Friday, January 25, 2013

Strikes and Taxis (Athens, part 1)

Knowing that my final month in Sofia would go by quickly, I sat down shortly after Sara and Norah departed to map out my remaining time.  I knew that I would have a lot to accomplish (grade exams, finalize a major writing project, start on a minor one, and draft a report) but that I would have a degree of flexibility with my time – I had only a handful of commitments at specific times.   After plotting those on the calendar, I discovered a few multi-day stretches of time that I could set aside for writing and, you guessed it, travel.

Athens emerged as a leading candidate, based on interest (it apparently has some history), geography (warmer in January than, say, Sweden), and logistics (inexpensive direct flights from Sofia).   After another possible trip was sidelined due to weather, Athens got the nod.  I booked myself a flight, reserved a hotel, and bought myself a guide book.

Of course, every trip has its hiccups, and this one started with me casually saying to myself, “I wonder if my trip will be impacted by any strikes?”   Some research on Wednesday revealed that, in fact, the Athens Metro was not running due to a week-long strike.  Yes, the same Metro that I was planning to take directly from the airport, located 20 miles outside of the city, to a station within 200 meters of my hotel for €6.  Would the strike still be going on Friday?  Maybe not, as the Greek government invoked emergency legislation on Thursday to force workers to return.  But if it did, I comforted myself with the knowledge that in the alternative I could take the express bus within a kilometer of my hotel – until the bus drivers joined in on Thursday afternoon. 

At that point, the night before I was scheduled to leave, I began to have second thoughts.  What if I got there and the taxi drivers – the only remaining option, and a very expensive one at that – joined in?  What if they didn’t, but, because of demand, the taxi queue was two hours long and, because of the lack of public transportation, traffic in the city was at a standstill?  Fortunately, calmer heads (those of my wife and a friend) prevailed, and I realized it would all be okay.  Just like it usually is.  (And don’t worry, the irony of me worrying about my vacation while real people are worried about putting food on the table in the face of severe austerity measures was not lost on me.)

So, this morning, I headed to the Sofia airport, (really, really appreciating my 11 Leva ride with O.K. Супертранс) for my Air Malta flight to Athens.  I arrived in Athens to find that the situation was the same, so I headed to the taxi queue.  I was happy to see that it was quite short, and I had already made peace with the fact that I’d be paying €38 (about $50, or 70 Leva) for the trip.  And now I’m here.

The latest report is that Metro service will resume tomorrow, but only after riot police stormed a station where workers had barricaded themselves.  Perhaps the Metro will be running on Monday - if not, I’ll figure it out.  At this point, it seems silly to even be thinking about the potential for inconvenience on my part given the situation.  

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