BEGGARS…..SICK DOES NOT DESCRIBE

Athens has street beggars. On its most commercial street. Immediately below the Parliament building.

I walked there yesterday. Within the first four blocks, I saw five beggars.

The first three were elderly women. Marked by the absence of teeth. One or two hanging, otherwise gums. One woman was seated in the middle of the street. The street was closed off to vehicular traffic. The other two walked up to me. Each holding a a cup in hand and saying something in Greek that I could not understand. Their intent was clear, however…..Help me!

The next two were male. One without feet and the other without arms.

The one without feet was the easier of the two to handle. He was sitting with his back up against a building. His feet were missing from just above the ankles.

The armless one was gut wrenching.

I saw this man sitting on the curb. He was missing one arm from just below the shoulder. The other from just above the elbow. His arm remnants were extended. One sort of up, the shorter one at about a 25 degree angle.

At first, I thought the man was a statue. He did not seem to move. I went into a nearby doorway to observe him. He was human. He was alive. His abbreviated limbs moved on occasion. Though, slightly.

His face was disgusting. He must have been the victim of an explosion or fire. Tan and yellow skinned. Hanging flesh. His head was almost completely bald. He did have a tuft of hair on the back. Sticking straight up.

I returned to observe him closely. At a respectable distance.

His eyes. At first I thought him blind. His eyes were both to one direction and looking upward. Not moving. Then, moved slightly. He may have been of limited vision.

Clothe in rags. A small bowl in front of him for contributions.

We do not see this in the United States. Fortunately. Begging has always been a part of Greek society. It amazes me that the Greek government has never done something to help these people. Even in better economic times.

I ended up taking the longest walk of my trip. It was not intended. It just happened. I walked to the plaka. At its entrance to the side, I observed a large sign. Athens Flea Market. Why not!

The flea market was extensive. Long. Like the winding alleys of the Casbah. Once in, it was hard to find the way out. I just kept walking.

Finally, I found a side street leading directly into one of the main plaka streets. The one on the Rockefeller side, the poor side. I walked it to the bitter end. First time.

On the way back, I stopped at an outdoor café to rest. It was boiling hot. Parts of my shirt soaking wet.

I enjoyed a draft beer and observed.

I was seated with the building the Rockefeller Foundation had paid to reconstruct 500 feet to the front of me. Massive. Sits at the base of Acropolis. To my back was an archeological digging. A pretty good sized one. Many persons working. Excavating a community hidden for centuries beneath the ground. Houses, rooms and old pathways could be observed.

I also got to observe business done the Greek way. There are street hustlers everywhere. Peddling their goods to tourists. One was walking around with a handful of men’s wrist watches. He was negotiating the price with a tourist. Turned out to be a young American. The peddler wanted 20 euros for one. The American said no and counter offered. By the time the transaction was over, the American walked away with 2 watches for 10 euros.

It made me wonder. Could the watches be for real? They looked good. But at that price? I suspect the watches were devoid of innards to make them work. Or, were stolen goods and therefore any price was a profitable one.

I stopped into the Rockefeller renovated building. Sort of a museum. Saw a baby’s high chair estimated to have been built some 2,000 years before the birth of Christ. Nothing much changed in design from then to now.

Last night was a disappointment. I ate at the same café I had eaten at 4 weeks ago in the plaka. I had a terrific meal at the time. Went back for another one. Ordered the exact same thing. Even had the same waiter. Grilled egg plant and a dish of assorted grilled meats.

The meal sucked! It was terrible!

Such is life.

Enjoy your day!

2 comments on “BEGGARS…..SICK DOES NOT DESCRIBE

  1. The travelogue continues in excellent form and is most enjoyable. I do have to somewhat disagree with the statement about beggars on the USA…”We do not see this in the United States. Fortunately.”

    I was in the DC suburb of Bethesda today (a pretty high rent area)and there were two older men (one white/ one black) begging on the median of the major road. Each held signs saying they were either homeless or a homeless Vietnam Vet. They were dressed in filthy older clothes and probably spent the nights at the shelter in the area. They were beggars as well.

    I believe wherever poverty exists and inadequate mental and health care, people will be reduced to begging. America is not immune. Ironically for the veteran, this was literally Several blocks from the massive Walter Reed Military Hospital. However, when in law enforcement now some years ago I routinely came across homeless vets obviously in need to physiological treatment that had been “cut loose” from the nearest VA Hospital.

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