City #9, March ’14. It was my first visit, and I liked it a lot. Even though the city attracts loads of tourists, especially the area around the Acropolis, it’s not an open air museum. It’s quite rough, with its semi-dangerous areas, holes in the pavements, and frequent demonstrations: it’s alive. And if you are looking for a hotel, try the New Hotel. Very nicely designed, excellent staff, well situated, great breakfast, brilliant roof terrace.

Type of Youropeans? The Greeks, at least the ones I met, are hospitable and friendly. But also quick to blame others for their problems.

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City Column

The Troika is coming

The word Troika makes me think of a new chocolate ice cream bar, or a martial arts film starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Van Damme, but in Greece everyone understands that it means the IMF, the European Bank and European Commission are on their way: an unholy alliance out to destroy their country. They arrive at set intervals, these devils disguised as office workers; they ask difficult questions and decide whether Greece, the wayward son who refuses to shape up, deserves to receive his pocket money this month.

The Troika is coming to its torture chambers in the Greek Ministry of Finance, which is located on Syntagma Square, next to a Nike store and across the street from the parliament building. But the world no longer knows or cares that democracy was born just two blocks away, or that this particular brand of sports clothing is named after the Greek Goddess of Victory. It’s a bit like Brigitte Bardot and Madonna: people say they were once beautiful, but who really believes it?


relThe Troika is coming, and therefore everyone is alert. There are about 20 of them, and they don’t all come at the same time, but arrive alone at ten-minute intervals, which must make it difficult to get the meeting started. The police clear a pathway across the square, and a car – usually German-made – pulls up onto the pavement in front of the ministry. The plainclothes police officers are clearly recognizable. Their earphones give them away as they stand soldier-like next to the entrance, a little army of ten, while the protesters being held at bay by riot squads shout a little louder into their megaphones.

You might say the arrival of the Troika is a public spectacle. Oh look, there’s another suit getting out of a grey Mercedes; they hold the door open for a fresh-faced, impeccably-dressed bureaucrat with a stack of files tucked under his arm and a laptop bag slung over his shoulder. A short, fat, angry women moves in for the attack but is restrained by two officers. They are calm, almost friendly. Five metres away, a group of Greeks waiting in a bus stop shelter don’t even bother to look up. A spectacle? The riot squad is called out at least once a day. Every day there’s a demonstration somewhere. After all, the unemployed have a lot of time on their hands.

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