I go online to get my news here in Naousa -- no TV at home! -- but I obviously need to do a better job. When I arrived at the Thessaloniki bus station Saturday AM, there was no #12 bus waiting to take me to my destination. Not a single city bus in sight. The drivers were on strike -- a good thing for taxis, even though the 23-year-old driving me did not not see the situation that way. "Rather not get a ride than benefit from others' misery." They call that "filotimo" here.
2300 bus drivers are not so sympathetic, as they have not been paid for July or August. The bus company is privately held, but receives a per passenger subsidy from the government which I heard had been cut. The matter is apparently in the courts. Mayor Ioannis Boutaris is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Here hard to know anything for sure, that's how complicated and depressed things are.
Sunday being the last day of the 81st Thessaloniki International Fair, city officials put some buses into circulation. Traffic was a mess. Thankfully I was in the village of Koimisis, near Serres. Nice long, quiet walk around town Sunday night -- which is one reason why I love villages. Women were chatting at a gyro sandwich place. Men were quietly watching a soccer match on TV. But Monday it was back to reality, and the strike continues.
Thessaloniki is a town of a half million people. It's not clear what tomorrow will bring for working people and students struggling to get places. Who wants to drive their own car with gas at about $6 a gallon? Thursday and Friday the ferries will also be on strike, while the Shipping Ministry is deploying a vessel to Lesvos to provide housing for some of the migrants again homeless after a bad fire in an overcrowded hot spot. Many Greeks meanwhile are not taking kindly to the assimilation of so many foreign kids into the already stressed public school system. There are still over 60,000 refugees in Greece, including 20K unaccompanied children. Prime Minister Tsipras just made his case at he UN, but will anything immediately tangible come of it?
Oh, did I mention that the Egnatia Road -- one of Greece's biggest and newest highways, which cost 6.5 billion Euros to build & has 50 million Euros in annual revenues -- is on sale for 100 million Euros? It's part of the deal with the infamous Creditors. Nothing big financially can happen without permission from THEM...not even, I might add, promises made by the New Democracy opposition party a few days ago.
Maybe those Creditors can get Thessaloniki buses running again, if you know what I mean. Why not?
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.