in Greece 2015

Get up, stand up

Street signs in Chania are always on buiildings, never on posts.

ξεσηκώνομαι (kseh-si-KOH-noh-meh) – v.: I stand up (for my rights)

CHANIA, July 15 – It is another spectacular day in the Mediterranean. Bougainvillea line every road. Not as hot as last week; it’s actually okay to be outside in the shade. The sky is giving you a reason to coin new words because there aren’t already enough that describe its shades of blue. The cars parked on every sidewalk right up to the street corner, between the squat palm trees and the periptera every block or two with their newspapers, trays of gum, coolers of pop.

And the people, always people out and about. Every cafe has patrons, all of whom loiter, every sidewalk foot traffic wherever you look. The white and tan buildings all hug the narrow streets; none rise above 5 or 6 stories, all flat-roofed, stucco, every apartment with a balcony, every balcony with an awning to block the sun. It’s just such an intimate place.

The catastrophe has been avoided. Tsipras managed to keep Greece in the euro for the moment, but lost 40 Syriza votes to get the bad deal accepted, including his recently resigned finance minister Varoufakis. He is weakened, and will likely call elections this fall. For the moment, though, there is still a government in Europe daring to call the Troika on its increasingly hollow experiment in monetary union, even if that experiment in democracy is on life support.

I’ve taken in some history this week: a talk at the Mediterranean Architecture Center about the modernist architect Constantine Doxiadis, and soon a visit to the house of Eleftherios Venizelos, the George Washington of the modern Greek state. But you can find history  even on the street signs.

Above is a sampling of street signs around Chania. What strikes me is they explain why a street is named as it is. Clockwise from lower left, they celebrate: a hero of the Revolution against the Ottoman Empire which first established the modern Greek state; a hero of the struggle which liberated Macedonia and Thrace from the Ottomans; a fighter in WWII; and the day of the referendum after the military junta fell in 1974 in which the Greek people decided decisively for a republic instead of reestablishing a constitutional monarchy.

Do they do this elsewhere in Greece? I’ll soon see. Meanwhile, time to enjoy some spanakopitakia.