Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Notes on a long weekend

Yesterday, Monday, was a public holiday here in Greece, i believe it was Aghios Pneuvmatos (correct me if i am wrong) which does not translate into Saint Lung, but something like Holy Spirit.

So since it was going to be a long weekend i decided to stock up on emergency food, basically bread, cheese and ham. If all else failed, i could make myself something to eat - no worries, i wouldn't starve. And of course as is always the case in these situations but that a friend sees me. Over she comes, has a look in my basket and of course notices the lack of fruit, vegetables and any real food in the basket.
So of course she thinks typical guy living by himself incapable of feeding himself beyond a ham and cheese toast. But i can do more than that, honest! (I have pickles at home! Another good emergency food) Anyway after that, partly from the embarrassment, i went by a new Organic shop that has opened up near me.
Living in Athens i am quite lucky because the open air fruit and veg markets are excellent! You can find excellent quality fruit and veg at very cheap prices, especially compared to Australia. Unfortunately because of work i can't make it that often. So this organic shop is a good alternatitive. I have noticed quite a few of them opening up over the recent years and you should pop in because as i discovered they have a whole lot more. Things like Organic Beer from Crete, Wines from all over Greece as well as cheese, milk, bread fruit and veg. Fantastic!
I left the store with some fruit, some really crispy apples as well as Hazelnut milk which made for a great ingredient in pancakes. They added a real nutty flavour to them.
So pop into and try them out!

BBC Bias in their reporting
Thanks to those of you out there who gave me a heads up on the BBC reporting on the Final in Greece last week. I managed to catch some of their reports. While Athens was inundated with English fans for the final and did cause a mess (see previous posts) they did behave themselves. They didn't riot or attempt to overthrow the government. The BBC reports on match night made it sound as though the English were rioting everywhere in the streets and that the police were clubbing anyone they could find. Why did they feel the need to hype everything up? Why were their journalists so sloppy or did they just want to make headlines out of nothing?

So what did i eat on the weekend you ask?
Ham and cheese toast. This week i will cook something, i promise!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Taxation in Greece is taxing

Yes, yes thank you so very much.
After little over a week i finally managed to submit my tax form. *woohoo*
All i had to do was to wait in line at two different tax buildings, get redirected to another office just the once (for those of you who have been redirected countless times will realise how amazing this is) and hey presto one hour and three official stamps later, i managed to hand in the form.

Submitting your tax form in Athens can become complicated.
These forms can only be submitted at your 'local' Tax office which is based on your current residence. If you don't know ask your nearest tax office where you have to go.
If you have moved you also need an official stamp from your new tax office on your form before you hand your form in. Why i hear you ask? I dunno, thats just the way it goes.
I found out the hard way, after waiting in line for 50 minutes i was told that they couldn't accept it because it hadn't been stamped, as well as being told off for writing it by hand. Since this was my first time i had no other option.

Another confusing point is that throughout the document whenever it asks a question it asks you to cross (well you have to guess that you have to mark the box with an x) either Yes or 1.
Yes or 1? Whats that mean!!! Has anyone asked you to become a member of the church of Scientology and you replied with 1? I don't understand! Anyway with that cognitive hurdle sidestepped I manged to hand it in.

Soccer Fan Update
Athens is also looking a lot cleaner now that Soccer fever has died down. I was talking to a Milan supporter the day who was ripped of by a tourist agency back home. They sold him fake tickets and failed to book him a hotel room. But still he came on the off chance he could still find a ticket. He must have been one of the lucky ones because the first group of Milan fans he encountered he found someone who had a spare ticket. First though he had to listen to them chastise him for travelling without a ticket. "Whats this, how can you travel without a ticket? Where did you think you were going?" To each response he replied with the same answer "I am here now, is there a ticket?" So after half an hour of this someone said "Hang on, someone here has a spare, his friend couldn't make it" Without any hesitation he went for it.

But why is it that 10 000 English fans think it normal to travel without hotel booking, let alone without a ticket to watch the match, but completely strange for the Italians?

Anyway while i kind of miss them and the atmosphere, i can now walk in Syntagma and just lounge and wind down. Till next time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The day after!

A lone Liverpuddlian sleeps it off next to another vagrant.

Well its over and Milan finished conquerers, beating Liverpool 2-1.
It was an exciting match, with Liverpool hammering away at goal for the fist half. But unfortunately not managing to get past the excellent defence of Milan.

Which brings me to an interesting point for those of you surviving Athens, the sports commentators on the state run channel here suck, or should i say SUCK with capitals. They are so incompetent they make monkeys look like geniuses. That's because they are incapable of making any intelligent comments on the match. It's always 'lathos' a mistake by the attacker. Not once did they say good defence by the defenders! And to top it off they didn't know who was playing. They knew this match was coming yet they made no effort to find out.

All through the first half the commentator was calling Liverpool player Kuyt - Couch. At half time he made a comment that "The correct pronounciation of his name is Couch and that's how the English pronounce his name and they should know". Why the English should know how to pronounce a Dutch name, i don't know. Then 15 minutes before the end, Crouch comes on and low and behold Kuyt is called Kuyt. Where did Couch Go?!

Nowhere! It's just that the commentator was an idiot, no, he was an idiot and a half. I bet he was the same guy he yelled for an offside during a Basketball match. *sigh*
If you wanna survive in Athens you have to get used to the idea that idiots are everywhere in high places, and especially on state run tv!

On a side note, local council cleaners spent over 8 hours cleaning up the mess made by the Liverpool supporters in Syntagma square. They estimate that 200 litres of cleaning products were used to get rid of the stench of urine and beer, and over 98 tonnes of aluminium beer cans were collected.
Despite their best efforts however the place still smells.
Maybe there should be an open festival held this weekend in Syntagma selling air freshners? It's just an idea.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Scenes from a wall

Though late in arriving, some Milan supporters enter the lions den.

But where have the Milan fans gone?

Liverpool fans in Syntagma

Yes, you're quite right, i have been focusing on the Liverpool fans, but thats only because the Milan fans are only just arriving.
The Milan fans have been delayed in arriving due to airport strikes which struck the nation just before they were due to leave. As a result the Liverpool fans have had Athens almost to themselves. According to the police and customs, 10 000 fans have arrived in Athens without tickets, without hotel bookings and without a clue.

For the most part they have been well behaved, if we overlook the drunkeness and public vagrancy. They are behaving like school kids without parent supervision. I'll explain.
In the UK now it's hard to relax, everyone is soooo uptight, can't say anything for fear of being called racist, sexist or intelligent. Blair has got them so worried that terrorists will enter their homes and blow them up that they have 24 hr sureveillance on them, oh and the pubs close early.
Now all of a sudden they arrive in Athens, The police ask them who they think are going to win, let them sleep in the parks and joy of all joys for them, they can purchase beer! from a Periptero, little shops and drink outdoors, in the sunshine!!! So of course these vagrant (30+ year old ) school kids are living it up!

The unfortunate side effect is that Syntagma square now smells like an english pub -- of spilled beer and urine -- 8 o'clock and there's a queue stretching out of Mc'donalds onto the road.
8 o'clock and there are dozens of poms walking around with two beers in their hands, i assume they drank the other four from the six pack.

So if you want to experience this go pop on by and have a beer with them, but if you do
remember to step really carefully.

Does that sign say Mum i'm gay?

Well why not if thats how he wants to express himself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Champions League In Athens continued

Of course the biggest news this week is the Champions League final.
It seems that wherever you turn there is a kid walking down picturesque Ermou with a soccer ball or loud fans sharing a beer (either drinking them or just sloshing it all over the place).
They reckon that around 50,000 fans have decended from Italy and the UK to watch the event, thing is many of them have arrived with no tickets, hoping to purchase them here on the black market. Apparently this is making the black market go into overdrive with prices reaching at least 3 times marked value. Good news if you managed to be lucky enough to snag a ticket as this means you can now put that down payment on that house you wanted to buy.

Speaking of fans, as i mentioned yesterday a lot of the Liverpuddlian fans are sleeping outdoors, in Syntagma square and in a number of the other squares and parks surrounding Athens. I also saw a few of them selling a variety of Liverpool shirts at the flea market and on the streets over the weekend.
Now of course the Greek economy relies on tourism, but the way i see it these fans are not doing much to boost the economy. The government here is not doing anything to make the situation any better. All i am saying is try sleeping on a park bench in Italy, you can't because the Carabinieri will move you on. Try entering Israel without proof of a hotel booking. You cannot, and of course they are doing a lot better than Greece.

The symbolically striking Police have also struck upon an interesting idea, Paintballing, and they aren't for recreational use. Police officers will be using the paintball guns to shoot hooligans in the event that there are any clashes between fans. It is hoped that once marked the suspects can be arrested by police later on.


Like i said an interesting idea but i have my doubts over how practical it is.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Champions League comes to Athens

Soccer fever strikes Athens!
Soccer fuels strikes in Athens!
For those unfortunate enough who get off at the Metro station Syntagma, they already know that soccer fever is here.
I say unfortunate because they have set up a number of stalls and booths in Syntagma which means that one has to run an obstacle course to cross the square. This inevitably happens in Syntagma which is often the site for numerous such gimmicks.
Otherwise it's all right, they have a little mini soccer pitch on one side (great for the kids) and on the other side are a couple of stalls pushing the various sponsors of the event. This translates into a mini-bar pushing a well known beer, a credit card where you can get your photograph virtually taken with the trophy (The trophy is not present at Syntagma square so you can hold up your hands and they can digitally add the trophy later) as well as a well known gaming/computer/television screen company. Unfortunately no one was giving away any free samples.
What they did have was 'Your Opportunity to Decide' . You could vote yes or no to the question "If a player swears at the Referee, should this be an instant red card send off".
For your information i did ask a qualifier "How bad the insult" but that wasn't an option.

But an interesting side note to this is that the Police of Athens are on a 'symbolic' strike till the game. What this means is that Syntagma is now full of Liverpool supporters sleeping on the benches with no police to move them on.

Fantastic. So if you are heading down Syntagma way, careful on where you step.

Surviving Athens

What a day!!! Boy am I tired!
Unfortunately its a bit like that here in wonderfully magnificent Athens.
So much to do, to see, to eat! But sometimes you can get lost in it all, especially if you cross paths with the bureaucracy. They can sap your strength till all you want to do is just collapse.
Thats why i have created this blog. This can be a place where i can post my trials with living in Athens as well as hopefully interesting places to eat or whatelse happens in Athens.
I hope you find it interesting.