As a New York City dweller, the economic decline of the late 2000′s has been much more theoretical than visible. I know that there are millions of people who are unemployed. I know that houses are being foreclosed upon. I know that people are stuck, frustrated, and desperate. However, that knowledge is mostly from listening to the radio, and reading and watching the news. I don’t know it from walking around the upper West Side and gazing in the shops, or from working in a stunning and upscale gym, or by walking in Central Park.
In Athens, it’s a different story.
The city’s economic decay is apparent wherever you go. From graffiti on the exterior of famous museums, to every billboard being totally empty (no advertisements to be seen) to strikes every few days, Athens is a clear and sad example of what happens when the economy is in trouble.
It’s fascinating to see the general attitude of the Greek. Everyone we spoke to was eager to talk about the crisis, and their opinions on the issue are varied, though mostly intense. Everyone knows a great deal about the problem, but no one is quite sure how to fix it. Everyone feels it, though – from the owners of our rental flat to the professor of Psychology at Athens University we met, everyone feels the downfall in a painfully tangible way.
Athens is still beautiful, and the Acropolis is magical. It’s frustrating as a visitor, however, to see the exorbinant expenditures of money in one area, such as the meticulous and lavish subway (which was only created because of the 2004 Athens Olympics, and when I say lavish, I mean it has a solar-powered decorative fan, powered by halogen lights, over each exit way, apparently just for decoration), and hear about the lack of spending in other areas, such as in schools and hospitals. Of course, it’s not for me to judge, as I admittedly barely even understand the depth of the crisis. I think it just took me by surprise that a city with such history and such past strength could be so deeply and quickly effected by an intense decline.