Another child has joined me for the last leg of the trip, my son. We repeated in one day some of our first outings in Athens when he was only eight year old. On most of these excursions, there was a significant lack of tourists, good for us, bad for Greece. Yet, newspapers reported that once the elections were settled, plans to visit Greece went up 27%.

We began the day at the Acropolis, a good day to visit. The day was overcast, the heat less intense, and the crowds thin. We took pictures in front of the steps where once he had sat and now visitors are forbidden to trespass. Then, we made our way to Monistraki to eat the city’s best souvlaki. Here there were hoards, some tourists, many locals stopping for a quick lunch, street vendors selling knickknacks, and children playing instruments, hoping their serenades would entice a euro their way, But this has always been the way in Monistraki.

That evening, we went to my favorite outdoor theater, the Cine Paris to see the new Wes Anderson movie. The air, cool and clean, blew gently across the theater, and finally when dusk became night, the Acropolis lit up. My heart, mind and soul were full: a good companion, delicious air, an excellent film, and history lit up like a jewel.

Afterwards we had dinner down the street at a famous taverna. The restaurants around the square in this usually busy area of the Plaka were barely filled. Will those tourist ever come?


I’m having a Chelsea Hotel moment even though I am at an upscale hotel in the “quartier” of those who have swimming pools on their roof, Kolonaki. I have left the hotel only twice in the last twenty-four hours: to go to a meeting about my Fulbright grant after which I returned and slept and, then, three hours later, to walk three blocks for souvlaki and a beer. Within an hour, I was in my pajamas and back in bed. Soon, it will be 8:00 P.M. and I could go out and find a taverena, but I’ve decided to skip dinner, have a drink and some potato chips from the minibar. Did Faulkner and other writers at the Chelsea succumb to “ennui” so easily?

I didn’t surface for very long today, but it was long enough to notice that many pedestrians carried shopping bags with the labels of expensive stores. I did see other signs of change besides graffiti new to Kolonaki.  An old women in widow’s black surrounded by plastic bags holding her belongings had strategically placed herself on the pavement next to an ATM machine. Nevertheless, she didn’t seem to be profiting by her location. Several older men and some children moved up and down the steep streets with outstretched hands, and a young women sat in a doorway breastfeeding her child, completely exposed, her hand extended.

In today’s International Herald Tribune, Paul Krugman in an article about the European economic crisis wrote, “Forget about Greece, which is pretty much a lost cause; Spain is where the fate of Europe will be decided.” For some, he seems to be speaking the truth; others may be “fiddling while Rome burns.”



I have been in Istanbul with my daughter Medb for almost four days. Indeed, this visit is a respite. When I returned to Athens the night before my flight to Istanbul, I was disheartened. My week on Spetses made clear how Greece will suffer if all attempts to overcome past economic practices don’t work. Already, hospitals have cut back on services and in some places, electricity is turned off on a regulated basis. In the taxi ride from Piraeus to my posh hotel in Athens, I saw the anger of the poor and the young against the rich and established. The hotel, St. George Lycabettus, is located in the upscale neighborhood of Kolonoki on a hill opposite the Acropolis. However, the graffiti festooned on almost every building destroys the charm of the leafy streets of exclusive shops and restaurants. In Athens, there is no escape.

Istanbul rests my eyes. It appears cleaner, more genteel, more hospitable than Athens. I know this view is most likely the result of my own ignorance. I am staying at a sweet hotel with a rooftop garden where I have breakfast every morning and gaze out the windows at the Bosphorus. My excursions have taken me to a rug shop, a jewelry shop in the Grand Bazaar, the Hippodrome and an excursion up and down the Bosphorus. Everywhere I travel, I have felt welcomed  and encounter beauty wherever I turn my gaze.



After a week of considering politics and its consequences on Greece, I am having a reprieve in Istanbul for almost a week. I have not read a paper or watched the news except to see the new Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, sworn in. Last week, when I asked the Greeks I met on Spetses what they thought would happen in the Sunday elections, they answered, “We’ll see what happens on Monday.” I imagine they meant the day after would tell them more about the future then who won. The same wait-and-see approach seems to hold true as Samaras maneuvers to form a new government. When I left Greece for Turkey, the media was still predicting disaster for Greece’s future even though the less radical candidate was elected. I, too, will hold off jumping to conclusions until I return to Greece.





My fifth day in Spetses and I’ve been able to glean a little of how the Greeks, at least on this island, feel about the election and their future. Until Friday night, the island seemed deserted. During the week, all the typical stores were open: the trinket shops with all forms of the “evil eye,” the expensive clothing shops for women and “yachtsmen,” the stores with all forms of worrybeads. However, no one was buying, and I’ve not seen one man fingering those beads for solace. Worried they must be, though. An International Herald Tribune editorial stated that of the 11 million eligible Greek workers, 1 million are unemployed. The writer spoke of a lawyer friend who is considering giving up his practice as his client list drops and returning to the land where he can feed his family.

My friends and I have mostly used taxis to get to some of the exquisite beaches of this island. Today, Saturday, June 16, the day before the election, we went to a beach on the other side of the island. Our driver is a graduate in electrical engineering. He drives a cab because he was making only 800 Euros a month in Athens, the equivalent of $1200. He couldn’t manage living on such a meager amount, so he came back to Spetses.

Last night as I sat in a cafe facing the harbor, Septses came alive. Most restaurants had a decent number of visitors instead of the hundreds of empty tables I had seen all week. People seemed excited, happy, like Friday nights in most countries.

By Saturday, the crowd had grown and even at ten in the evening, many children were playing together in front of the pastry shops. Every day, when I read The International Herald Tribune, the news has not been good. In fact, disaster seems to loom ahead no matter what the outcome of the election. But tonight, football dominated conversations, an escape from matters such as returning to the drachma or having a job.

However, the vultures are circling. Hungry Greeks are raiding ancient sites, hoping to find valuable antiquities. While some companies such as France’s Carrefour pull out of Greece, others are prepared to buy up vacation houses for cheap.