Monthly Archives: September 2015

Athens Bike Festival

This weekend the sixth Athens Bike Festival was organised from Friday 18 to Sunday 20 September. This event is becoming more popular during the years. It started with 15.000 in 2010 visitors and 35.000 people in 2014 visited the festival. This event shows that Athens is a city with a growing cycling culture. This festival is a platform for cyclists and sympathizers to show and share their experiences with the bike in Athens. There were many activities; I would like to highlight a few.

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I went to the festival on Saturday to participate in a workshop called Introducing and supporting Cyclelogistics in Greek cities. Due to negative impacts of the carlike air pollution, congestion, safety issues, the bicycle is seen as a potential solution for these problems.  Not only as a medium for citizens to commute but also as a medium for transporting cargo. Many transportation of goods are transported via motorized modes of transport. However, the bike could be an ideal alternative to deliver (light) cargo. This workshop aimed to show the potential of bicycles as a potential player in urban transport. One example was Andrea Saccon, who started his cargo services in Parma (See: https://vimeo.com/91788560).

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Furthermore, Safe Cycling in Athens was an important issue during the festival. For kids, there was an educational program where they got lessons in wearing safety equipments (such as a helm) and how to behave safely on the bike in the traffic. There was also a special kids spot, to show their learned lessons in practice. They got instructions from special coordinators. Overall, an interesting experience!

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In the beginning

Arrived here two days ago, in the middle of a thunderstorm. The weather has changed. After months of summerheat and drought, it was pouring with rain. And fearing a hot stay in the attic of the institute, I thought: thank God.
I took a stroll down the lower streets of Plaka and came up to a small lane called Agias Filotheos, named after a martyrer from the third century I believe, who was killed by the hammering of spikes through his skull.
It felt like a first glance of a complex I came here to look into.
How European is Greece?
Let me tell you that I am a journalist by profession, although I received an education in anthropology, but that was a long time ago.
As a journalist who writes a daily column in his newspaper I visited Greece twice in these crisisridden years. Not so much to report on political upheaval and rising povertylevels or on the ongoing financial warfare with Brussels, but to understand Greece, its pride and its beauty and its stunningly complex history. Or perhaps to understand European misconceptions.

On the threshold

By Herbert Ploegman, anthropologist, doing field research on grassroots movements in Athens through a research grant of the NIA

One night I am sitting with a Dutch friend and a new Greek friend at an Exarchia terrace, in the centre of Athens, while I am told: “the Greeks, they don’t know and don’t wanna know, but many of them are in fact Turks”. Which is quite a statement, considering the rivalry between both nations.

The night after that, I am talking philosophy with a Greek designer, who takes it for granted that Greeks are indeed European. He tells me that I shouldn’t forget that Greece is in fact a continuation of centuries-old flows and rhythms. “What you see here, is the Roman Empire. People like to link up with Greece’s ancient history from 500 B.C., but after that came the Roman Empire for almost 2000 years. The Ottomans came in 1453, leaving most of the religion and culture as it were. How could you expect Greece to act like a Northern-European country with a history like this?”

I am back at Athens, and I am thinking about what this place actually is: What is it that appears before my eyes? How should I understand all that is happening here? How could I peel off all those layers of meaning that are hidden behind the façades of various kinds, but that appear so much ironed out by popular discourse? Or rather, how could I understand the complex hotchpotch of cultural identifications, that seems to be challenged during these days of losing dreams and the confrontation with so many international flows of foreign power, money and people?

Foto: Herbert Ploegman
My Dutch friend tells about the many refugees she encountered on the island of Leros. She tells about the precious work many islanders are doing. But also about the incapability of the Greek state to act decisively. I hear about the decision to build two large refugee camps in Greece, but I know that the state is big and demanding; that there are many people between these words and the deeds. And still, what will it be like in the end?

She tells that she remembers the arrival of the first immigrants, Albanians, in the 1990s. The scapegoating that haunted them until others came. There will be Albanians voting for nazi-party Golden Dawn in the upcoming national elections on Sunday. Perhaps to consolidate the position in the Greek society that they have acquired by now. But Greece still has a whole lot left to deal with. Can Greece be expected to confront these issues without trouble? I remember the country where I come from, with its difficulty to swallow its colonial history in all its enduring facets.

I am here to do anthropological research about grassroots movements. People that try to pave roads that have not been there before, and where the State does not (anymore) offer a thing. People call Athens a testing ground for neoliberal policies, implemented by the European Union, which gratefully uses the vulnerability Greece finds itself in. It is also a testing, or a battle ground of opposition to these policies, and possibly a testing ground for alternatives.

I have no illusions that Greece has a panacea at hand. Nor does any other country or context. I will not find a new, more fair, Europe in Greece. Nor do I find it in my home country the Netherlands. But it might be in the dialectics between here and there that something new appears. I am studying Athens to get to know Athens. I will bring myself for that purpose: with my particular background. And I will try to speak about what I come to see, in my languages.

* this blog post was originally posted on http://europeanfutures.tumblr.com/

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By Luc Keller student Urban Planning and Human Geography at the University of Amsterdam

First week in Athens! I am doing research about the decisions in mode of transport by commuters in Athens. I will write a blog about my observation of the mobility and the urban planning in Athens. First, I would like to share the popularity of the trolleybus and cycling in Athens with you. I found it very interesting to see the popularity of the trolleybus here in Athens. There are many trolleybuses running in the city center, they are also more crowded than the normal buses. This is interesting because in most European cities the trolleybus has disappeared as a mode of transport.

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Back in the 80’s the trolleybus became very popular in European cities. For example, Nancy (France) and Arnhem (the Netherlands) became cities where the trolleybus, even today, is a dominant mode of transport. The trolleybus had the advantage that it is cheaper and environmentally friendlier than normal buses (to ride on electricity instead of fuel). However, due to the increase of the private car use the trolleybus became less popular in European cities. Therefore, in many European cities the trolleybus disappeared. Here in Athens, I was surprised about the popularity of the trolleybus.

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Second observation is the slight popularity of cycling in Athens. I already saw and spoke to some people who commute on bike. However, they also say that cycling is still very dangerous because of the lack of cycling lanes and car drivers and motorists that are not used to cyclists in the traffic. Therefore, many cyclists use the footpath instead of the roads, which is indeed dangerous for the pedestrians. Furthermore, I have already seen a couple of groups who do a cycling tour to discover Athens by bike (see for example: http://www.meetinathens.eu/). In this way, the bicycle as a mode of transport is becoming more visible in the city center. I hope that in the future, the bike will be more popular as a mode of transport in Athens!

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Geraki, Lakonia, 2015

In the beautiful mountain village of Geraki in Lakonia, the University of Amsterdam and the VU University Amsterdam/Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have a long-running, very interesting fieldwork project. This year, material from the Early- and Middle Helladic periods were studied. Mieke Prent, Joost Crouwel (arriving later) and Els Hom coordinate a small team comprising the students Rosa Feenstra and Susanne Strijbis. Ayla Krijnen started her PhD research this year on exactly this material, and visited the site for the first time during this campaign.

Geraki Susanne Geraki ElsGeraki Ayla Geraki Ayla2  Geraki Rosa

Halos, 2015

Fieldwork and study at Halos (near Almyros), Thessaly. The Universities of Groningen and Amsterdam, in collaboration with the Greek colleagues of the Ephorate of Thessaly, have been studying Halos and its surroundings for decades. The field survey, done mainly in the nineties, is being rewalked to see if anything has changed, and to check if new methods and fresh eyes give different interpretations. In the apothiki in Almyros, a team is working through the sherds from last year’s test trenches at the Magoula Plataniótiki. These excavations showed interesting walls, and even a podium of a monumental building, but the stratigraphy was very complicated. The study of the finds will help to clarify the chronology of the site, which may well be the Classical polis of Halos.

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