What a day… It feels like I’ve never stopped since I got to Athens, I was told about Exarcheia, a wonderful vibrant neighbourhood populated by anarchists, students and leftists for 40 years, so I have got myself a 4th floor room overlooking a noisy anarchic square. The square (which seems to be getting ready for a concert) is filled with amazing café’s and bars, it reminds me of East Berlin the air is filled with ideas, bubbling with alternatives to the “failed” economics and politics of Europe. The counter-culture. The killing of a 15 year old boy here sparked off a month of riots across the whole of Greece in December 2008.
Today I met a local Kostas who drove me around the town, highlighting the division that exists between leftists, and anarchists from the neighbourhood where I am staying, and the Neo-Nazis in another square, in another area of town.
I’ve only been here a day or two but it is clear that Athens has an air of fragile calm that could explode at any moment, with up and coming elections on the 6th May things don’t bode well. Support for the main parties has collapsed while support for ‘radical’ parties has grown. The experts predict a hung parliament while the Neo-Nazis hope to see their leader go into parliament for the first time in Greek history,
“This far-right ‘Golden Dawn’ party are not like Le Pen in France, they are Nazis” Kostas tells me… “They have copies of Mein Kampf, and salute like Hitler”. Earlier today they had a meeting in a neighbouring hotel and Kostas invited me to take a look, it was scary – I saw (the usual, expected) skinheads but there was also lots of families too, they were complaining about the economic crisis but also the lack of any effective immigration policy.
After we left Kostas took me to an ‘immigrant’ neighbourhood, it was once an area for the richest Greeks in Athens, and has one of the biggest church’s in Europe. Immigrants sit around looking hopeless, we watch as a little black girl plays hop-scotch on some massive graffitied letters at the entrance to the church that read, ‘Greece is for the Greeks all immigrants go home’. “It has been there for 2 years” Kostas explains, “but no-one dares to remove it, because of the power of the Neo-Nazis in this area of Athens.”