Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From ‘Eurydice Street. A Place in Athens’ by Sofka Zinovieff

Come home to Greece!
- Greek National Tourism Organization Slogan

….more significant is Greek parents’ overwhelming ambition for their children, and tremendous love of ‘letters’. The respect for politismos – a word meaning both culture and civilization – is universal and unquestionable

If there is one thing that characterizes Greek conversation, it is a lack of reticence in expressing opinions. In fact, such is the natural argumentativeness and critical nature of many Greeks that what is a perfectly natural conversation can appear on the outside like a frantic matter of life and death.

‘…..folk music runs deep inside us. In Greece we live with our emotions, we cry more easily than others …..’

‘You cant even start to understand anything about Greece if you don’t realize that everything is expressed through poetry and song,’ …..that almost every other person in Greece is a poet.

… the middle of the nineteenth century there were still far more Greeks outside Greece than inside. When Athens was still a small town with 30,000 citizens, there were 120,000 Greeks in Constantinople and 60,000 in Smyrna [Izmir]

The Greeks, like the Russians, can be the most hospitable and welcoming of people, but they can also be uncompromisingly suspicious and even hostile to the outsider.

During the 1940s about 1,000 villages were destroyed, agricultural production fell by over seventy per cent, and about eight per cent of the entire population died. The proportion of people living in rural areas fell from about two thirds in 1940, to less than one third in the 1990s. Greece became an urban country in less than half a century.

Greeks speak louder, interrupt more often, and if they cant use their bodies as well they feel drastically handicapped….

Smoking embodies countless Greek ideals about spontaneity, living in the moment …..It also forms such a perfect accompaniment to lengthy cups of coffee and wine-filled evenings that it sometimes seems surprising that there is anyone in Greece who doesn’t smoke. Newspapers report that one in four ten-year olds smoke…..

Whereas about a third of babies in Britain are born out of wedlock, in Greece they only account for about three per cent. It is true that this remarkable traditionalism goes hand in hand with the highest rate of abortion in Europe, something which often stands in for contraception.

Whatever Greece’s turbulent history, its people are extraordinarily homogeneous as far as religion goes. ….almost everyone is Orthodox. Over ninety-five per cent of Greeks declare themselves to be so, and there is a widespread belief that ‘religion is the only thing keeping us Greek’. …. Unlike Catholicism, there is little preoccupation with sin and guilt. I’ve never spoken with a Greek who was worried about his or her morals from a religious point of view….. People also bring an easygoing, homely attitude to church. You see shoppers popping into a church while out on their errands in Athens. They put down their shopping bags in a corner of the dark, incense-filled church, and, with a casual efficiency, light a candle and make a quick tour of all the main icons, which are given due respect with a kiss and a sign of the cross.

‘He who never flew a kite didn’t look high enough,’…..

No comments: