I’m always amused to see the reactions of tourists and visitors to Athens when they come across some evidence that locals resent the harsh austerity measures adopted by the Greek government to secure bailouts from foreign lenders.
Yesterday, as I walked down Panepistimiou street in central Athens, I saw two men in dark business suits and laptop bags hanging from their shoulders, probably mid-level troika officials (they stick out like a sore thumb), stopping to look at something outside the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank. One of them took out his mobile phone, glanced quickly left and right, and took a picture of the wall. He then put his mobile in his pocket and briskly walked away.
As I approached I saw what attracted their attention. Someone had sprayed the words “Smash the” over the name of the bank (“Smash the Bank of Greece“). Yeah, that’s a nice picture to upload in Facebook. I’ve seen even more imaginative graffiti on the walls of the bank:
“Legal International Terrorists” (I know, it doesn’t make much sense in English). They were playing with the Greek initials for the IMF:
or “Bank of Berlin“:
or “Bank of Merkel” (!), alluding to the German Chancellor:
The municipal authorities have invariably tried to clean them up but it seems new graffiti pops up every few months:
I get it. Tourists fear they’re doing something dodgy or something that could get them in trouble. I see them stopping to observe demonstrations in central Athens. Some try to take pictures hidden behind building columns, others take out their mobile phones and snap pictures when the demonstrators pass in front of them, hoping nobody will see them, others literally run away fearing for their safety. Others just look bewildered.
I can only guess what they might be thinking. I have observed though that the younger they are, the more confident they feel approaching demonstrators and even asking bystanders about the nature of the protest.
My favorite instance is when I saw a tourist wearing a T-shirt which read: “I survived the strikes in Greece 2011!” (Look at post dating Oct 14). I laughed my head off. Ten points for creativity.
Snap away guys. I mean, how many pictures can one take of the ruins?