I landed in Greece late yesterday evening and went out immediately to try and talk to the people queueing to get their money out of banks.
A few young Greeks helped me find a cash machine directly right of a building on Sofocleous Street, which until just a few years ago was home to the Athens stock exchange.
I asked them if they were locals and got a great response: “Yes. And we’re proud!”
The queue at the machine wasn’t actually too long — there were probably about 30 people. There were longer, snaking queues at other machines we drove past in the city. This was past 11 p.m., but the place is still buzzing at that time. I asked if anyone spoke English and wanted to talk to a journalist.
The one man that approached me said that the situation was the result of “Zionists.” My phone was out of battery by the time I got to the ATM, so I wasn’t able to record the conversation (though I’m not sure he would have liked that much anyway).
He blamed “Rothschilds” for the crisis, adding “we Greeks are Hellenic, the people of light. Now we only have a little light, not like in ancient times. They are trying to put us out.”
“It’s not the fault of German people, it’s not the fault of European people. You have to get to the source… they want to crush Greece.”
He said that the City of London was the base of the Rothschilds and Zionists, and that they ran the Federal Reserve too. He didn’t give me his name. I didn’t ask how he planned to vote in the upcoming referendum, or which Greek political parties he liked, but I could have guessed.
It was clear from the people shaking their heads a little behind him that not everyone agreed, but nobody else wanted to talk — understandably, they were more preoccupied with getting their money out.
People seemed on edge, even a little bit scared. A helpful Dutch girl waiting for her friends said no-one knew when banks would re-open, or which ATMs would have money tomorrow.
Some 20 metres away, it was a completely different story. There was an open-air party in a courtyard, with young people drinking and smoking. It could have been anywhere else in Europe and there was no sense that anything strange was going on at all.
A lot of the street I’m staying on seemed the same. The tills are ringing, young people are drinking and the restaurants were full until the early hours of the morning. The contrast between that and the tension of the queues to get cash was stark.
I’m not sure how long that can all last if there’s a severe shortage of cash.
Here’s a picture of Monastiraki, near my hotel, at around midnight, with a view of the Acropolis on top of the hill behind. It certainly didn’t look to me like a place hovering on the edge of a financial abyss:
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