Greece – a reflection

So, most of the western world thinks Greece is something amazing. The cradle of democracy and whatnot. And did I mention philosophy? Or the Olympics? Or…

The first time I went to Greece, back in the late 80’s, I had read up on ancient history and was ready to get filled with awe. My most vivid memory is however one of dissapointment. The archeological museum in Athens was a horror. Stacks of pottery chards, old coins and other finds but no story. Just cabinet upon cabinet with historically disjointed finds, organised perhaps to make sense to a scholar but not to me. Then in the markets and shops you could buy cheap imitations of whatever style of Greek pottery you’d like, and miniatures of famous statues or ruins/temples, or cheap touristy stuff.

Somewhere along the road I decided Greece was a country firmly grounded in it’s history, and with as little to do with the now or the future as was conceivably possible.

Repeat visits have only made to confirm this view, with this recent week spent on Crete no exception. If your plot of land looks gorgeous, just look away when you pass your neighbour’s garbage dump and you won’t need see it. Oh, wait, garbage is a natural by-product of civilisation, important for future archeologists, so let’s make their work easier and just leave it out in the open, OK?

On the outskirts of a village I several times passed by a ‘pasture’ for sheep, only the ‘pasture’ mainly consisted of litter, rusty old litter. One part was fenced off and there, on on the worst dump in the whole plot, there lived a dog.

In the beautiful if touristified old harbour of Chania there floated so much garbage I didn’t even want to snap a picture.

The beach west of Platanias, which is west of Chania, was so dirty it wasn’t even a pleasure to walk there, and by the turnabout outside an up-scale beach hotel that we walked past there was so many used condoms and condom wraps it was impossible to ignore them.

And of course the olives or the lemons don’t get toxic by the rusty old cars leaking oil into the soil, or the rusty paint tins, and perhaps the small animals dying in the discarded bottles was vermin anyway. But in my view a civilised country can afford efficient handling of it’s waste.

The tourist industry is a huge source of income in Greece. And perhaps this is the market talking – it simply doesn’t matter if the place is clean – people go there either to see the ruins or to relax completely and the ruin people are so awed with the ruins they don’t care for the rest while the relaxation people only care for cheap food and booze and a decent amount of sun. Don’t make for a high demand on general development.

It’s a sad situation.


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