Archive | February, 2012

It’s not a crisis, it’s a tragedy

28 Feb

‘It’s not a crisis, it’s a tragedy,’ said one of my Greek friends while we had a cup of coffee in her house. On my first day in Greece, the soup kitchens and even souvlaki kitchens laid on by the army with their huge crowds were shown on Greek TV, but you don’t need the TV to see how many shops are closed for good, how few people are visiting tavernas and restaurants, how many more homes are rotting and derelict. And the Greeks themselves are sad. In  a country where few people get depressed and fewer still take their own lives, there have been a number of suicides recently.

My Greek friend’s son is a computer expert who in the last year has been working for a tiny proporion of the salary he once enjoyed; it’s just enough to keep him in Athens, unlike scores of other middle-class professionals who have either emigrated to Australia or America. Many others are now returning to the Greek countryside to their villages where their forefathers tilled the soil, to do the same, or at least to do something. While talent scouts have been sent from Australia to tempt Greeks to Sydney and Melbourne and other Hellenophile cities where they will be able to practise their skills,  they have limited themselves to selected people under 40, as they can’t accommodate everybody, such is the enormity of the problem Greece faces.

The problem is not confined to the middle classes. Workers have no jobs, either, especially in the building trade, where it has been a very lean year. Throughout the eighties, nineties and noughties, the combination of corrupt politicians and bankers willing to turn a blind eye and help in the cooking of the books of this deeply indebted nation have delivered blows to this once proud country. It will take at least a generation for Greece to recover. The 2004 Olympics, for example, were a victory for Athens and its infrastructure but a Pyrrhic one as it cost Greece far more than it ever got back from it, and Greece was not a country which could afford such losses.

Credit cards were almost unheard of in Greece until the late ‘nineties. ‘Suddenly Greeks could pay for all sorts of consumer goods they had never been able to afford before on credit.  It was like offering a lollipop to a child; even if you tell the child that the lollipop is going to rot your teeth, the child isn’t going to refuse it,’ says another Greek friend, while pointing out that he didn’t think Greeks were children, it was just an analogy.

Should Greece default, or keep kicking the can down the road? It’s a difficult one.

I wonder what the great tragedians of Ancient Greece would have made of it all.

Ostromecko on film

14 Feb

I have finished editing the video film my wife and I have been making about the Ostromecko estate in Poland. We still are reserving a couple of Rosarium shots for June, but bascially the film is complete for the moment. I have enjoyed making films again after a long time when I didn’t go near a camera.

It began a couple of years ago when I started camcording pictures for my mother- in- law to see what Greece looks like, and it moved on, over time, to filming places around where we live in Poland, my wife’s relatives places, etc.  The educational value of doing these films about Poland in English is something I have exploited quite happily in the classroom, since there is a large emphasis on the visual, and plenty of vocabulary to be extracted from it, not to mention activities you can do with film technique itself, e.g. choosing the ‘right’ piece of music to go with the images (in English, of course).

And there are always questions to be answered. For example, what happened to the families that owned these gorgeous buildings? My knowledge is at best sketchy – I haven’t begun that kind of exploration yet, but, as a writer, it would be fun to do a bit of research and find out. Maybe there’s a novel in it somewhere, when I’ve finished the present one I’m working on. This is a thriller with a touch of the supernatural. As far as I know, neither of the houses on the Ostromecko estate boast ghosts, but maybe someone will create one. In the meantime, the only legend I came across was that the eagle statue on top of the Mostowski building and a mural on the ceiling depicting the same bird of prey was because Mostowski once saw one of these magnificent birds perching on the roof and took it as a good omen.

The inspiration of opening the Mostowski Palace.

5 Feb

Ostromecko, a village near Bydgoszcz, is the home of Ostromecko mineral water. It also boasts the Ostromecko estate, with two fine old buildings – the first one you see, and the newer one, is a neoclassical palace. You can have a delicious meal there in its cafe/ restaurant. It does one of the best cheesecakes I’ve tried.

 Further in to the estate, and overlooking a stunning view of the grounds and a tributary of the Vistula beyond,  the older building is a Rococo-style building which was originally a manor house of the noble Chelmno family of Dorpowski  before it became the residence of the Mostowskis in the 18th century. It now belongs to the Pomeranian Philharmonic. It has recently been restored and we went and had a look around it and the collection of beautiful old pianos and furnishings that it now houses.

Walking around estate rating: 5 star

Mostowski palace collection of pianos rating: 5 star

More about Ostromecko and other historic places in future.