Visiting Greece /1 Thessaloniki
Visiting Greece in these days is supposed to have a fully different taste and meaning as it used to have in the years before. The land of the sun, the cradle of western civilisation with its hospitality, cristal clear seewater and olive trees has suddenly become the land of the deepest financial and economic crisis the European Union ever faced (well… not yet faced!).
At the end of Mai 2011 the partners of the Urbact Network LINKS gathered together in Veria, in the central Macedonian region, 60 Km east from Thessaloniki. We had the chance to visit these places from the privileged perspective of an invited guest, through guided tours to the monuments and heritage of the historical city, beside that I did not give up some random walks around and conversation about current troubles and worries.
Apart from the perfect organisation of the workshop, the extraordinary reliability and efficiency of its organisation and management, my first finding was the difficulty to see around traces of this tremendous crisis. Talking to the guests when arriving to the city it became clear that the crisis was badly affecting the real economy, many jobs were lost, wages and pensions cut down, shops and firms closed. But on the other side there is a large part of the population who luckily has not been affected by the crisis and even if yes, they do not like to complain about it and are prepared to react. What is affecting everybody is a great sense of impotence against this phenomenon, a growing anger that could not find yet a clear objective, after realising of having been cheated for so many years.
As a matter of fact a distinctive feature of this crisis is that you don’t know who is responsible for it. The Greek Governments? Yes for sure, but only partly. The Banks of the big EU countries who bought the Greek debt to earn on their unaffordable interests rate? Yes, also, but who and where are they? The Germans (Government and population) who are hesitating to give credit to Greece creating panic on the markets, before finally agreeing to do so? Yes, but they have also some good arguments to be hesitating. The EU Council who is deciding every day something different, everything but a clear exit strategy? Yes, but again, who are they really and who or what do they represent, if not us?
As a result, in the age of information, we are all very well informed, but it seems not to help to understand what we have to do, and not even who to protest against. And finally the picture of things these information gives us do not seem to correspond to reality.
After all I must say I enjoyed my stay in greek Macedonia very much. The country, the people and the situations I found were pretty the same I remembered from my previous trips. The pictures I like to post are streetviews taken along the way from the airport to the center of Thessaloniki.
More detailed information about the workshop in Veria will be published on the Urbact website soon.