I Just Got A Ride To My Hotel In Athens, And BOY Was It Depressing

Greek taxi driver

Photo: Business Insider

ATHENS, GREECE — After about 20 hours of door-to-door travelling from New York, I’ve finally arrived at my hotel in Athens, which is about two blocks away from Syntagma Square, the square in the centre of the city where you see all the protesting.Sure, it’s a cliché to get the pulse of the city from a cab driver, but when you’re in a cab, and the driver is eager to talk about the election (coming this Sunday), the economy, and the future of the Eurozone, why not?

First of all, something about the ride itself. It was a beautiful drive near the airport. According to George—the driver—a year or two ago the ride would have taken an hour. Now, with the economic collapse, and the attendant drop in traffic, it only took 25 or 30 minutes.

greeceThe mountains outside the Athens airport

Photo: Business Insider

George’s situation seemed particularly dire. At age 40 he’s been forced to move back in with his parents, after seeing his wages collapse 75 per cent during the crisis. His brother is divorced, has two kids, and has been unemployed for a year.Just hearing about all that is depressing enough, but his assessment of things was terrible.

Athens, he said, is now like a ‘ghost city.’

“You don’t see anyone smile … only the crazy people”

“The good days are over,” he said, and it sounded like he thought they were over for good.
So how will it all end? Here his vision took a very grim turn.

“If political history is truth … Around us, we will have a war.”

communist poster greeceA communist party poster hangs in the centre of Athens.

Photo: Business Insider

He pointed out that WWI and WWII both involved economic collapse and the Germans.”This is the third time.”

Note, we wouldn’t necessarily put a lot of stock in the geopolitical predictions of the man on the street, but suffice it to say in most places, in most times, most people don’t think they’re on the eve of a major war.

As for this Sunday’s election, he’s voting for the left-wing SYRIZA party, whom he thinks will win.

He’s disgusted at the PASOK and New Democracy leaders who shepherded Greece into the crisis.

Referring to the former Prime Minister, he said: “If I saw Papandreou in the road, I would hit him.”

For my earlier observations from my layover in Spain, see here >

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.