In Greece and many countries in the world, August is a dead month.
There are no job fairs, no abundance of flats for rent and no students starting a new semester of school. In the United States, these things are typically in full swing with the expectation of fall — companies want new workers settled into new positions by September, property renovations are complete for new tenants, and many start school by mid-August to allow a month’s break in winter.
In Athens and Thessaloniki, residents slowly take their exodus to islands and villages, and big streets like Vas. Sofias are nearly empty* by the Dormition of the Theotokos, and incidents of illegal racing and car stunts make headlines.
*With austerity and unemployment now at 27.8 percent, cities are now less empty.
For me, the best part is everything I mention in “Give me a break!” comes close to a screeching silence.
Dogs have gone to bark in the village, kids scream in someone else’s yard, doors slam, forks clink-clink and people gossip on balconies elsewhere, the man next door is farting in his stone house on Crete, and the rude dudes who talk in full voice at 3:00 a.m. are under some other poor sap’s window. Karpouzia trucks and paliatzi scavengers only come around once a week. You didn’t think they’d go away completely, did you?
Add to that ample parking, neighbors don’t steal my magazine, no dirty water from above falling on my clean window, less garbage on the street, less grids catching fire to thwart our ADSL, and it’s nearly a decent neighborhood! There are also fewer interruptions, so I get more work done.
Of course the cons of a mass exodus are obvious — it’s slim pickings.
Buses and trolleys are on a skeletal schedule, which means it’s just as crowded and odorous.
Chain stores are open with dour looking employees to tolerate you. But the good manabis has left, our favorite guys at the laiki are missing, the periptero is closed, there’s a dearth of Greek news, and the second-rate bakeries we usually ignore year round get our patronage for a few days until they also abandon ship.
Then there’s the matter of takeaway for my Greek counterpart. He came home at 23:00 one night wanting food and found the souvlaki, pizza, Mexican and Chinese places all closed. This impacts me because he cannot cook, so that means I sweat it out in our lovely 35°C kitchen (thankfully we’ve since moved).
The worst part is many people leave behind their pets. Our ex-landlord left food for his dog, but we took it upon ourselves to refill his water and let him inside to escape the burning sun. His fate is unknown after we moved, and now all I see are panting kittens around the neighborhood and howling dogs on balconies.
Now it’s a countdown. Two days until the souvlaki guys come back, three days until the manabis returns and seven days until we say adios to August! Unfortunately, many of my neighbors have returned. How do I know? The noise is once again interminable.