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Sunday, 29 June 2014

California dreamin'

I was in Iraklio yesterday, close to the area of the Olympic stadium, built for the use of the Olympic Games held in Athens in 2004. Although the area doesn't show the same signs of disuse and neglect that the OAKA facilities show, it reinforces aspects of Greek identity in similar ways. The stadiums have a bigness to them that never boded well with small Greece, and the modernisation that took place in both of the surrounding areas was never really appropriate for the Greeks: no matter how much they seem to embrace modern trends, there will be some aspects of modernism that they will not be entralled with. This is the reason why these facilities look so neglected these days: they never really suited the Greek lifestyle.

My son was involved in a fencing tournament yesterday, which was held, not at the Pan-Cretan (Olympic) Satdium of Iraklio (shown below)...

... but right next door, at the LIDO, a small cosy gymansium built in just the right size for local use. The stadium was also in use ont he same day, and although fencing tournaments do take place in the Athens Olympic facilities (OAKA), the site today was seen as more appropriate: as the coach explained, if you live in a rented property of 80 square metres, and you are suddenly gifted a 2000 square metre space, at first you will be excited, but later you will realise that you prefer to live in the rented property rather than maintain such a big amount of space...

In the area of the Pan-Cretan Stadium, the roads have been done up to look like ... something like 'boulevards' and 'avenues', things I've seen in photos of places like 'California' and 'Miami', places that have names to the likes of 'Sunset Boulevard'.

Yes, it looks sleek and chic in many ways... but the rate of upkeep, and the fact that much of the land around this area is still in private hands, hasn't helped the general area maintain this sleek chic apperance.

Greeks don't prefer lifeless soulless places for their leisure activities. They will congregate in the dingiest looking places where there are many other like-minded people.

So places like parks and bicycle tracks and outdoor seating and wildlife and coastal roads will not attract people ... unless people are already installed there.
I was in the area in the morning, so this place was empty - by the end of the day, before my trip to Iraklio was over, the place was buzzing with life. 
Where there is a modern-style stadium, there is a modern-style shopping centre. In Athens it's called the Mall; in Iraklio it's called Talos. In the morning, the place looked quite empty because Greeks don't hang around at the mall all day long: the mall is for certain times. This quiet moment gave me and my daughter a chance to savour a little peace before we joined her brother at the fencing tournament.

Talos does not contain any traditional-style stores or eateries - they are all brand label type places. I let my daughter choose where to sit. Flocafe and Starbucks were side-by-side - she chose Flocafe. AS it was a special day, I let her choose what she wanted to have: I chose an iced chocolate (full of fat and sugar), and she chose a waffle with ice-cream (full of fat and sugar). If you eat like that most of the time, well, we all know what happens to you (obesity is oft discussed on the news these days in Western mass media - not so much at all int eh Greek media, though).

We did some shopping at Peacocks  and OVS, two brands we don't have in Hania, and then walked back to the stadium (oh yes, we walk everywhere in Iraklio, much to the surprise of my friends - my whole family knows why we walk everywhere) where we were just in time for my son's games. He is a very good fencer... and we knew he'd win first prize among the dozen kids participating in his age group... but his goals were not to win gold (he knew he could do that easily), nor was it to play well (he has been doing this already). His goal was to play the best that he has ever played. In a sense, he did this, because he didn't lose any of the rounds he played in. But his opponents still managed to score hits against him, something that made him realise that there is great room for improvement. (He told me about this at the end of the tournament. I liked that. It's called maturity.)

For a treat, I took him back to Talos to buy him some new clothes, and then I let him choose the place we would have our celebration lunch. (He hadn't eaten since breakfast, and we got to the shopping centre after 6.30pm.) Talos was slowly filling up. The cafe tables which were empty in the morning were now buzzing with human activity. Again, people weren't 'hanging around' at the mall - they were hanging around with each other. Greeks are very very social. If their friends were hanging around elsewhere, they'd flock there, not at the mall.

My son chose a place called Yankees. Its name gives us an idea about what kind of food it may be serving. If the name and decor isn't enough, the menu makes it obvious.

Modern food for modern people...
Chicago, Ribs, Antiburger - total cost: €32 with 3 soft drinks and a bottle of water. 
... but only in the right company, which is still dictated by tradition, and tradition says 'people above places'. But even if we were to place some importance on the actual site, the view of Mount Juktas with its face of sleeping Zeus made perfect sense to us, as we found ourselves not too far away from the birthplace and final resting place of Zeus.

Mt. Juktas, as seen from the city of Iraklio, yesterday. Legend says it is the face of Zeus.

The Greek world always led with a radiance of its own, quite unmatched and never able to copied anywhere else by anyone. This will be the key to survival in a competitive world.

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