The Mining of coalition a massive undertaking and when Simon visits he discovers the sheer scale of the operation and the country’s reliance on it for powering homes and businesses. Massive fields. Winter snow in Northern Greece 35 square miles 3000 workers year round 170 metres below surface.
The Process of retrieving the coal seems precarious at best with fuse wires lying haphazardly, explosives been pumped into holes and the fuse actually being lit by a match. No plunger boxes here. They have sixty seconds to zoom away in the truck before the ground explodes!
The minefields continue to grow, the surrounding villages and towns being swallowed up by it’s ravenous encroachment. Hundreds of people are being displaced and that is nothing to the environmental impact of burning Coal,which is tremendous but with so much else out of Greek Control, the fact that they have this Rich Resource is on their doorstep, the Government will obstinately use it , the environment be damned!
The sad thing is if some of the squandered Government money had been spent on Solar power, the country’s power needs could have been more than met, folk would have been able to stay in their homes and the land could have retained some of it’s rugged Beaty a little longer.
As it is the workforce is necessary to maintain employment in the region as this area has 72% Youth Unemployment, the very highest in Europe. The Government cannot afford any investment in sustainable sources now so a vicious cycle is almost ensured.
This laissez Faire attitude is never better demonstrated by the amount of spare Seatbelt clips that are sold to trick modern cars into thinking the seatbelt is done up and to stop the incessant alarms to tell driver and passenger to buckle up! The number of deaths and injuries on the roads in Greece is the highest in Europe… One does not have to ponder why. It smacks of cutting the nose off to spite the face to me! The number of Shrines along the roadside are not a quaint part of rural life but physical reminders of places where road accidents have occurred.
Christianity is still a massive force to be reckoned with even in a Modern Greece. The power of the Church is far reaching. The Orthodox Church is still huge , 90% of Greeks consider themselves Greek Orthodox . The Church is semi autonomous. Twenty Monasteries are situated on Mount Athos and they are all a thousand years old. Much of that Period Greece was under Ottoman Rule, an Empire from Turkish descent. In the 1800s Greeks battled for independence and Priests were at the forefront of that Rebellion.
They still hold massive power, for instance it is impossible to be cremated in Greece as Christian Doctrine dictates that the body should be whole for the ascension to Heaven.The Church is government paid and still shape the education curriculum.
No women are allowed on Mount Athos, and a woman has not set foot there for a thousand Years, they like the consumption of Meat is deemed too much of a temptation and distraction. It is it seems a very Austere life.
Simon is off to see some very special Monks, so at nightfall sets out for a secret rendezvous with Monk at 4:30am . The Government wants to kick them out from monastery, so they have blocked themselves in. Avoiding a police check point, a monk takes them by truck to the secret location . Men like supplies are smuggled in or out and as as day breaks they arrive.
There have been many injured pitched battles between rebels and establishment so they prefer to remain Isolated.
Led by Father Methodius a monk since he was nineteen years old who has been at the monastery for decades, they rail against the ideals of the newer Orthodox Church to try to align themselves with other factions of Christianity; Protestantism, Catholicism etc. The government supported church say these monks are now squatting and so everything has to be grown or fixed on site and all other things must be smuggled across in person.
Father Methodious proudly shows his tractor driving skills, scooping Simon and his guide up in the bucket before showing him the workshop where an ancient monk happily welds like some ageing hippy Rocker.
Simon samples their Home distilled Ouzo and declares a surprisingly smooth brew.
On the other side of the Religious coin is the sizeable and yet unspoken of Muslim contingent in the area. Many Greeks on the peninsula are ignorant to their presence. One hundred Thousand Turkish Muslims were displaced when borders were moved presenting a sizeable language barrier. This is particularly for women which is being redressed by specially arranged classes to allow women more freedom within the country.
Pavlos Georgiadis is a young Greek businessman who has retuned to Greece after extensive travel . He seeks his rural roots to to try to reenergise the Olive industry. His Grove boasts thousand year old trees and a Organic approach to Growing means he can produce high quality, premium oils for sale. He hopes that many other young Greeks will return to traditional methods applying modern ideas to regenerate the jobs market.
Much fun is had at Simon’s expense as he harvests olives with a motorised stick with a stripping implement on it, but in reality his Grove is thriving and serves as a perfect mirroring of the hope and enthusiasm of the country to revive it’s own fortunes in the face of recent government mismanagement, European interference and intrinsic values that could have been catastrophic. As Simon ends his journey as it began by the sea, I think it is safe to say that while the sun still shines, the sea still laps the sandy shores and Olives still Grow, there is much scope for Greek Optimism!