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19 avril 2012 4 19 /04 /avril /2012 12:05


“The Infernal Ascent to Delphi”

In March to Athens on 18 April 2012 at 19:49

March to Athens

Day 163-LXXXIX, from Ιτέα to Δελφοί, 16 km.


Delphi, April 18


Dear people,


It has been raining all night, and yesterday all through the day the scirocco had been blowing, the southeastern wind of which they say it can make you go nuts if you are exposed to it for too long.

As a result of this we found our tents covered with the fine dust of the desert this morning. I took it as a good sign. Today is a great day.

The march and the marchers according to comrade Antonella

 Along the road some of us have come to me repeatedly to ask about our route through the mountains. They wanted to be reassured. But instead of tranquilising their anxiousness, I always did the exact opposite. I told everyone that it was going to be hell.

 Now that we were finally there I called for a route briefing just before we set out. I like to rally the troops whenever there is a good reason for it. As usual I did so in Italian. It went something like this.

Yours truly on the docks of fair Itea. Photo by comrade Ali.

“Dear comrades,


Today we leave the sea. Take a good look at her. On the opposite side, high above us in the clouds, towers the snowy peak of Mount Parnassus.

The ancients narrate that when the waters invaded all the world, it was up there that Deucalion and Pyrrha, the last survivors of man kind, found refuge.

And it was from up there, at the end of global holocaust, that they descended back into the valley to restart the circle of life.

In the shadow of mighty Mount Parnassus there was founded the sacred town of Delphi, the belly button of the world.

Today, we, the March to Athens, will do the terrifying, the infernal, the PAN-DE-MO-NI-AL ascent to Delphi!

Yet however hard it will be, I can assure you that once you get up there you will realise that all your efforts have been worth it. Bon route.

The road to Delphi

The road is more than one today. There’s the national road that most people take, there’s a secondary road, and there is the ancient, three thousand year old trail.

You won’t be surprised that I took the trail.

It’s another of the reasons why I prefer to walk with a bagpack instead of a trolley. The trail can only be trotten on foot.

It could have been truly infernal, because the weather menaced more rain. But the gods were benevolent to us. It became by far the most thrilling leg I ever walked up until today.


The first few chilometres went across the olive groves. The small plain of Itea is completely covered by them. When you start your ascent, you can see them from above. It’s a giant mint green lake, with sporadic cypresses rising up from it.

Comrade Aristocrates

At a certain point of the route you can see two legs into the past, to Itea and Galaxidi, and two legs into the future, to Delphi and Arachova.

Delphi is built high up a steep slope of mountain. Arachova is further up, almost touching the sky. You sense eternity all around. There’s no trash or any other sign of modern times, only the excrements of the goats. You walk slowly to absorb every single impression. You can feel the presence of the satyrs and the nymphs, discretely spying from behind the shrubberies to see who comes to disturb their peace.

But not only mythical figures are present on this trail. The wind brings you the echoes of many an ancient traveller’s footsteps.

Kings and nobles, mortals and heroes have past by this trail throughout the centuries. They arrived from sea at Kirra, and they walked all the way up, to interrogate the famous oracle on all pressing matters of life, great and small.

They saw more or less the same panorama that I’m witnessing today on all sides.

The beetle and the shit

I walk on, winding through the flowering fields, climbing the rocks, holding still in the shadow of a lone tree or a small sanctuary.

Everything in this place is mythical. The only living creature I consciously encounter on the route, except for comrade Aristocrates, is a beetle. As if he were Sisyphus, he is rolling an enormous piece of shit straight up the hill.


Arrival in Delphi


Parked in the square


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18 avril 2012 3 18 /04 /avril /2012 14:35

To Everything there is a Season

In March to Athens on 17 April 2012 at 16:51

March to Athens 

Day 162-LXXXVIII, from Γαλαξίδι to Ιτέα, 17 km.


Comrade Aristocrates, making notes

Itea, April 17


Dear people,


The road is only one. As long as you make sure you have the mountains to your left and the sea to your right you are going in the right direction.

But sometimes, there is a small trail going parallel to the road on the seaboard. Whenever it’s there, I follow the trail.

I sit down on a rock to take a break. Days are growing longer, and it don’t feel the need to hurry. It’s hazy today. The small islands and the coast are shrouded in mystery. From far down the path an old man comes walking up.

He speaks a bit of English, among other languages, because he used to be a sailor on a cargo ship. He is not the first sailor I have met along the waterside. The fate and history of Greece is inextricably connected to the sea.

Huey, Dewey and Louie on the docks of Galaxidi

When asked I say I come from Rotterdam. And of course, the old sailor knows the place. The largest port of Europe, the world, and probably the entire galaxy. He has been there many times. He has sailed the seven seas, he has called at all major Atlantic ports from Boston to Buenos Aires.

As a sailor he knows the world mainly from the other side of the mirror. Now he is retired, forced to spend his twilight days as a landlubber. But the sea keeps calling. That’s why he’s here. He looks out over the water, his gaze is used to spot only the thin line between the water and the sky.

He salutes and walks on. And me, I long to be a sailor too.

Acampada Galaxidi


Breaking up camp


Breakfast in Galaxidi

A long way back, on the southern shore of the Ambracian Gulf, the informal Weed commission finally made a catch. It was good, home grown stuff. La seminarella, one of our Neapolitan comrades called it. In Sicily they would describe this weed as spacchiusu. Literally it means ‘full of seeds’, in speech the word is used to indicate anything that is cool.

The weed is already finished for quite a while, but I have carefully collected all the seeds. And today I have started to practice what I have been saying for a long time. At almost every stop in nature, I dig a little hole, I put a seed in it, I cover it up, and I sprinkle it with a few drops of water.

This is the right season to sow. It’s a satisfying, symbolic gesture that is both biblical and revolutionary. We have to start somewhere. There will come a season when we will be able to reap.

Fair Itea

I walk on along the Gulf of Itea. It’s a small bay in the form of a hand. You can see fair Itea from miles away, but you have to round each finger before you finally get there.

All the while you start to realise that the easy days are coming to an end. You have mountains on one side, and from the other side of the bay they are closing in on you as well. The road is squeezed in between them. There is no way back.

Here in Itea we say goodbye to the sea. For a couple weeks, until right before Athens, we won’t see her again. High above the outlines of Itea, there are the snow covered mountains. From now on, the road goes up.

The chequered square of Itea


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17 avril 2012 2 17 /04 /avril /2012 20:53


Wading on

In March to Athens on 16 April 2012 at 20:49

March to Athens 

Day 161-LXXXVII, from Εράτεινη to Γαλαξίδι, 22 km.



Galaxidi, April 16


Dear people,


It’s eight in the morning, the tent is lit up by the first light. Today is a marching day, it’s time to get up. If the sun is out, you get woken up by the heat, you don’t get the chance to snooze for another five minutes, because it soon becomes unbearable, you have to get out.

You sit up, you put on the same stinking clothes as always, you open your tent, and you wonder where you are.

You’re on the beach. The sea is five meters away. On the other side of the small bay, you see the hills of the Peloponnese in a blue haze. This must be Eratini.

View of Eratini

First thing, you take a whizz. In the villages it’s no problem. There’s always the countryside around. But in the cities you have to choose your bathroom carefully. You look for a tree or another piece of green in a quiet place, and you mark your territory like a dog.

Then you stumble to the breakfast table. Among the first people to rise there is Mami. She is in charge of the pantry. Some say she is in charge period. “¡Es una mamicracia y lo sabeis!” people sing, but that isn’t really true.

The content of the breakfast table always varies. On a good day there is bread, homemade marmelade, local honey, cheese, pastries, oranges and juice. On a normal day you’re lucky to find some biscuits, a piece of bread, and yesterday’s leftovers. Sometimes there is nothing at all.

If there are leftovers, you take some along for the road. At ten we should be walking. After breakfast you break up your tent.

¡Juanito! ¡Diez minutos y a la puta calle!” I say to my roommate. He grunts, he grins. He knows I’m joking as far as the phrasing goes, but the ten minutes stand.

Juanito has his own tent, but whenever he is too lazy to put it up, he sleeps with me. When he has moved his stuff to his shopping cart, I tear my house down. I’m getting attached to this little piece of canvas. It shows the signs of the times, it gets wet from the bottom, and one of its bars had to be replaced in Patras, but it has held ever since Rome.

I close my bagpack, I attach the tent, it all fits. I leave an empty space when I lift my house onto my shoulders. I’m like a snail.


It’s ten o’ clock. Some people are still loading the shopping carts. Some tents are still standing. I’m not going to wait. I go.

Except for Mimo I’m the only one walking with full gear, ever since Salerno. Only for two days I walked with a shopping cart, when comrade Diego asked me to take his trolley to Agrinio. I didn’t like the experience. I prefer walking as a legionnaire.


Today is the longest leg of the march in Greece. We walk the thin grey line between the sea and the mountains. The rough coast of Focida. This territory is almost uninhabitable. There are no cultivations, there are only few small villages, and the rest is mountains and sea.

The views are marvellous. Like most of the time in Greece. This country is overwhelming in its beauty. It’s so much that you get saturated. You almost take the beauty for granted.

After three hours walking I eat lunch and take a siesta under an olive tree. At the end of the afternoon I enter Galaxidi.

View of Galaxidi

First thing is to find the square. Usually it’s no problem. You go to the center of the center. And in the middle of it, you will plant your tent.

We are on the harbour side of Galaxidi. It’s a nice little town that hasn’t been completely destroyed by real estate speculation. The bars are full, tourism is important business here.

I build my tent. I go on reconnaisance, to feel the vibe, to look for a bar with wifi that can serve as communications headquarters for tonight.

I return to the camp. Everyone has arrived by now. I feel the pulse of the group. It’s still pretty slow. We are doing ok, but it’s like we are wading through the water these days. It takes a lot of energy to advance.

There is lack of news from our comrades in Athens, and even if voices reach us, they are not positive. It’s like we’re getting infected by the general sense of hopelesness here in Greece.


Galaxidi is a good example. If people don’t ignore us, they appreciate us, but they don’t bother to talk to us, or to take part in our assembly. Apparently they don’t see the point.

Only two of the locals finally sit down when we try to start an assembly. “Everyone minds his own business here,” one of them says.

The assembly becomes an informal chat. The two locals tell us about the problems. One of them is water. The tap water here is undrinkable. People have to buy their drinking water in plastic, because there is no connection to the fresh water aquaduct from the north.

It has been a problem since the 1940s. At every election, politicians promise that they will finally solve it, and they never do.

“Why not?”

“Because this is Greece.”


After the assembly I go to look if the kitchen commission has prepared dinner. In Eratini comrade Chino had made a tasty dish of lentils. Tonight there is only sticky pasta with a bit of rosemary.

I don’t complain. I’ve had worse.


After dinner I walk off to the bar. We hardly ever fail to find a sympathetic place where the communications commission can plug in and work, even without the obligation to consume.

So I write my piece about today. Afterwards I walk around and go to sleep.

I love this march, and everyone who participates in it, I love this life. But sometimes, for me as for everybody else, it’s like I’m wading.


Sleep tight,




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16 avril 2012 1 16 /04 /avril /2012 12:13

Rock Bottom and Resurrection

In March to Athens on 15 April 2012 at 17:36

March to Athens
Day 159-LXXXV, Εράτεινη.
Day 160-LXXXVI, Εράτεινη.

Comrade Blanca, washing clothes

Eratini, April 15

Dear people,

When things are bad, it’s very easy for them to get even worse. This whole story of liberty, equality, brotherhood, and our tribe being a big happy family, isn’t always true.

Yesterday was a prime example of this. Alcohol, theft, racism and violence were among the day’s protagonists. Our march was the spitting image of society, and so at least for a moment we all ceased to be revolutionaries.

We arrived here tired and anxious. Tired not of four consecutive days of marching, but of five months of connivance with the same people. And anxious because by now the end is in sight. In twenty days we will be in Athens, and for many people the question ‘what after Athens?’ is frightening.

Fort Peace in Eratini

Inside Fort Peace

I don’t really like our days off. They break the rhythm, and often there isn’t much to do. Personally I have enough things to do for a lifetime, between reading books, watching movies, listening to music, writing stories, designing games and simply daydreaming. But it’s hard for me make a complete mind switch from the march to other pursuits.

On top of that I can’t help being influenced by the low morale in the group and the bad weather – storms and frequent showers. For me and for all of us our day off became an off day. It was really bad. Out of boredom I just plugged in and played Civilization. As great Pericles of the Delian League I spent hours and hours trying to exterminate the Native Americans. Afterwards, I felt worse than before.

The muddy sea after the rain

During the evening things started to degenerate. People here have been very kind to us. A local restaurant brought dinner for all, and five liters of tsipouro. The food is always most welcome, but the locals really shouldn’t bring us large quantities of alcohol.

I’m starting to worry about it, because the alcohol problem is becoming structural. And every time it gets worse.

Things were ignited by a case of theft. Over a hundred euros have disappeared from our treasury. And some of us didn’t hesitate to accuse one of our Algerian newcomers on the basis of circumstantial evidence. No-one had any real proof, but late at night things turned really ugly. The love-peace-freedom banner was torn down and trampled upon. What had started as a soothing jam session became a western style saloon fight.

This morning, comrade Ali reappeared at breakfast. “I am here because I have a clean conscience. I will continue this march.”

There was no other choice today but to stay here, to sacrifice one of our two days of margin remaining, and to hold an internal assembly.

The assembly was moderated by the Old Man, for the first time I can remember. After the last alcohol explosion in Chrisovergi he had kept his silence for ten days, observing. Now he returned to claim his place in the group. He did an excellent job as a moderator.

I was asked to do the French-Spanish translation instead of comrade Max, and I accepted reluctantly. I don’t speak either language perfectly and I’m always very keen on my freedom to leave the assembly whenever I’m fed up with it.

But it was worth it. We all faced our personal and collective weaknesses, we spoke about them, we apologised, we made peace and we will try to finish this march in style.

Today is Easter sunday in Greece. Yesterday, some of us went to church at midnight, just before the great fight. I was there as well.

I’m not a religious person. I can’t stand religious institutions of any kind, because I don’t think that any religious institution has ever made this world a better place. But I had had my share of tsipouro, and I thought ‘what the hell, let’s take a look. In the end, for many people, Jesus was the greatest revolutionary who ever lived, if ever he lived.’

So there we were, holding our candles like the Greeks, listening devotedly to the chants in the midst of a seemingly chaotic service. Mimo was among us, and Max later said that he had witnessed a miracle.

Mimo is a very amiable person, but the combination of a closed space and alcohol can make him go wild. It had happened before in occupied social centers of Emilia Romagna. We risked to disrupt the entire service and to be chased out of the village by a mad crowd armed with forks and torches.

It didn’t happen. Instead, Mimo was enchanted by the community spirit. As a kid he went to a coranic school, but here in the colourful church of Eratini he blended in perfectly, he lit his candle, he lined up with the Greeks to kiss the Bible, and he walked off.

I liked the ritual, it was very participative, with chants instead of sermons. I didn’t understand anything of it, so my mind wandered off, thinking of St. Paul’s missionary voyages to Greece.

Admittedly I don’t like St. Paul. To me he doesn’t appear to be an enlightened prophet searching for some kind of heavenly truth. Before his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus he used to be the most fervent persecutor of christians. And afterwards he came to spread the faith with the same zeal with which he used to fight it.

Above all, Paul was a marketing genius and as such he is considered to be the true founder of christianity. Without his missionary efforts in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome, the name of Jesus of Nazareth would never have survived until today.

So it’s mainly thanks to St. Paul if we are here to celebrate the resurrection. And despite everything I can’t help but think of the famous passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

“If I could speak all the languages of people and angels, but I don’t have love, I’m nothing more than a resounding gong. If I would have the gift of prophecy, and I could solve all mysteries, possess all knowledge, have a faith that can move the mountains, but I don’t have love, I am nothing. If I gave all my possessions to the poor, and my body to the flames, but I don’t have love, it wouldn’t serve any purpose.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love doesn’t envy, love doesn’t brag. Love is neither rude, nor selfish, nor irritable, nor resentful.

Love doesn’t rejoice with evil, it finds comfort in truth. It bears all, it hopes all, it believes all, it endures everything.

Love never ends.

All the prophecies, all the languages, all the knowledge, they will cease. (…)

But these three things will remain.

Faith, hope and love.

The greatest of these is love.”

Comrade Mary


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13 avril 2012 5 13 /04 /avril /2012 16:47


A Safe Haven

In March to Athens on 13 April 2012 at 14:27

March to Athens
Day 157-LXXXIII, from Μαραθιάς to Άγιος Νικόλαος, 20 km.

Day 158-LXXXIV, from Άγιος Νικόλαος to Εράτεινη, 10 km.


Eratini, April 13


Dear people,


The hard core of the march is still the same as ever. We are now a little less than twenty people. In Agrinio we lost our American comrade Diego. He keeps on reporting about the revolution from Athens. In Patras we lost almost our entire Italian contingent, the ‘conspirators’. The only Italians left now are Max and me.

We also left behind one of our Catalan comrades. He is in hospital. He was feeling really bad, and so they did al kinds of checks on him. I haven’t understood well what happened, but according to rumours he is suffering from a severe case of broken heart.

Acampada Marathias


On the road to Agios Nikolaos

Fortunately, there have also been people who joined us lately. In Mesolonghi comrade Mimo has returned. Mimo had already participated in the early stages of the march, and he caused quite a stir in Emilia Romagna, as a result of being a schizophrenic with a special love for knives.

Mimo is a Moroccan from Bruxelles. He has spent much of his life on the dark side of the system, or in prison. He used to be a professional car-jacker and a home-jacker, someone who steals your car or breaks into your house without minding that you are there. At the stoplight in broad daylight he would just open the door, force you out of the driver’s seat, take your car and race off. For a high class Mercedes he would make about five thousand euros.

He served eight years in total. He caused a lot of pain and distress to many people, but he says he never physically hurt any of them. He is done with his old life, and amazingly it doesn’t seem to weigh him down. He maintains an air of innocent childish happiness, which is exactly what the march needs right now, because overall, morale is still very low.

Siesta along the way


Apart from Mimo we have been joined by two Algerians from Patras. They are ‘illegal’ immigrants without ID, trapped in Greece. For years they have been trying to find a way to go to France, to their family, and they were delighted to hear that our policy is to refuse identification to police.

That’s why they came along. When our French contingent returns to France through the Balcans after Athens, they might try to join them.

One of them told me what it’s like to be an Algerian. At home, you suffer poverty without the prospect of ever getting out of it. The country isn’t poor, but it’s irredeemably corrupt. There’s oil, and on the coast the climate is favourable enough for many types of cultivation. But all the riches of the nation are divided among each other by a small clan of generals.

About twenty years ago people rose up against the establishment, under the banner of islamism. When the islamists won the elections, the generals reacted by cancelling the results and by starting a campaign of state terrorism. Everyone who was suspected of supporting the islamists became a target. And even if you weren’t, security forces could enter your house and shoot you through the head, as an example for your neighbours.

Hundreds of thousands of people died, the country was pacified, and the system of endemic corruption went on like before.

Today, as a normal Algerian, you can either live your life on the edge of hunger, or you can join the police, to control the masses and receive a decent pay. The only other possibility is to emigrate.

In the last few years, Spain and Italy have been stepping up their border patrols to prevent immigration. By now Greece is the weak spot from whence to enter fortress Europe. For us, priviliged European citizens, it’s no problem to cross from Greece to the rest of the EU, but for someone who comes from the other side of the wall, it’s much more difficult.

The sans papiers here live in a permanent state of fear. When they get arrested, they risk being deported to a concentration camp for immigrants, where they are either held indefinitely, or forced to negotiate their return back home.

View of Agios Nikolaos

And if isn’t the police they fear, it’s the fascists. With the economic situation degenerating, it’s easy for some people to blame the immigrants, and to make unprovoked attacks on them.

“All I want is to live a normal life, to work, to take care of my family,” Ali says, “that’s why I came to Europe. I thought Europe was the land of human rights.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong. Life may be hard for the Greeks nowadays, but for an Algerian without ID life is much harder still.

Then the March to Athens comes by, waving its flag of peace and shouting its slogans about a different world without borders. After all they have been through, we present a sign of hope. So they come along, and we welcome them into our tribe.

Here in the march they found three things that they had hoped to find in France.

 Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité.



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12 avril 2012 4 12 /04 /avril /2012 11:01



In March to Athens on 11 April 2012 at 18:05

March to Athens 

Day 156-LXXXII, from Ναύπακτος to Μαραθιάς, 17 km.


Marathias, April 11


Dear people,


When I say that the two major nationalities in our group are French and Spanish, that is not completely correct. I should say French and Catalan, because all but two of our Spanish comrades are from Catalunya.

In practice they only speak Catalan when they are angry at each other, but when there are reasons to be proud of it, they are all Spanish.

“Come on, Chino. Let’s take a picture of Cervantes…”

Cervantes in Nafpaktos

On the old harbour walls of the fortress of Nafpaktos there is a statue of Spain’s great narrator Miguel de Cervantes, author of the adventures of Don Quijote.

He is here, not because he holds a place of honour in the history of world literature, but because he took part in a famous battle. The battle of Lepanto, which took place right off the coast of Nafpaktos.


Ever since the Greco-Persian wars, and maybe even since the mythical days of Troy, conflict between East and West has been a recurring motive in history.

The battle of Lepanto, 1571, was one of the major expressions of this conflict. It was fought between the catholic naval powers of the West and the Ottoman Turkish empire.

Throwing rocks on the battlefield of Lepanto

At the time, the Turks were a great power on the rise. They had absorbed the last pieces of the old Byzantine empire a century earlier, and now they ruled over an enormous territory which curled around the eastern Mediterranean like a half moon, from the Balcans through the Middle East to North Africa.

At sea, they were a major menace to the western marittime powers. Spain and the Venetian Republic formed the backbone of the ‘holy alliance’, that was formed to fight the Turks at sea.

On the day of the battle Miguel de Cervantes had fever, but he insisted on participating. He fought heroically, he was wounded three times, and he lost his left arm. For the rest of his life he would remember his part in the battle with pride.

The Ottoman defeat here at Lepanto meant the end of the Turkish power at sea. The Mediterranean would continue to be dominated by the West, even though the strategic centre of gravity had already started to shift away from the Mediterranean towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Leaving the square in Nafpaktos

So far on our route, Nafpaktos is one of the few places which conserves an air of old, because the fortresses still remain, not because any other old buildings are left. This town has a soul, but it’s buried deep beneath the façade of shops and bars.

We walk through the streets announcing the assembly. Two of our lovely female comrades hold the banner, Nicolas is playing the flute, Mary is juggling, and Max is shouting like the messengers of yore.

Max is an icon of revolution. He has been talking and talking all the way through Italy, but when he arrived in Greece he suffered an existentialist crisis, because he wasn’t able to communicate anymore. Those days are over. It’s priceless to hear him shout in Greek, rhythmically and with theatrical gestures as if he were on a stage.

Πορεία!! Πορεία με τα πόδια! Γαλλία, Ιταλία… στην Αθήνα!”  The people in the bars lift their eyebrows. Max stops in front of them, he raises his arms and shouts. “Δημόσια συνέλευσι! Τώρα! Τώρα! Πλατεία!

People understood. We walk on, every now and then we burst into laughter. “It has taken me about a month, but I finally learned some words in Greek. I can talk again!”

“You should add some κόσμου επανάσταση to your repertoire,” I say.


I start to understand why people think of us as a bunch of hippie gipsies. Truly, we are adorably ridiculous.


Despite the efforts of the difusion parade, the popular assembly was cancelled because nobody showed up. The town of Nafpaktos may be beautiful, but it’s not a friendly place. It’s rich, even though it might not be rich for long.

In between the hip bars and fashion stores I spot a lot of empty spaces for sale or for rent. Some of them were abbandoned a long time ago. Some others were selling expensive purses until last week. The solution won’t come from us, clearly. The people who can still afford it, sip their cocktails and shake their heads.

Today we march on into Focida, to the beach town of Marathias, dubbed ‘Dogville’ by some. When the first marchers try to camp on the church square, a handful of elderly inhabitants rudely send them away. “Go to the sea!”

So we put up camp along the sea. Minutes later, among the sympathisers who arrive to offer their apologies, there’s the mayor. “You have to understand that next week is Easter. Some people here are very traditionalist.”

That’s okay, but already we look forward to moving on.


View of Marathias


Comrades Max and Mary



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11 avril 2012 3 11 /04 /avril /2012 08:55

Retake the Bridge

In March to Athens on 10 April 2012 at 22:02

March to Athens

Day 154-LXXX, Πάτρα.

Day 155-LXXXI, from Πάτρα to Ναύπακτος, 22 km.


Nafpaktos, April 10

Dear people,

Nobody here would deny that our visit to Patras has become a complete fiasco. And even it wasn’t, it surely wasn’t worth sacrificing two days of margin.

Grey Dutch skies and persistent rains disrupted most of our stay, but even without it we wouldn’t have been able to create a vibe here.

Tents drying in Patras

The fact that police never showed up simply meant that they didn’t care. Also the communists, who had organised a concert at fifty metres from our camp, ignored us completely. Here in the big city it seems that many of the locals regard us as a band of hippie gipsies. They say we have no idea of what the hell is going on in Greece. They have already tried this peaceful resistance thing last year. The square was taken. But it didn’t work.

“This is a war. We didn’t start it. But if we want to win, we have to fight. Your love-peace-and-harmony train is very amusing, but it won’t lead to nothing.”

We held a small assembly hiding from the rain under the gallery around the square, and that was it. The second day we were completely flooded, and we retreated to a semi-covered area on the edge. Only comrade Lorenzo heroically resisted.

Only Lorenzo held the square...

In terms of numbers, Patras was a massacre. We left eleven people on the ground. The highest amount of casualties we have suffered since we left Rome.

But numbers don’t always tell the truth. Three of the people who left had rejoined us here and weren’t keen on walking. Other three were the Greeks from Mesolonghi, who would have returned anyway. Then there was comrade Manuel and company. Four more, straight to Athens.

Morale wasn’t high in the group after all this. And as to express the spirit of defeatism, there has been a feeble attempt of rebellion against my route proposal.

I knew it was going to happen. Once we crossed the bridge to the Peloponnese it would be very tempting for some to stay on this side, and to go from here, along the coast all the way to Athens without natural obstacles worth to mention.

Usually I’m fine with almost everything that the assembly decides on tactical or organisational issues. But there are two strategical decisions that I had wanted to make sure from the start. One was the arrival in Igoumenitsa instead of Patras, and two was the adoption of the northern route that passes by Delphi and Thebes.

Today's "facultative" route

I had presented the route proposal to back up my exuberant Altamura speech in favour of Igoumenitsa. And even though the route itself was never officialy consensuated, it was more or less implicitly accepted as part of the Igoumenitsa option.

All along the way, the Greeks who have inquiered into our proposed route had been surprised of the answer. They warned us that it was a hard and difficult road. They advised us to take the Peloponnese route. “Much easier.”

You have to know that I can’t stand ‘easy’ as a reason to do something. And every time the Greeks said we should go by the southern road, I was more and more convinced I wanted to follow the one less travelled by.

Patras was the only chance to go the Peloponnese way. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when the conspirators acted on the night before we left.

You can rest assured, dear friends, the attempt to change the route has miserably failed. It was badly prepared and clumsily executed. It was supported by three people who aren’t really known as dedicated marchers. They didn’t present an alternative itinerary and their only real motivation was to avoid the mountains.

My northern route proposal is indeed considerably longer, it passes by tiny villages where we could lack food supplies and it includes two ridges of mountains to cross. But nonetheless, and mostly because it was carefully planned, it could count on wide range support.

I didn’t even have to defend the proposal personally in the assembly. Instead, much to the delight of the Greeks, I limited myself to telling the story of young Hercules…

One day, while walking through the woods, young Hercules came to a crossroads.

At the crossroads there was a goddess. And the goddess said: “Hercules, this is your choice in life.”

She pointed to a wide road that gently sloped through abbundant olive groves and cornfields, down to a lovely bay, rich with fish. “This is the easy road. It will lead you to wealth, love, and happiness.”

Then she pointed to a small rocky trail that steeply ascended the mountains and disappeared high up in the clouds. “This is the hard road. It leads to pain, fatigue and despair…

“But,” she added, “this is the road that leads to glory.”

We all remember the name of Hercules, so we all know what road he took.

Carrying the trolleys back down on the north side of the bridge

Announcing the popular assembly in Nafpaktos



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8 avril 2012 7 08 /04 /avril /2012 23:11

Three Times is a Winner

In March to Athens on 8 April 2012 at 16:42

March to Athens

Day 153-LXXIX, Πάτρα.


Keep on smiling with thirty euros a day and no paid benefits.

Patras, April 8

Dear people,

At the start of World War II, Greece was invaded by Italy. Mussolini thought he could build a modern, fascist version of the Roman empire around the Mediterranean, and he wanted to show Hitler that he was a worthy ally.

It became a disaster. The Italians were beaten back and humiliated by the Greeks in the mountains of Epirus. After a long winter, the Germans lost their patience, they dismissed the Italians and took care of the question themselves. In a couple of months of Blitzkrieg they rolled through the Balkans and conquered Greece in a single blow.

Despite the war, the Greeks have always nurtured an affectionate relationship with the Italians. But like in many other nations of Europe, the people never really got to trust or to like the Germans.

Now with the crisis, this sentiment has become much stronger. One very popular theory among Greeks is that this whole crisis is part of a greater scheme of conquest. They think that behind it all, it’s the Germans once again.

The theory doesn’t really convince me, because clearly the era of the nation-state is over. But on the other hand, national governments still exist. They effectively serve to protect the interests of their corporations around the world.

I will give you an elaboration of the ‘It’s the Germans’ theory, if only to show that you can write and rewrite history to prove any point you want to prove.

‘There are two ways to conquer a nation. Either through war or through debt,’ John Adams said over two hundred years ago. If the one fails you try the other.

Modern imperialism is based on economic control. The great players in this game all have their own zones of influence. The U.S. in Latin America, France in Africa, Russia in central Asia, and China is quickly spreading its tentacles over the rest of the world.

The Germans have been pretty humble in international politics for half a century. But when the Wall came down in 1989, things started to change, and they changed fast.

In 1990 Germany was reunited, and almost immediately the country started looking for economical Lebensraum in the east. They signed a non-aggression pact with the Russians and they invaded eastern Europe. Not with Panzers and Stukas, but with floods of Deutschmarks.

In 1991 the Germans actively favoured the dissolution of Yugoslavia. They divided and conquered. The D-Mark soon became the currency of reference all over the east.

In 1992, the Maastricht treaty laid the basis for a common currency all over Europe. It was named ‘euro’, but in practice it was a modern version of the Mark. One euro would be worth two D-Marks. The currency was forced on the EU member states without the peoples of Europe being asked for their consent. Only the English and the Scandinavians wisely kept their distance.

By the end of the 1990s the Germans had symbolically moved their political capital back to Berlin, and they had made sure that the European economic policy would be decided by the ECB in Frankfurt.

Any economist could have foreseen that the euro would lead to trouble, because of the structural differences between the ‘strong’ economies of the north, and the ‘weak’ economies of the south. But as long as the economic bubble kept growing in the 2000s, fueled by ever increasing national debt, nobody seemed to care or to notice.

Then the music stopped. It was payback time. The economies of the south were practically bankrupt. Only Germany could help them out, with the support of Sarko’s Vichy-French government and the collaboration of Germany’s Dutch, Austrian and Finnish sidekicks.

Economic conquest was presented as salvation. And it wouldn’t come cheap. All assets were to be ceded. Wages and services would have to be cut. In war time, the conquering army would also have deported part of the population to serve as work force in the German industry. But in times of peace, they wouldn’t even have to resort to cohersion. Economic pressure would suffice. People would emigrate by themselves to look for work. Not just the common work force, but also the intellectual elite would be forced to emigrate and put its talents at the service of the invadors, for lack of possibilities at home. And without an intellectual elite, there will be no-one left to build up an alternative society. With that, conquest is complete.

What’s going on in Greece can be seen as a kind of africanisation. The country is becoming a cheap-labour holiday resort, owned by foreign corporations and run by a collaborationist government. It’s a test case. If it works, then Italy, Spain and Portugal will be next.

Acampada Patras in the morning



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7 avril 2012 6 07 /04 /avril /2012 21:06

Take the Bridge

In March to Athens on 7 April 2012 at 16:54

March to Athens
Day 152-LXXVIII, from Αντίρριο to Πάτρα, 12 km.

Patras, April 7


Dear people,


We keep crossing the sea, one way or another. By ferry, by launch, by dike, and today by bridge.

The small village of Antirrio is completely overshadowed by the enormous four pillar hang bridge spanning two and a half kilometres of sea straight.

As a revolutionary and as a romantic, I would say that I don’t like this bridge. I don’t like the fast way of life that it represents. I would prefer the old ferries and the view. But on the other hand, it’s a fascinating piece of human engineering. And so I admire it. There’s no other way.

Yours truly in the castle of Antirrio. Photo by comrade Neri.

The same applies to many other titanic expressions of contemporary society. Skyscrapers, aircraft carriers, AEGIS cruisers, space shuttles, Imperial Star Destroyers. They all represent a society that I despise, but hell they are cool.


The bridge is named after 19th century Greek politician Charilaos Trikoupis, who first envisioned its construction. It took more than a hundred years for his dream to come true. The bridge was finished in time for the Olympics in Athens in 2004.

The Greeks that have come with us told me that the bridge should have been built forty years earlier. They say it has been paid for many times over by the Greek tax payer, but every time the money disappeared and the bridge never got built.

Now the bridge is owned by a private company which is mainly French, and the Greeks have to keep on paying to be able to pass it. The fees are crazy.

The local music band

Fortunately for pedestrians it’s free. We arrive with our shopping carts in the early afternoon, after the local youth music band had played us a farewell tribute. Police arrive, there are lenghty discussions with the company officials. All they need to do is open a gate for us to pass by the pedestrian lane. But it takes time. The company has to give its consent.

In the end we lose our patience. While police is still making calls, we decide in a lightning assembly to carry all our trolleys up the stairs to bypass the gate. We take the bridge by force.

Police try to stop us. But there is no way for a couple of officers to resist a powerful phalanx of shopping carts.

“Stop right there!”

“We will only stop when we get to Athens!”

And so we cross the sea, police and the company have to give in. They close the right hand lane and escort us to the other side, to the Peloponnese peninsula.

Taking the bridge




The bridge from the Peloponnese side

We are awaited by a handful of comrades from Patras. They accompany us to the central square. Police doesn’t even show up. I never thought they would. As I understand from the Greeks I talk to, only in Athens police are real bastards, and meant to be. In the rest of Greece, they are pretty relaxed. When asked, they show us the way to the square.


Acampada Patras

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6 avril 2012 5 06 /04 /avril /2012 17:11

Camping with the Spirits

In March to Athens on 6 April 2012 at 16:53

March to Athens

Day 150-LXXVI, from Μεσολόγγι to Άνο Βασσιλική, 19 km.
Day 151-LXXVII, from Άνο Βασσιλική to Αντίρριο, 18 km.



Antirio, April 6

Dear people,

We were accompanied by a Greek comrade from Agrinio to Mesolonghi, and in Mesolonghi we were joined by a Greek cavalry division on bicycles. They are four, and they will be with us until Patras.

Yesterday we moved straight east again. And apart from one little detour, we will continue in this direction along the northern shore of the gulf that divides the Peloponnese peninsula from mainland Greece.

Even though I kept my distance from all that has happened in the group these days I could hardly fail to notice that the dynamics have changed. After the fight in Chrisovergi, the Old Man has lost much of his prestige. It was his own fault. He had been drunk, and he hadn’t respected neither the people of the village, nor his comrades.

He was targeted from various sides, both Spanish and French. One of us described the events as ‘the fall of the old lion king’.

The hangover assembly had brought peace in the group. And yesterday we moved on to the tiny village of Ano Vassiliki. There were three houses, a basketball court and a church with cementery on the hill.

We arrive late, because the rain had delayed our departure. It’s almost dark when we decide to occupy the church yard and camp next to the cemetery. It’s a formidable stronghold. From here we control the road, a very important road, because it connects one part of the world to another.

Fort Peace

The peace flag is already waving from our fortress for hours when the last marchers arrive late in the evening. Behind the church, a fire is lit for cooking. In the dim light of the lanterns the smoke columns waft over the cemetery where one of us is sitting against a pine tree, softly playing the guitar.

I have a hard time listening to people and their theories lately, but I love to absorb this atmosphere. I love this time and place. I decide to take a walk through the olive groves. There’s a full moon up above. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Today we swirl on along the jagged national road, high above the sea. On the other side we can see Patras already, under a ridge of mountains where the last snow is melting away. Down in the valley at the istmus we spot the impressive bridge that crosses the gulf. We will take that bridge, and after a two day stop in Patras, we will come back to take the road to Delphi.

For now, we camp in the little village of Antirio on the church square. Police would like us to camp elsewhere, but we have our Greeks with us to do the talking. A black dressed cleric comes out of the church to join the conversation.

Minutes later, the bells toll, as a sign of welcome for the March to Athens.



The houses, the bridge and the mountains


Arrival in Antirio




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