Take the BridgePosted: April 7, 2012
Day 152-LXXVIII, from Αντίρριο to Πάτρα, 12 km.
We keep crossing the sea, one way or another. By ferry, by launch, by dike, and today by bridge.
The small village of Antirrio is completely overshadowed by the enormous four pillar hang bridge spanning two and a half kilometres of sea straight.
As a revolutionary and as a romantic, I would say that I don’t like this bridge. I don’t like the fast way of life that it represents. I would prefer the old ferries and the view. But on the other hand, it’s a fascinating piece of human engineering. And so I admire it. There’s no other way.
The same applies to many other titanic expressions of contemporary society. Skyscrapers, aircraft carriers, AEGIS cruisers, space shuttles, Imperial Star Destroyers. They all represent a society that I despise, but hell they are cool.
The bridge is named after 19th century Greek politician Charilaos Trikoupis, who first envisioned its construction. It took more than a hundred years for his dream to come true. The bridge was finished in time for the Olympics in Athens in 2004.
The Greeks that have come with us told me that the bridge should have been built forty years earlier. They say it has been paid for many times over by the Greek tax payer, but every time the money disappeared and the bridge never got built.
Now the bridge is owned by a private company which is mainly French, and the Greeks have to keep on paying to be able to pass it. The fees are crazy.
Fortunately for pedestrians it’s free. We arrive with our shopping carts in the early afternoon, after the local youth music band had played us a farewell tribute. Police arrive, there are lenghty discussions with the company officials. All they need to do is open a gate for us to pass by the pedestrian lane. But it takes time. The company has to give its consent.
In the end we lose our patience. While police is still making calls, we decide in a lightning assembly to carry all our trolleys up the stairs to bypass the gate. We take the bridge by force.
Police try to stop us. But there is no way for a couple of officers to resist a powerful phalanx of shopping carts.
“Stop right there!”
“We will only stop when we get to Athens!”
And so we cross the sea, police and the company have to give in. They close the right hand lane and escort us to the other side, to the Peloponnese peninsula.
We are awaited by a handful of comrades from Patras. They accompany us to the central square. Police doesn’t even show up. I never thought they would. As I understand from the Greeks I talk to, only in Athens police are real bastards, and meant to be. In the rest of Greece, they are pretty relaxed. When asked, they show us the way to the square.