The Vice Athens Riot Tour
As a Greek living in London, I can tell you that watching your country riot itself into the ground from afar is not a pleasant experience. If you're not having nightmares about your mum drowning in baton rounds and noxious plumes of tear gas, you're feeling guilty for not getting in there and taking a few blows yourself. I'm not saying the anti-austerity protesters in Syntagma Square have it easier than me. But at least they're close enough to the problem to be able to shout and throw rocks at it.
Recently, though, my dad told me something that made me feel like less of a deserter. He said that foreigners had started to come to Athens purely to gawk at the rioting Indignados and the parts of the city they'd seen burning on TV. Some of the foreigners had even been caught up in the clashes. Finally I had something to feel self-righteously, indignantly Greek about – maybe I could milk some Euros from these idiots to help turn my homeland's beleaguered economy around?
My quest began outside Monastiraki, a flea market that is usually crawling with tourists. Unfortunately, there were no angry, gas-masked mobs pouring through the streets of Athens, but I thought I'd gather up as many people as I could here and then lead them on a tour of the city's recent riot hotspots. I don't think this is going to save my country, after all.
(from l-r): Cathy, Kate and Dan, from Philadelphia.
VICE: Hey guys, how come you're in Athens?
Dan: People To People.
What does that mean?
Dan: It's a youth organisation. Haven't you heard of it?
Nope, sorry. Do you want to go on a riot tour?
Dan: No thank you. Anything we had planned in the vicinity of the protests our reps have already cancelled.
Ah, come on!
Kate: Yeah, come on Dan.
Come on Dan. Promise I won't bite. It'll be fun!
Cathy: Our parents are worried about us.
Dan: My parents are worried about me.
Are your parents worried about you, Cathy?
I think they should let you do what you like at your age.
A group of girls, from France.
VICE: Hey lay-deez, wazzzaaaaaaaap? Would you like me to show you where all the fighting and the riots have been happening? It's really cool.
Girl #1: Which riots?
You know, the riots. Greece hasn't got any money, so people are getting angry and fighting police outside the Houses of Parliament?
You haven't heard anything about that?
Girl #2: Non, je ne sais pas.
How old are you?
Girl #1: 16.
Peter and Karol, from Germany.
VICE: Hello! Would you like to walk around Syntagma Square with me? I'll show you who all the most violent protesters are and we can go looking for the riot dog.
Peter: Thanks for the offer but we just walked down from there.
Oh, okay. How was it?
Peter: It was alright. Quite calm really. There aren't too many people there now. The dog's not around either. That was a little disappointing.
So you're here to look at the riots? Some French people I just spoke to didn't even know they'd been going on.
Peter: I think the world has the wrong idea about the French.
What do you think of the protesters?
Peter: We feel for them. People think Germans don't like Greeks, and that we don't want to give them any money, but that's not right.
I'm Greek. Do you want to give me any money? I'll see that it gets spent on food and petrol bombs for the troops.
Karol: You have a funny sign.
Will you give me any money? The French didn't give me any money.
Karol: You Greeks have such a crazy sense of humour!
Carlota, from Spain.
VICE: Hi! Would you like a tour of the protest square?
Carlota: It's right behind us. Why would I want a tour of the stupid square? I've lived in Athens for three years. Why is that guy pointing a camera at me?
He's my boyfriend, don't worry.
Oh... He's cute. Does he like your hat?
Why would you say that?
Andrew and Ben, from Australia.
Andrew: Hey, what's that?
VICE: Oh hi! You are very very Australian looking. Did you guys come to see the riots?
Ben: We bought our plane tickets before the rioting started, and it's not like we're gonna cancel them.
Were you worried about getting caught up in the violence?
Andrew: We were more worried about the public transport being out of service and us not being able to get down here to see the protests at all. We're tough guys. We can take it. We're prepared for whatever happens and we don't give a shit about our own safety.
Awesome. I'm trying to set up a tour of the square but people don't seem to wanna go on it.
Ben: Yeah, it's a square. A tour of it doesn't make much sense.
It makes more sense than coming to a riot wearing flip-flops.
A little after Andrew and Ben wandered off in their slob shoes, people began to approach me asking if they could get their picture taken with the sign. Turns out a placard on a protest square instantly turns you into part of the circus. Who knew?
This is Murf. I don't remember where he's from, but he was really nice. Here are a few more people whose holiday snaps I now grace.
Alejandra, from Spain.
Etiene, from France.
Maeve and Eric, France again.
Anonymous hipster family, from Canada.
After spending a few hours in the sizzling Greek sun, I had to retire somewhere cooler, like the beach. Before I did though, I managed to get this one accidental shot of Cathy, from the youth group earlier. Turns out she'd decided it was time to rebel against her parents and walk up to the protest square, all on her own.
Look at us. Rebels together.
As for the riot-tour-as-a-means-to-cover-our-national-debt idea, I can't say for certain if that idea's gonna work out just yet. But I did liberate one grey-haired American woman from the tyranny of her controlling parents, so I'm choosing to see the venture as a success.