September 18, 2011 15 Comments
It’s hard to believe the changes that have taken place in Athens since my last visit in June. The whole city is for rent, prices of soft commodities are 3 times what they are in other countries (6 organic eggs €4.60 versus €1.55 in Berlin). Tax after tax is thought up and levied, the newest one – a 4 per square meter property tax paid yearly, if your flat is 100 sqm, you pay 400. That is on top of car taxes, pool taxes, VAT of 23%. I’m even at a loss for my fictitious “if I lived here, I would open a…” scenarios. Right now, there is nothing I can imagine opening. Sure, every other shop is for rent but let’s say I opened a cake shop, a Victoria Sponge would cost me about €8 euros to make, if I were to then apply the industry standard mark up of 3x, I would have to sell it for €24.I invited my girlfriends over for lunch, like I always do. The mood was sober, these are young, talented, intelligent women who went to the same international school as I did. They were not / are not trying to cheat the system, a simplistic retort that people like to throw around in tandem with “Well, whatchadya expect?”, but they don’t have a single opportunity. To the point that one even closed her Etsy shop because she couldn’t afford to pay the taxes, on her Etsy shop! The mind boggles.
In the once boisterous coffee shops, people talk in hushed voices, even the motorcycles are quieter, it’s eerie. I find the Greeks themselves softer, like they’ve spent an extended period of time being rolled back and forth in the waves until their sharp edges have been filed down to smooth curves, like a sea glass you want to run your fingers over.It’s only at the beach that the mood lightens up. Avlaki beach, the same beach I’ve been going to since I was a little girl. With a mountain range that looks like a reclining dog, minus its head. Not a thing has changed in 25 years (except for the prices and that people now smoke rollies instead of Marlboro or Camels), they still sell greasy cheese pies and Frappés so strong they give me heart palpitations. There are fat, thick legged children building sand castles as best as they can with the impediment of arm floaties. Whole families show up, grandmothers with epic breasts and backsides and, if they’ve survived 50 years of hen picking, their usually emaciated husbands, a few sprightly hairs dancing around on their otherwise bald heads. This is the Greece I remember growing up in.