March to Athens
Day 175-CI, from Παλαιοχώρι to Ελευσίνα, 17 km.
Eleusis, April 30
We are veterans. We have withstood all challenges. And crossing another ridge of hills is no problem for us. We took them head on and passed into Attica in only two days.
Still, after yesterday’s long leg to a non-existing place, some people had wanted to slow down and take an unscheduled day off in the meadow.
They didn’t convince the group. It wouldn’t have been a good idea for us to spend our last resting day in a meadow while we have our entry into Athens to prepare.
Before we left, we all gathered around the old lady of the tavern. We are her little babies, and she wanted to give us some advice before we wandered on into the wide world.
Respect, love, hope and faith. We don’t have to lose any of those. If we do, it’ll be the end of the revolution.
We descend towards the sea, and oh! Only the people who have witnessed it can imagine the joy to see fair Salamis at large! I cannot help but think of the Persians.
All the Greek tragedies we know of speak about mythological or legendary subjects. All but one. The oldest surviving play, The Persians by Aeschylos, is inspired by a historical event.
More than historical, at the time it was first represented, the subject was contemporary. Aeschylos himself had participated in all three decisive battles against the Persians.
The Persian invasions of Greece happened at the turn of the fifth century BC. There were two of them, ten years apart. The first one was massive, it was led by king Darius. And even though his army was many times bigger than that of the Greeks, the invasion was repelled at the battle of Marathon. A messenger was sent out to bring the news to Athens, forty-two kilometres down the road. The inhabitants of the town were preparing for the worst, they were ready to flee. Then the messenger arrived, running, he had just enough breath left to yell ‘Victory!’, before dropping dead on the ground.
The second invasion was led by Darius’ son Xerxes. If the first one was massive in size, the second one was astronomical. According to Herodotus, the Persians numbered in the zillions. And they were not only Persians. They came from Babylonia, Egypt, Assyria, Cappadocia and every other nation that the Persians had conquered.
To make all those soldiers cross into Greece, Xerxes ordered a floating bridge to be built over the Dardanelles, connecting Europe to Asia. But the sea was wild, and the storms made it difficult to pass. They say that Xerxes wanted the sea to be lashed for not obeying his will.
The Persian army was much too big to be resisted. Nevertheless, three hundred Spartans tried to do so at the pass of Thermopylae in northern Greece. It was complete madness, but there was no alternative. A Spartan soldier may never surrender and never retreat. He may only win or die.
So they died, fighting. Up until this day there stands a sign at the Thermopylae which says ‘Stranger! Go to Sparta! And tell that we have died here, to obey her laws.’
One day I’ll go to Sparta. And even if there is no-one to hear it, I will bring the news that three hundred brave sons of Sparta died at the Thermopylae.
The Persians marched on south. They conquered Boiotia, they conquered Athens and they completely destroyed it. The only thing the Athenians could save was their navy, the ‘wooden walls’ of the city.
The Persians would have marched on to the Peloponnese. But their army was so large that it could only move if its supply lines were secure. For this, they depended on the Persian navy.
The Oracle had foretold that mighty Salamis would be the scene of Greece’s resurrection, and so it was.
With a strategem, the Greeks lured the entire Persian fleet into the narrows between the island and the mainland. Then they closed the entries and attacked. The huge numerical advantage of the Persians was cancelled out at once. Their navy had no space to manoeuver. They were caught in a trap and completely annihilated.
Salamis is a pivotal event in Greek and western history. After the battle, the bulk of the Persian army retreated. The remainder was defeated a year later at Plataea.
Aeschylos’ play is centered on the battle of Salamis. It couldn’t have been a hymn of victory, because then it wouldn’t be a tragedy. But anyway the point of view from which it is narrated is remarkable.
The protagonists of The Persians are the women in the royal palace of Susa. They are waiting for news from the front. Somewhere on the far western edge of the empire, their husbands, sons and fathers are subdueing a tiny rebellious province. They should be back soon.
Then the news of defeat comes in. Many of the men have found a sailor’s grave in the narrows of Salamis. They will never be back. At that point their world crumbles, and the Persian women join together in a heaven shaking lament of despair.
It’s a beautiful piece. It breaks your heart.
And yet, on his tomb stone Aeschylos, one of the founding fathers of theatre, didn’t want to be remembered for his plays, but for the part he played himself in the battle of Salamis.
We arrive in the mysterious town of Eleusis, at sea. We can’t see the metropolis yet, because it’s hidden by a low ridge of hills, but we can sense it’s there. The matter thickens.
In Eleusis the ancient city has turned into old rubble, and the modern city is suffering decline as well. Along the main street I count sixteen shops and bars that have gone out of business, almost half of the total. In the other streets around it, the situation isn’t very different.
When we take the square, various people come to talk to us. One of them is a girl who has finished more than one study. She speaks English and Italian. But she doesn’t have a job, and neither does she have the prospect to find one.
“I am twenty-six years old, and I don’t have any dreams.”
It’s one of the saddest things I heard since we arrived in Greece.
March to Athens
Day 174-C, from Ερυθρές to Παλαιοχώρι, 23 km.
Palaiochori, April 29
This evening many of us wanted to kill me. All because the destination of today’s leg didn’t exist.
We went up into the hills, and down into a splendid valley full of vineyards, sacred to Dionysos. Then we went up a second slope, and down into another valley. The road just went on and on.
Our destination would have been the village of Thea. It was on the map, it was on the internet, but on the ground it wasn’t there. All my fault. Some people among us even accused me of sinister manipulations. They even insinuated that I had made the village disappear on purpose.
There’s nothing else to do but walk on. We climb another hill under the hot sun, we go over twenty kilometres, and at the first signs of habitation, we stop.
There’s a tavern along the road, a place that doesn’t seem to have changed look over the last sixty years. The old lady who runs the place cedes to all her motherly instincts when she sees us arrive. She can’t offer much, but we’re not allowed to refuse. We must eat.
There’s no square here, so for first time in five months, the march takes the meadow. Some of us are overjoyed, until they hear from the neighbours that the place is frequented by snakes.
This is Greece, there is the hills and there is the sea. The country has two faces. Tomorrow we will return to the sea.
For us westerners the history of ancient Greece is also our own history. It’s a the root of our culture. But the history of modern Greece is only a branch of it. It doesn’t quite have the same impact on the world, and so outside of the country there are not many people who know the ins and outs.
Me neither. It took me years to get a general idea of all the intrigues and dark alleyways of Italian contemporary history, so I didn’t expect to get a good understanding of modern Greece in one and a half months of marching. But still, I know about the key events. It’s important to be aware of them before we march into the metropolitan area of Athens.
What Greece has in common with Spain and Italy during the 20th century is civil war.
For Spain it happened before WW2, in Italy it was a part of it and in Greece it happened after the war ended.
In all three cases it was an armed conflict between the left – mainly communists – and the right.
In early 1945, when the defeat of Nazi Germany was only a matter of time, the allies and the Soviets drew up the map of post-war Europe in Yalta.
Eastern Europe and the Balcans would go to Stalin, but Greece and Turkey would go to the west.
The Greeks themselves were not asked for their opinion.
When the Germans retreated later that year, the communists of the KKE seized the occasion to start an armed uprising against the national government.
It became a full scale civil war, and it lasted for years. The nationalists held the coast, the communists held the hills. Finally the rebels were defeated with the support of the British first, and the Americans later. Stalin didn’t care, he had relinquished his potential claim to Greece at Yalta.
The Greek civil war was the first conflict in the context of the cold war. It left its mark on the society that emerged from it. As a result, the country never found a stable peace. Tensions continued. And the ever present possibility of a new uprising, or the fear for it, were the principal reason why a group of colonels staged a coup in the late 1960s.
The repression, the cruelty, and the fact that it was all blessed by the king and tolerated by the west, has left another mark on Greece.
The countries in the north of Europe, and America itself, have all known civil strife, but by now those conflicts have been buried in the history books. In Greece, like in Italy and Spain, not yet. Because even though most people didn’t live the years of civil war, the memory of violence between citizens of the same nation is hard to extinguish. If the old wounds don’t start to bleed again, it can take a lot of generations before they finally heal.
Day 173-XCIX, from Θήβα to Ερυθρές, 13 km.
Erythres, April 28
We are on our final approach to Athens, and reinforcements keep arriving. From Italy this time, three comrades who had already participated in the march from Rome to Naples. Like lost sons and daughters they come flocking back to the tribe for the grand finale. Hopefully, they won’t be the last.
The atmosphere in the group has been very calm in the last few days. We don’t fight, but neither do we jam. It’s like everyone is coming to terms with the idea of the march ending and the family splitting up.
Another thing we have stopped doing is holding popular assemblies, or even really trying to organise them.
If there were enough interest from the public, I’m sure we would do our best to create a dialogue. But there’s a time for words and a time for deeds. And one for apathy as well. Clearly, this isn’t the time for words.
On our way through Greece we have never lacked sympathy and moral support. But only on a few exceptional occasions have the locals participated in an assembly.
What’s left to decide is our entry in Athens and the square to take. We will be in Eleusis for May day, where we’ll hold our last scheduled internal assembly of the march. From there we have four days to enter the city.
Where do we go? The general spirit of the group is pretty clear on this. Primary objective Syntagma. For its symbolic value, and because we marched for months to get here. It’s not very likely we’ll camp there, if only because it’s reflection day before the elections and any political manifestation is banned. But on the other hand, we are mad enough to try.
In the end, I think comrade Mary is right when she tells us not to worry. Like with all other important decisions, the answer will manifest itself when the time to talk about it is up.
Today we leave Thebes and we don’t look back. The road goes winding up again. In the distance we see the village of Erythres at the foot of the hills. We will have to cross those. On the other side there is the sea, and the great metropolis of Athens.
The clouds are hanging low over the peaks. To the west there is the battlefield of Plataea.
Plataea was the last of three decisive battles between the Greeks and the Persians, the appendix of the second Persian invasion.
You can imagine the dynamics of the battle from the configuration of the terrain. The Persians outnumbered the Greeks three to one. They wanted to give battle in the plain, a perfect space of manoeuvre for their cavalry.
The Greeks knew the risk. They didn’t move from their camp up the slopes. Only when the Persians menaced to encircle them did they faint a retreat. The entire Persian army went after them into the hills. At that point, the Greeks stood and fought on their own terrain, and won.
We arrive in the friendly village of Erythres. When we take the square, we are made to feel at home. People bring us food, invite us to coffee, and tell us about the depression. Life was good here, only a few years ago. Now there is no work, no money. The terraces of the village bars around our camp are empty.
Erythres will see better days, surely. The villagers go proud of their hospitality, but they warn us that things could get rough in the square. The people of Erythres are said to be stubborn as the Greeks who resisted the Persians, and as a small tribe of Gauls who resisted the Romans.
“Sometimes this place is like the village of Asterix and Obelix.”
Day 172-XCVIII, Θήβα.
Thebes, April 27
The episode of the sphinx and the riddle comes from the story of Oedipus. The answer is man. As a baby he crawls, as an adult he walks upright and as an old man he uses a cane.
Oedipus gave the right answer and slew the sphinx. Thebes was liberated from a big nuisance to her traffic, and Oedipus was hailed as a hero. He married the princess, he inherited the throne, and they lived happily ever…
Or did they?
Thebes has a very prominent place in Greek tragedy. As a matter of fact, the ancient city was cursed from the moment that its founder Cadmus killed a dragon that was sacred to the war god Mars. He, and all his offspring, would suffer for it.
The three great ancient playwrites have dedicated various of their plays to the tragic history of Thebes.
Only a couple of dozen of their works have survived, but still Aeschylos, Sophocles and Euripides (in that order) are at the basis of theatre, and by extension cinema. Building on the ancient poet who sings the exploits of great heroes, they added more characters, a choir, and in doing so they invented a whole new way of storytelling.
Today their works stand out for their narrative force and inventiveness just like they did when they were written. They are truly ‘classic’, in the sense that they are perpetually contemporary.
Of the three, Euripides is probably the most appealing author, because of the profound humanity of his characters, and his timeless insight into their motives, strengths and weaknesses. They say that Sophocles himself admitted to this. “I paint my characters the way they should be. Euripides paints them the way they are.”
The Oedipus Rex by Sophocles tells the true story behind king Oedipus’ apparent fairytale exploits. Not in a lineary fashion, as they happened, but in restrospect.
The public knows the entire story from the start. All events are in the past. There is no way to avoid them.
The real tragedy of Oedipus Rex is not the horrible facts as they were foretold and consumed, but the way the main protagonist slowly finds out about them.
Oedipus is king. Thebes is subject to a horrible plague. Before they will lift it, the gods demand that a certain mysterious murder which happened years before is solved. It’s the start of a reconstruction of the facts.
Step by step, Oedipus begins to realise that all the years of apparent happiness were only an illusion. As a spectator or as a reader you suffer along with him while he becomes ever more desperate to cling on to any hope that the truth isn’t true. Finally, when the last shred of doubt has evaporated, he goes mad, he blinds himself and wanders off ravingly into the world.
Oedipus was born the son of the king and queen of Thebes, and the oracle had predicted that this unlucky prince would kill his father and marry his mother.
Fate is the central theme of Greek tragedy. No-one can escape fate. Not even the gods. Tragic heroes are those who try to do so nevertheless. In the end they realise that their effort to avoid fate was exactly what made fate accomplish itself.
When Oedipus’ parents learned about the curse, they abandoned their child to the wolves. They didn’t have the courage to wait and watch. So they didn’t know that the child was saved by a shepherd and brought to Corinth, where he grew up as a prince.
One day, Oedipus finds out about his fate. He decides never to go back to Corinth, because he is convinced that his step parents are his real parents.
Instead he goes to Thebes. On the road he kills a man that had failed to give him the right of way. Then he slays the sphinx and marries the princess.
During the reconstruction he finds out that he was a native of Thebes all along, that the man he killed was his father the king, and that the princess was his mother.
For Thebes it was only the first of many other tragedies to follow. Aeschylos, in his Seven Against Thebes, had already narrated the sequel. The two sons – and half brothers – of Oedipus inherited the throne and decided to reign alternately, a year each. At the end of the first year, Eteocles refuses to step down in favour of his brother Polynices. To claim his right, Polynices scrambles an army to attack Thebes. Each of the city gates is assigned to a great hero, and on the seventh gate the brothers confront each other in person.
They both die in combat. The throne befalls to their uncle Creon, who decides that only Eteocles has the right to a decent burial. The body of Polynices is to be left to the dogs. Those who try to bury him are to be put to death as well.
Only one person challenges cruel Creon’s supreme disrespect for the dead. Antigone, sister of the two fallen brothers.
In the homonymous play by Sophocles, the stubborn pride of Creon and the brave disobedience of Antigone finally lead to the complete and utter destruction of the royal house of Thebes.
All the while, blind Oedipus wanders the world. Everywhere he goes, people chase him away as a bringer of bad luck. Much worse than death, his divine penalty is a long life of sufferance.
Just before he died, Sophocles wrote a sequel to his Oedipus Rex. It was called Oedipus at Colonus, and it was first represented posthumously. It’s a touching piece about aging, remorse, madness, and love.
The true heroin of the play is once again Antigone. She is the only person in the world who hasn’t abandoned Oedipus. With loving dedication she guides her father and half brother through the darkness to his final resting place. Colonus, where Sophocles himself was born.
Apart from the legend, also in history itself, Thebes is a cursed place.
She sided with the Persians against her great rival Athens during the invasion of Xerxes, and she would pay for it dearly. It was only due to the subsequent rivalry between Athens and Sparta that Thebes was able to regain importance, and finally live a brief season of dominance under her great general Epaminondas in the twilight years of the city state.
Finally, the fate of the city was sealed by Alexander.
After the decisive defeat of the Greek city states at Chaeronea, the Thebans still dared to rise up against their Macedonian overlords.
Alexander decided he would turn the city into an example for all of Greece. He ordered Thebes to be razed to the ground. According to tradition, the only building he wanted to be left was the house of the poet Pindar.
In modern Thebes, you can still find some lone rocks here and there with a sign that says ‘archeological site’. It doesn’t amount to much. Alexander’s troops did a good job.
The new city is built on the same hill as the ancient one. In the absence of significant landmarks there are no tourists. Instead there is a quarter with some old houses and a lot of immigrants. The place feels authentic. It’s a city on a human scale. But even though true misery isn’t directly visible, Thebes is definitely suffering.
I see countless empty shop windows all over town. Shoe stores, fashion stores, grocers, bakers. For lack of customers with purchasing power they have all closed. What remains is a sign that says ‘for rent’. ‘Ενοικιαζεται’, you find that word wherever you go.
The middle class is fading away, the downtown shopping district is slowly becoming a wasteland and foreign-owned discount malls are sprouting up like sphinxes on the outskirts of town to cash in on the crisis.
Thebes has suffered disasters of much greater magnitude in her long history. But always people kept faith that a hero would come along to save the day.
Nowadays, it seems like people here have lost all hope that something or someone can still save them.
Day 171-XCVII, from Αλίαρτος to Θήβα, 21 km.
Thebes, April 26
Aliartos is a ribbon town. It used be built along the shore of the Boiotian lake. Now it’s built along the road. When the hills fade away in the dark, it feels a bit like Holland, if only for the murmur of the poplars in the wind.
It’s a dreary place, and so it’s good to move on.
Before we did, I called for a briefing to rally the troops, and because this particular route could harbour an unexpected pitfall.
Today we march on glorious Thebes, city of Seven Gates!
It’ll be a long walk, and a potentially dangerous one. Because, even though it’s not very likely, it’s always possible that today you will encounter a sphinx.
If so, the sphinx will block your way and give you a riddle.
If you give her the right answer she will let you pass.
Should you fail to do so she will devour you in a single gulp.
Now, I don’t know what riddle the sphinx could give you, but I can tell you of a famous one.
Undoubtedly many of you know the answer. Do not utter it until you have found refuge within the sacred walls of Thebes, so that the people who don’t know it have a chance to find out.
This is the riddle.
‘Which creature moves on four legs in the morning, on two legs in the afternoon, and on three legs in the evening?’
Think about it. And if today on the road to Thebes you do encounter the sphinx… then for heaven’s sake give her the right answer! Bon route.”
It was hard. The valley proved that she can be a very hostile place. There was a blistering sun and hardly any shadow along twenty kilometres of national road.
“The worst leg in Greece,” several people agreed. The final entry into the city was all uphill. We suffered, and it was good that we did. It boosts the spirit.
So we made it to Thebes, we took the citadel. The sphinx never showed up.
On the square it turns out we have competition. It’s the communists. They claim the public square, as if it were theirs! They are building a stage for a rally tonight, and their information point is just closing for the siesta. We don’t need an assembly to claim the public square as our own. When the communists return, they find their information point under siege.
It’s an amusing scene. Old worn out tents around a wooden shed with red pamphlets all over it. The communists don’t like it. They don’t want us to put up banners. They threaten to call the police.
Hilarity among us. That would be just fine! We put up a couple of cardboards with symbols of anarchy and direct democracy. We don’t like the communists either.
In practice, we’re just teasing. Our ideology is love, peace and harmony. We soon retreat some of the tents and respect each other’s claim to the public space.
But on the other side there is the church. Our tents are in front of it, and the clerics don’t like it. Police come, they say we have to move. In the meantime the communists, old, young, and in between, start to assemble for the rally. We break part of our camp and occupy strategic positions all around the square. A handful of tents remain to guard the church, the others have surrounded the small crowd of communists in the center.
Loud speakers have been put up. Classic marching music is sounding over the square, complete with recorded applause at the end. Red flags are handed out. They feature the hammer, the sickle and the ‘KKE’.
We dance to their music. A cleric steps out of the church. He notices the ‘666‘ on one of the tents, he raises his arms in horror and quickly turns back inside. In the midst of everything, we enjoy ourselves.
The communists start their ritual. It’s made up of sermons, music and chants. I walk around the square and I wonder who is most ridiculous here. The clerics in their long black robes, the communists with their red flags and marching music, or us with our tents and our slogans on cardboard.
For some reason, I don’t think it’s us.
Day 169-XCV, from Λιβαδειά to Αλαλκομενές, 13 km.
Day 170-XCVI, from Αλαλκομενές to Αλίαρτος, 14 km.
We have entered the fertile valley of Boiotia, the clouds have finally gone and now the sun makes it feel like summer. We march to the tiny village of Alalkomenes, where you see more tractors on the street than cars.
There is one bar which looks like it has closed twenty years ago. Next to it there are the remainders of a gas station from the nineteen-sixties. The old homes of the peasants are either in ruin, or in use as hen houses or sheds. The former water tower is being consumed by creepers. In between it all, there are modern concrete homes, slowly supplanting the old village.
Opposite the ancient gas station, and right next to a rusty tractor, there is a little square where we camp.
After a couple of days of meditative silence in the group, it was exactly what we needed. Fresh blood.
“How did you find us?”
“Easy. The route was published on the internet.”
Indeed it was. Something is working out well with our march, and it bears fruit. In the March on Brussels we had a dozen people working in ‘Communication’, but no-one on the outside really knew anything about where we were or where we were going.
I take a sunset walk through the fields.
The variety of beauty in Greece is really overwhelming. The valley of Boiotia is another example of this. It has a splendid natural configuration. You can imagine it as a giant pussy.
The valley has a long oval shape, it’s dominated on the far end by Mount Parnassus and it’s closed by two ridges of mountains visible from all over the plain. You can see them converge in the distance. Over the mountains, on both sides, there is the sea.
Fresh water comes running down the slopes into the valley. There is no lack of it here. In fact, of old there used to be a lake in the center of the valley. We are walking across its former shores.
The lake was drained at the end of the 19th century by a British company. Back then, just like today’s bridge to the Peloponnese, the terrain was private property of the foreign investors. Only in the 1950s the polders of Boiotia were returned to the Greek government.
It has been ten days, and still Mount Parnassus is visible in the distance. When it has absorbed the setting sun, I return to the village. In front of one of the houses there is a family enjoying the evening cool. They wink me over, a daughter called Freedom speaks English and translates. They want to know everything about the march, about Holland. And they tell me about old Boiotia.
It takes all evening. A bottle of tsipouro and homemade spinach cake are brought to the table. They induce me to eat and to drink. They are proud to speak about the valley.
The history of this place is so vast that it goes way back beyond everything we know from written records. You almost get the feeling that this is where things started.
Ancient tales speak of a golden age when man lived peacefully and happily in harmony with nature for countless generations. After the golden age came strife and war and corruption, followed by the great cataclysm, when Zeus ordered the waters to swallow the world and only Deucalion and Pyrrha could save themselves on the peak of Mount Parnassus.
The lake was one of the remainders when the waters retreated. And all around it, the valley flourished again.
The Boiotians claim the great hero Hercules to be their own, as well as Cadmus, founder of Thebes, of whom they say that he brought the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge from Phoenicia to Greece – the alphabet.
Also Dionysos, the horny god of wine, and the cult of Mother Earth, are native of Boiotia, so they say. The locals even claim their valley to be the birth place of the men who are at the root of our written history. Doubtfully great Homer, and more realistically Hesiod, author of the Theogony, one of the first accounts of the genesis of the world, dating from the Greek middle ages.
“Boiotia far precedes Athens. The territory of Athens is dry and unfavourable to agriculture. That’s why they set out with their ships. Before the age of navigation, fertile Boiotia was the throbbing heart of Greece.”
Still, as I walk through the fields, I’m sad. There are only a handful of people living here to work all the terrain with mechanical means.
Sterile seeds from corporations, artificial fertilizers, pesticides. Miles and miles of plastic irrigation tubes which last only one season. Complete dependency on oil.
We have come to treat Mother Earth as a whore, I think.
For thousands of years the valley of Boiotia was worked by small communities of farmers, until very recently, only a generation or two ago. You can still see the traces of those days fading away.
I’m not at all against appropriate use of technology. But I’m convinced that part of this revolution should be the re-establishment of a direct link between human society and the land. This is where our food comes from. This is what we live off in the end. Money is just an invention.
Sustainability means respect and love for Mother Earth who nurtures us. And respect for the earth means respect for ourselves and for our offspring.
Day 168-XCIV, Λιβαδειά.
Livadia, April 23
The appropriate word in Spanish is gilipollas.
‘Idiots’, ‘dickheads’, ‘assholes’. The word can also be used affectionately. But not in this case.
Some people among us are truly gilipollas. Not all the time though, only when they drink. Then they ruin everything for all of us, and for the locals too.
Yesterday evening it went down again. We had a fabulous party in the square together with a group of youngsters who had given us a warm welcome here in Livadia. They had brought wine and tsipouro, they had installed a stereo for music, and they put up a canvas against the sun.
At two in the morning most people had already gone to sleep and those who didn’t were having a good time. It lasted until two of our comrades reached the three conditions necessary for going wild.
One is a given quantity of alcohol, two is the predisposition to go mad under the influence of one, and three is a reason to serve as a spark. When one and two are present, three will follow. Anything will do.
This time, it was paranoia. Fear for police infiltration. Two of the French among us saw someone of the locals taking notes, and they accused him of being with the secret police.
It was complete bull shit. But it ended the party.
First thing, I wondered, why on earth would police want to infiltrate our march? We are much too insignificant for them, and we have proven that we are perfectly capable of ruining things ourselves. We don’t need infiltrators to lend us a hand.
Second thing, everything that was written down could be found in our flyer. The same basic info we want everybody to know suddenly turned into a reason to become suspicious and aggressive.
Third thing. Police had already come by when we put up our camp. They were most kind. They soon left us alone. And even if one of them were present at night, we could have just partied on, ignoring him.
No. We gave a most horrible image to a group of people who had been genuinely glad that we were there. When two of us started their little act, the locals shut down the music, they put away their stuff, and after a brief exchange of accusations, they left.
Then the agressors turned against the rest of us, mainly against the Spanish. They shouted racist insults for quite a while. Then one of them broke up his tent at five a.m. and left the march.
It has been one time too many. It makes me wonder what the hell I am still doing here. All I really want is to run off with my little princess from Agrinio and live happily ever after.
Then I encounter Max. He is close to tears. He has interrupted his studies in Brussels to put all his efforts into this march. Twenty-four hours a day, for almost six months.
Then I encounter José Miguel. He shrugs his shoulders. With the same patience as always he has tried to calm the spirits yesterday night. And today he starts all over, making copies of our flyers, talking to the locals, trying to organise a popular assembly.
I can’t leave these people. They are the true heroes of this march, and not only them. Most of us are.
We will arrive in Athens, damned. Even if we have to cross the Tartarus to get there.