Well, for a start it’s completely mad… It really is that simple.
I’ve been here nearly three years and had the opportunity to experience much this Great country has to offer so I speak with more than just a little knowledge on the matter now – the good, the bad, and the Ugly so to speak and some things are just out of this world, in every sense of it.
Also, as it’s my home now I only say what I say with affection and a little bit of an insight into the place for those who don’t know or who take it for granted so please don’t take offense to the following observations if your Greek, but many are true and something that the signs at the airport don’t point out to you when your arrive here, blind to the many aspects of this unique part of the world and all it has to offer!
As a foreigner, I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in more than a couple of Countries now and it’s only fair to explain that Greece is like no other place I’ve ever lived before, for lots of reasons. If you presented to the rest of the world with all you see and hear over typically just a year of living here in Greece, no one would believe you, it’s just that surreal as a place.
It would make for a great film were it not real and something that we many experience on a regular basis and if it were ever put to celluloid, it would be one of those films whereby people watched and then afterwards joked how thankfully it couldn’t actually happen like that in real life, well it does!
It’s not mad in a bad way, it’s mad in a mad way. It’s like a cartoon parody of a sane Country striving to be different – and it succeeds in abundance whereas others fail miserably, existing as it does in it’s own individual way…
Firstly, everything here is extreme. The heat is the first most noticeable aspect of this, especially when your in Athens in August. It’s relentless.
The City seems to absorb every single ray of light shed by the Sun and stores it for when you least need it, this combined with the traffic, the buildings and the people turns an already hot part of the world into rather large an open air Sauna which is known as a City – Athens – Or the Devil’s Undercrackers as I like to lovingly refer to it by…
In late July, August in particular, the weather patterns change and the cloud and humidity levels rise to epic proportions here, starting mainly in my garden and then slowly spreading gradually to the rest of Athens.
To say it gets hot is an understatement, I now know of parts of my body which I didn’t even think could sweat…! Previously I lived in Montreal, Canada for 5 years and have experienced regular 33 degree days in the summer but that is nothing compared to what you feel in Athens in August on even a bad day, and what’s more it doesn’t cool down either. Three o’clock in the morning and I still find myself sat getting a tan under the stars! What’s that all about…?!
It’s not a complaint, it’s just something that I sincerely hope I get used to. Admittedly having a head of long hair in Summer isn’t helping me at the minute, this though is mainly due to the ongoing nightmare of me fighting ACTUP and KEELPNO, (press here to learn more). When it’s resolved I vowed to get it cut but since it’s become a sign of protest against everything bad this last two years has brought me because of the actions of a few, and sadly the corruption which is rife here and which is now bringing so much misery to so many is something that people need to realise they can fight and win. My first year I did suffer with the heat but did notice a difference the start of the second till I became a hippy and the hair issue clearly added a few degrees of heat to each day.
So, back to the humidity etc… Having originated from the UK and being privileged to a wet and generally miserable weather system, the differences here are astronomical. We don’t really get humidity in the UK, not naturally anyway as we don’t get the heat often enough to generate it regularly. The worst case scenario is having your windows shut when cooking or getting out of the Bath when it’s cooler outside…
In the UK we generally have four Seasons too : Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. – Winter has a very vague attempt to be cold and bring snow, although this snow is generally now known by another name these days – ‘rain’! Spring tends to be like winter but brighter and has recently been known to be better than what we usually call ‘Summer’ and then Summer consists of generally slightly warmer winter conditions but is still prone to being wet and miserable as well. Then we have Autumn, the time whereby the rain has been falling so heavily it has now made all the leaves fall off the tress in preparation for Winter. And so the cycle continues…
In Athens we have at best two Seasons – Winter and Summer. I’m calling it ‘Winter’ just as it’s only slightly colder than what I would call in my experience – a bad Spring, however I know for Greek’s it’s a serious change to the standard of weather that is normal here. As it’s largely what your used to as a Country, in all fairness it has to be called ‘Winter’. I know in the other parts of Greece it gets cold too, I was surprised to learn that you could go skiing in Greece when I first arrived, something I have yet to do, but my initial thoughts were sure, they just mean water skiing!
In Canada I experienced true Winter conditions, snow so thick you could make it an American president and cold that fridge-freezer’s only dreamt of! One year I nearly lost my toes by squeezing into ski boots that were too small for me, and after being taken off by the ski patrol with frost bite realised just how lucky I was.
The best day whereby I noticed the change in weather here, and/or Seasons was about two years ago when in September I was sat in my Garden working away in a pair of shorts (as usual), when at about 10 in the morning my Landlady who lives above me passed me on her way to work wearing what I can only describe as full Artic survival gear. It was one of the most memorable moments in my garden as we both stared at each other wondering who really was the ‘mad’ one…
We still have never resolved the matter fully but both relive the same look twice a year now. Once when Winter arrives for her, and when Summer arrives for me…
Needless to say I spend most of my year in my garden, one because I love the fresh air, the weather and because working on computers as I do is at times quite mentally exhausting, being trapped inside can be very un-motivating and doesn’t help the creative juices flow and here in Greece the conditions make it almost mandatory to be outside as often as you can.
You don’t really need weathermen in the Summer here either. It’s the only place whereby I know whenever I wake up and open the shutters – it’s beautiful… Day or night, week/weekend it’s always clear skies, minimum 20+ and from March till about November for me, Summer!
Weather men here must have the easiest job ever. Smugly pointing out to several million people everyday that it’s beautiful when half are at the beach and no one gives a damn anyway, they already know… They should have to pay to do it!
I’ll be amazed if I’ve worn anything else other than shorts for most of the year to be honest, if it’s really been cold I may have had to put on a T-shirt and once or twice maybe even trousers.
These days I’ve sometimes resorted to wearing a shirt to try and dissuade all my mosquito fans from being exposed to too much flesh but this has the drawback of making you melt even quicker than usual so it’s been as a last resort.
Since I came to Greece though I have often wondered if I’ve become a Vampire due to my reluctance to be in the Sun for so many months of the year, and have since seemingly adapted to the ways of the Ninja. Stalking the shade, moving nimbly between shadows to avoid the direct gaze of the Sun for fear of evaporating or worse.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the Sun but for me from about June onwards it’s just too hot to be in it. Even sunbathing is out the question because once you heat up you can’t cool down. It’s ok if you don’t have to go anywhere, or do anything, absolutely fine but having to go anywhere or do anything suddenly becomes a feat of endurance that quite frankly I don’t want to be involved in.
Fortunately to counter balance this heat and madness in August is the fact that most of Greece goes to the beach, their respective Islands, summer houses or abroad, anywhere. It often doesn’t matter. It’s just time to get away and unwind. A hard summer, Riots, the Economic crisis, Employment worries, redundancies and the future in question makes people want to not care even more… Etsi…! It’s just the way it is…
At this time of year I also now re-discovered that where I live also has pavements, for most of the year cars are double and treble parked everywhere possible, some pretty much abandoned to be fair, but in a way that enables people to still navigate round them to find another un-suspecting spot to park.
You can almost safely walk through the City too at this time of year, not that you really want to be walking anywhere in this heat. That’s compared to normal anyway, (as previously mentioned in one of my articles), the only thing I haven’t seen driving down the pavement in Greece yet are planes, and I suspect that once Pilot’s get wise to it we may see that shortly too though!
Thankfully the fuel shortages and strikes have largely made some of Athens a safer place by accident as you just haven’t been able to get anywhere, and with the never ending work being conducted on the metro near me you sometimes never know where you’re going to end up anyway so it all works out for the best. As long as there’s somewhere you can get a drink and relax, it doesn’t matter.
After all, we’re not here trying to re-invent the wheel or anything, we did that, now it’s time to just find somewhere you can chill…