburbs are a state of mind.  They’re an accent (affected and obnoxious), an attitude (affected and obnoxious) and an entire world view (provincial, affected and obnoxious) and, in general, the manifestation of the whole vacuous culture of hollow prosperity that characterized Modern Greek society from 1974 until the present Crisis.  What will come out of the present Crisis is yet to be seen; it may be an opportunity.  Don’t hold your breaths though.

Anyway, today I was at the gym and this kid asked me for a spot.  Attractive, nice body, pushing thirty, perfect Greek, even with the local “Northern Suburb” intonation.  If I had had to say I would’ve said Thessaly or Epiros over Crete or Cyprus, certainly, but not regionally distinguishable in any particular way.  We started talking.  He asked where I was from.  I said New York.  “Esy?”  “From Tepeleni.”  Pause.  “Like Ali Pasha…,”* he smiled.  “I know,” I said…  “My dad was from near Gjirokaster.”  We didn’t talk religion or language.  It was nice.

Just some thoughts.  Worlds and peoples coming together.  The waste of having been separated to begin with.  More when I deal with that silly DNA piece I promised to translate a few weeks ago.


* Ali Pasha Tepelenli will also have to wait for a different post

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com


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