The traveller’s guide to riots, protests and public holidays..

I came across this and thought it might be a welcome perspective for visitors to Greece worried about civil unrest!

Excerpt from Paul Theroux’s  Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Chapter 2.

The author  was  passing through Paris during the Black Tuesday riots of March 2006

“A national crisis is an opportunity, a gift to the traveller; nothing is more revealing of a place to a stranger than trouble. Even if the crisis is incomprehensible, as it usually is, it lends drama to the day and transforms the traveller into an eye witness. Purgatorial as a crisis sometimes is for a traveller, it is preferable to public holidays, which are hell; no one working, shops and schools closed, natives eating ice-cream, public transport jammed, and the stranger’s sense of being excluded from the merriment – from everything.A holiday is an occasion for utter alienation; a crisis can be a spectacle, seizing the stranger’s attention.”

Athens is actually heaven, not hell, during public holidays – the city empties completely and things all work infinitely better than usual. Feeling slightly alienated in an empty Athens is a rare joy, beaten only by the rarer joy of feeling alientated in an empty London – which has only happened to me once after the IRA bomb that cleared Knightsbridge.  Perhaps some enterprising company could design an “Alienation Tour” just for people like me who want a deserted and shuttered city all to themselves.



  1. Yes! As a British expat having lived in Greece for 4 years (3 in Athens) – I have to say I get annoyed by the International Media coverage of this beautiful country and her people. Anyone’d think we battle teargas on a daily basis.
    I write my own blog:
    about goings on here – plus places of interest.
    Alonissos has been my favourite so far.

    Thanks for such honest writing.

    Bex · March 6, 2012 · 9:44 am · Reply

    • Thank you Bex – yes, written out of irritation! Luckily this year Greece is in the papers for the right reasons and the season is much better than last year.

      ileanavonhirsch · May 19, 2013 · 9:22 am ·

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