Travel: Hopeful Disillusions

I thought I would love Athens. As a kid I was fascinated by the colorfulness and diversity of Greek mythology and the polytheistic nature of is deities. I was wrong. Athens is in disrepair, crime is high, the neighborhoods are sketchy, and the nation is struggling, it is difficult to imagine this city at the height of its glory considering the clear challenges it has before it.

One thing that any passerby in Athens cannot help but notice is the quantity of people that are out and about just lounging, drinking coffee, or enjoying the sun, even in the middle of the day on a weekday. Unfortunately Greece cannot conceal the fact that the country is suffering, and as a tourist on the mainland, the evidence is clear. Unemployment is high, sustainable incomes are scarce, and many government employees are having to work without pay. 

This was no truer than it was this morning at 5 AM. After 10 weeks of an amazing solo journey backpacking from the Atlantic Coast of Europe to the Mediterranean Coast, it was time for me to catch a flight home. My graduation ceremony is in a few days, and still without a job offer, it was time for me to return to real life.

When I woke up at 5 AM this morning to catch the metro to the airport, I discovered that the employees had declared a strike overnight. How in the world was I supposed to get to the airport?! My back-up plan, carefully formulated the prior evening, to walk a few blocks north and hop on the slower, more expensive airport shuttle, were also foiled, apparently the operators were also part of the strike.

Amidst my clear panic, the hostel front desk was open and he helped me phone a taxi. The gentleman went even further to coordinate with the Taxi driver for us to stop at a street ATM on the way to the airport, since the driver would not accept credit, and I was down to my last few euros having budgeted my spending for Option A and B.

Thankfully, after a very hectic and stressful morning, I was able to catch my plane for the long flight home!

Travel: Understanding Portugal

Portugal’s economy has also never quite recovered from the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The seismic activity of the  Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault was estimated to be 8.5 to 9.0 in magnitude; this subsequently resulted in fires a tsunami that decimated the Lisbon along with the surrounding areas. Due to the prevalent political tension within its borders at the time, emotions were aggravated and profoundly disrupted the colonial ambitions of the country. The constant struggle for royal power and favor amongst the nobles culminated in the attempted assignation of the King, the elimination of the Duke of Aveiro and the public execution of the Távora family.

1755 copper engraving showing Lisbon in flames...

1755 copper engraving showing Lisbon in flames and a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbor.

Even now, the economy suffers. Although education is readily attainable regardless of means (for the most part), there is not nearly enough jobs, or opportunities for career growth. Unemployment has been steadily increasing each quarter and is expected to reach a record of 18%; It is in its 3rd year of recession. The youth have continued migrating out of the country, and working as expatriates. If a job can be found within the borders, it often lacks promotional opportunities, and does not pay well. As a result, many have been forced to emigrate to other european nations in order to locate sufficient employment.

See: Portugal court strikes down portion of austerity measures