Ancient Greece, modern problems

It’s hard to spend much time talking with a Greek without hearing the words “economic crisis”.  Prices here are stunningly high, and I doubt there are high wages to match.  Indeed Greeks take off for the US, Canada, and Australia to improve their job prospects.  But there are some jobs here, and apparently Greeks won’t do them.  In the agricultural area north of Nafplio and east of Argos, Snežana and I met separate groups of Afghanis and Pakistanis coming to improve their job prospects by picking oranges.  The situation in Greece may be bad, but I’m sure it’s worse in Afghanistan.

Pakistanis in Greece to pick oranges by bryandkeith on flickr

I don’t understand the impact of the Euro and how it changed the economies of the various countries, but everyone who’s adopted the Euro complains of a rise in prices.  My experience bears that out.  Of the 13 countries I’ve visited in the last six months, five (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Montenegro, Greece) use the Euro.  Those five plus Croatia were the most expensive countries with Germany and Greece coming out at the top.  Germans, I think, are better able to stomach a €3 cup of tea.

So what’s a Greek to do?  High prices, no jobs, and even worse prospects in South Asia…  Steal from bicycle tourists?  Yep, next to a church in Derveni Snežana’s handlebar bag walked away in the morning while we were still in the tent.  The most expensive thing she lost was her prescription sunglasses, but she was sentimentally attached to her teddy bear, Skitulko, who traveled the whole journey hanging off the side of her handlebar bag.  We can only hope that Skitulko — vagabond that he is — took off with the sunglasses and is enjoying a beautiful Greek beach.  Maybe even with a friend?

friends-at-sunrise by bryandkeith on flickr

Without all that fur, the beaches are too cold this time of year so we took off for Mycenae, the first ancient site on our Greek tour.  Haha!  Closed for three days.  A strike because the workers don’t get paid enough?  That’s the only explanation I heard.  Ancient Greece meets modern Greece in Argolis!

DSCN7870 by bryandkeith on flickr

Thankfully we had better luck in Epidavros and the Sanctuary of Asklepios, but with so few visitors it’s a wonder they can pay their employees.  (Maybe they don’t?!)  There were five Chinese from Fujian, a young Greek couple with a toddler, and two other tourists at the best preserved ancient Greek theatre in the world.  Ok, the weather wasn’t perfect, but it was above freezing (barely) and not raining (mostly).

DSCN7918 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7922 by bryandkeith on flickr

Nearby is the ancient medicinal site, the Sanctuary of Asklepios, where the order of the day 2500 years ago was a good diet, plenty of sleep, and some exercise.  Maybe they were onto something?  Modern pilgrims come to see the nearby theatre.  To the non-expert the old sanctuary looks like, well, a pile of rocks.

DSCN7934 by bryandkeith on flickr

Greece does have one scourge that has probably spanned the millennia.  Dogs.  They’re loud, vicious, threatening, and downright scary for cyclists.  Thankfully they’re usually chained up.  When they’re not, they come sprinting, teeth bared, growling and barking.  Greek highway workers (unpaid?) aren’t quick to clean up road kill, but the presence of their dead compadres on the side of the roads doesn’t keep the live dogs from chasing us down.

And now for some photos.  I was happy to give up the coast (and a bit of warmth) for a little climbing and descending:

Happy to leave the coast and go uphill by bryandkeith on flickr

One missed turn really messed up us in this area (extra distance, extra climbing, and lots of extra mud) by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCF4380 by bryandkeith on flickr

Nafplio was a fun place to wander around on my birthday:

DSCN7881 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCF4405 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7898 by bryandkeith on flickr

The sun is even more beautiful after a little hail storm:

DSCN7912 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCF4470 by bryandkeith on flickr

Clear fresh water flowing into the sea by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7967 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCF4336 by bryandkeith on flickr

This entry was posted in Bicycle touring, Greece and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Ancient Greece, modern problems

  1. andrew k says:

    Hey Bry – Here’s a link to a good primer on the Greek financial crisis by Michael Lewis. http://www.vanityfair.com/business/features/2010/10/greeks-bearing-bonds-201010

  2. Zane Selvans says:

    This American Life recently had a good episode on the Euro, how it came into being, why it’s become such a mess, and why it’s really not terribly surprising… Hope you’ve made it all the way across Greece by now… otherwise Kurt is going to be lonely upon arrival in Izmir!

  3. Jack Zuzack says:

    Happy Birthday, Bryan.
    It’s so funny how different “dog culture” can be in different countries. I’ve done a little biking in countries where the dogs were scary. But Laos was a very different story. Before I went, I read about cycling in Laos and found that some people said that the people were great and the dogs friendly, too. Turns out they were right. There were plenty of dogs, but not a single one chased me. Maybe they are afraid of being eaten!

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hmmm, who knows why dogs change so much at the border… Right next to Laos, Thailand does not have such friendly dogs. There’s a high rate of rabies there so I was a little paranoid to start with and when one nipped at my hand, well, not so nice.

      After two weeks in Turkey the only dog trouble was one loud short-term visitor to the tents in the middle of the night.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Happy Belated! Good to see you’re still having marvelous adventures. I must say the non cyclist in me was daunted at the thought of riding up all those hills in your pics!

  5. Gabriele says:

    the wages for pickong up fruit most of the time are around 15-20 euro…for the all day, and they don’t provide accomodation or food… I wouldn’t work in my own country for that wage, expecially in Greece where I have to pay a coffe 2,50 and half kilo of bad rice 1,00. It is true they talk a lot about the crisis, what I am getting is that they fear (with plenty of reasons…) that the things will be worst and worst, they are scary… the government few weeks ago lowered the wages again, actually you could wrok 40 hours a week for 600 euro. It is like is they were living as waiting for a capital sentence, in the small villages in the bar the people sit watching constantly news and talking about the crisis. I am sad for that. About euro, well we are still asking to ourself how it happened and why… Stunning pictures as usual, bit of pity cause the theater should be on my way but at the end I went down to Kriti to play music… Hey I am in Lesvos, Thursday I ll be in Turkey!

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Gabriele,

      Welcome to Turkey! I am still in Antalya and will be hear for at least another couple weeks. Maybe we’ll meet again after all?!

      Wow, I didn’t realize wages in Greece were so low. Or maybe I did. I sort of remember talking with the Pakistanis about wages and thinking that they couldn’t possibly ever go to a café. Everything was so darn expensive in Greece. Well, you’ll find Turkey more reasonable, especially for a cup of tea.

      Kriti? Great. How’s the music going? There’s a definite tourist scene and people playing music on the streets here in Antalya. I thought of you as I listened to some of them jamming yesterday.

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