May Day = Mayday!

3 May

Labor Day in America means barbecues and that last chance to soak up some sun at the shore before the work year commences.  Labor Day in Greece is an entirely different ballgame altogether.  I don’t mean that they prefer soccer to baseball (though they do).  Their Labor Day is May Day, or May 1st, or International Worker’s Day.  Basically, May Day means, as does nearly every other holiday in Greece, “Let’s break out the signs and start a riot!”

May Day landed on a Saturday this year, which probably wasn’t the most opportune day for all those workers who wanted a day off.  That’s like when Rosh Hashanah landed on a weekend when I was growing up.  What’s the point of spending the day outside the sanctuary talking with your friends in formal wear for 5 hours if you’re not getting the day off from school to do it?  For me, this past Saturday was nothing more than a sunny 77˚ day.  It’s just starting to get warm enough in Greece to hit the beach, and so I spent all last week tracking the weather and getting excited for the high weekend temps.  As someone who spent 4 years attending university in Los Angeles, I was getting pretty frustrated with the level of paleness my skin managed to achieve throughout the winter months, and was in dire need of some UV rays.  As soon as Saturday morning rolled around, I jumped out of bed, hopped in the shower, and pulled on a bikini and sundress before boarding the bus to the metro line.  And that’s where things got a little tricky.

The bus and metro rides went as planned, and we disembarked at Syntagma station ready to catch the tram to Glyfada, a coastal town.  We climbed the stairs out of the metro station to find the streets surrounding Syntagma square, the central hub of Athens, blocked with a large marching group of Athenians.  They chanted and held up signs, plowing through the streets like patriotic Americans on July 4th.  Except this parade of sorts was anti-government, and lined with policemen standing strong and in large numbers behind body-length plastic shields, just waiting for a Molotov cocktail to be thrown their way.  We eyed the march, noticed the police, and snapped a picture for the books.  In Athens, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Then we noticed the main street was blocked off.  We were a little concerned, but saw that the tram lane was still without interruption, and regained some hope.  We joined the growing crowd waiting at the tram stop, and figured that if these local Greeks were waiting for the tram, it must be coming.

We were wrong.  After an hour of waiting (and soaking up some sun, at least) we headed for the metro.  Not ones to give up, we figured we would take a metro as far as we could toward the beach and then grab a bus the rest of the way.  Luckily, I happened to ask someone at the information desk which buses we could take, and found out that if we took the red-line metro 2 more stops, we could catch the tram there.  Turns out because of May Day, the tram was avoiding Syntagma, but was still running per usual the rest of the regular route.  Americans – always the last to know.  So, no sooner than at the stroke of 3pm, we arrived at the tram stop ready for the beach and officially sick of the protests.

The day wasn’t an entire loss.  At the tram stop, we randomly met up with some friends who also happened to be going to the beach, and joined them for a day of fun in the sun.  The sun didn’t set until around 8pm, and so we had a good few hours of lounging by the sea before feasting on a seaside meal at the nearby beach taverna.  I didn’t get as tan as I would have liked, but I managed to work up a nice base.  The best part of the maritime refuge?  Unlike Athens, where the people still dress in leather jackets and boots in summertime weather (they dress for the season, no matter how hot it is) and ooze pent-up anger for the government at every street corner, people by the sea waltz around in loose, springtime clothing without so much as a care, other than where their paddleball paddles have gone.

It’s nice to get away from it all.  It’s just a damn shame it takes about 3 hours and a year’s worth of stress to do it.

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One Response to “May Day = Mayday!”

  1. marion mintzer May 23, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    Your grandparents sent me one of your Emails. Allison,
    you write beautifully. I enjoyed it so very much. Many
    years ago my husband and I went to Greece. I feel happy
    for you and this adventure. Enjoy the sun where ever you go. Marion Minter

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