Day 2, Athens Bus Terminal: Scenes from the Age of Austerity

Bus terminals are generally filthy places. There’s usually no incentive to “keep up appearances” of cleanliness or courteousness. This is the first foreign feeling place I’ve so far visited in Europe; the rest are some variation on the homogeneity of America’s tourist destinations: shops that stock the same trinkets, drinks, and packaged foodstuffs. I know this is going to make me sound like a bleeding-heart liberal weenie, but the Athenian bus terminal felt really little-a authentic and capital-L Local. There weren’t puffy Americans with children in huge cargo shorts wolfing unpardonably bland souvlaki and fries.

Instead, there was a dingy coffee shop with a to-go style counter, a convenience store, and a half-dozen shuttered storefronts. A vendor sold sausages from a cooler kept closely in tow. Young women perspired and drank iced coffee. A family of gypsies dispersed themselves in the crowd—the father selling counterfeit sunglasses, the mother some toys. A teenaged son hawked a solitary gold bracelet, and a very young girl, no older than eight, went from person to person cooling herself with an oriental fan in a field-demonstration of her wares. On the floor were stray dogs, a ragamuffin caste of untouchables lazing in warm sun light.

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