Friday, 27 February 2009
When you see a sight like this, you are probably thinking:
1. Oh my God, it's a hovel! Poor people live here.
2. There is no place for them to dry their clothes except at street level.
3. They can't get the paint off their jeans - they wear filthy clothes.
Now try understanding the photo without being prejudiced.
The above three points may be read more positively:
1. This old house costs very little money to rent (ie the occupants are saving a lot of money).
2. There may be no place to dry one's clothes except at street level, but at least these people can do their washing and have it dry somehow (ie they can keep themselves clean).
3. Their jeans are covered in paint, so that means they are painters (ie they are employed and making good money).
Last but not least, their use of bicycles must be applauded. It's cheaper and greener than a car.
And that's the state of economic migration in Hania - poverty on the outside, financial security within. Albanian immigrants in Greece save much more money per capita than Greeks do, ie they're working and saving, whereas the locals are working and spending.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
These houses are found in the area of Koum Kapi, what was once a seedy neighbourhood by the old port. The area has now been transformed into the centre of summer nightlife, filled with cafes frequented by university students in the winter (ie, prime property). The change from 'undesirable' to 'up-and-coming' neighbourhood can be seen on the left: one of those terraced houses has become a brand new multi-story apartment building.
Monday, 23 February 2009
These used to be lit up, but now no one bothers to replace the burnt-out bulbs, probably because the signs themselves will be replaced sooner or later with standard European Community ones.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Thursday, 19 February 2009
The is is the view from the municipal park in Hania looking towards the street. It isn't remarkable, especially considering that it is a prime property area. The apartment building in the centre of the photo is built in the typical functional style of the early 1980s with (abominable) brown aluminium shutters, but at least the people who live in it have a nice view of the park, and not some other person's apartment.
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Friday, 13 February 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
The New World was built on the basic premise of human rights: no one can deny them to you, and the law will see to it that they be upheld for every one of its citizens. But not even the laws of the New World can contain the wrath of the elements. When it's hot, it burns, and when it's hot and windy, it razes. There is hope in the destruction that follows a fire: everything inanimate can be rebuilt. What can't be remade is the animate; that's gone forever.
Monday, 9 February 2009
While everyone was trying to sleep with the sound of the wind seeming like it was blowing roofs off the houses it started to rain. The aftermath of the combination of warm strong wind and rain is red rain.
The phenomenon is due to dust clouds gathering in the African desert, rising and being pushed north (Crete is above Libya). If it rains during that period, the dust settles wherever it lands, and stays there until you clean it; unlike ordinary dust, it sticks to the surface it lands on. If you were unlucky enough to have washing on the line to dry, that too will become red and you'll have to wash it again. In any case, you have to wipe down the washing line, because your clean washing will get red streaks on it.
This storm occurred a few days ago in Hania. When this happens, you can see most people outside their house as soon as the rain stops, cleaning the red sand from the Sahara Desert off their walls, yards and cars.
And that's life in the Mediterranean right now - we had another bout of it yesterday, this time during the day. As I don't want to get muddy just by standing on my verandah (it actually sticks on your clothes), I've uploaded these photos from the last bout of red rain.
Saturday, 7 February 2009
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Last week was too cold to sit outdoors, but this time, when it's snowing and -6 degrees Cesius in London, here in Hania it was too warm to even wear a jacket, despite the dull look of the weather. Quite a contrast to summer time Wellington...
You must think I'm having a marvellous time here in Hania, with all those outdoor coffees. Yes, maybe I am. Maybe everyone in the whole of Greece thinks we Cretans enjoy the good life here on a daily basis.
The Cretan people know how to make themselves get noticed. Now the farmers of the island are the top news story in the country.
The farmers of the whole country blocked the roads linking the north to the south, while the Cretan farmers blocked the roads leading from the west to the east. The government heard their pleas, and offered a 645 million euro salvage packet for Greek farmers who have lost a quarter of their income over the last decade (and from what I understand, this is a problem in farming worldwide). But this package did not include Cretan farmers.
Why? Maybe because they think we're rich(er than other Greek farmers). But we're still a part of Greece, so why did the government discriminate against the Cretan farmers whose produce feeds the country throughout the winter? I know the sunshine is free, but surely Cretan farmers also run up costs, suffer losses and work hard to produce a good crop. They certainly don't have the same field area as farmers in the north, who need a huge expanse of land to produce crops like cotton and tobacco (neither of which are eaten).
The Cretan farmers have rejected the package saying it offers too little for their region. Other agricultural groups are keeping a key border crossing with Bulgaria closed, complaining that the government assistance plan provides no long-term solution to their declining income.
Now the Cretan farmers have taken their protest over handouts to Athens today by driving their tractors into the city center at the same time that Agricultural Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis will be attempting to convince the European Union that the 500 million euros the Greek government wants to pump into the ailing sector does not contravene the bloc’s rules.
Despite an attempt by a prosecutor on Crete to stop farmers driving dozens of tractors onto a ferry bound for Piraeus last night, hundreds of disgruntled locals boarded the vessel and plan to drive the vehicles to the Agricultural Development Ministry today.The farmers did eventually get to Pireaus with their tractors. Riot police blocked groups of protesting Cretan farmers from leaving the port of Piraeus, Greece's busiest, early Monday morning. The farmers, roughly 1,100 strong with scores of pick-up trucks and a few dozen tractors, disembarked from three ferry boats arriving from the large Aegean island in order to hold a protest in front of the agriculture ministry in downtown Athens.
Police used tear gas to prevent protesting farmers from leaving the port area, which is located in congested Piraeus. Tension continued for the following hours, while farmers claimed four of their colleagues were injured and several others were arrested.
My compatriots came armed (they threw potatoes at the police); they insisted on seeing the Minister of Agriculture (who was in Brussels at the time). I don't know what the outcome of this will be, but I can't imagine anything positive will come out of it. If anything is promised, promises are meant to be broken. And in the current economic climate, especially given that Greece is heavily in debt, surely only a fool would believe what is being promised.
In any case, the Cretans have managed so far to halt ship traffic to Crete - no ferry boat is leaving the harbours destined for Megalonisos (the Big Island, as we are nicknamed) - and the farmers are camping out at the port tonight, so there's bound to be a party going on in the evening at Pireaus. Just keep an ear out for the mantinades and you'll find them.
UPDATE: So it's back home on theTuesday evening ferry boat for the Cretan farmers, who made their presence known in Athens, which they claim was their main prerogative in going to Athens. The were met by many opposition politicians (Greece is heading for early elections, so now is a good time to campaign), while the only government officials to meet with them were representatives from the police, who used tear gas, even while one of the opposition politicians was present 'in support of the Cretan farmers' (don't forget that he is also demanding the resignation of the government and early elections).
Well, we all had our fun, didn't we?
Sunday, 1 February 2009
... with a great view of the eastern bulwark which once formed part of the fortifications of the Venetian town of Hania.
Read more about Koum Kapi.