The city has changed a lot since my last trip. For all the modernization, though, the proud Greeks have made sure to preserve their storied historical artifacts.
It's almost 16:00 now and things have quieted down. The streets around Parliament are a mess. Got my first taste of teargas today (admittedly, the last time I was involved in a protest was way back in 2003 in London against the Iraq War). Needless to say, folks here aren't all taking these austerity measures very well. Thousands came out for the protest today and there was even an attempt to storm Parliament earlier, which was repelled. The BBC reports that at least three people were killed when a bank was set on fire. I definitely saw more than a few petrol bombs go off.
Small protest on Monday in front of the Greek Parliament here in Athens. Loud but peaceful. What's most impressive is the gaggle of tourists in front, dedicated to photographing the changing of the guard ceremony. There's a big protest & strike planned for Wednesday. Should be interesting.
It's been almost a decade since I was backpacking through here. Admittedly, I've soldout and traded the youth hostel for a hotel room. The view from my room can't be beat, though. Hurray for Starwood Points (thanks, Scott Kidder!).
The city was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 1988. It still bears the scars. I met with the energetic Sister Arousiag, who's opening a state-of-the-art youth center in Gyumri along side the orphanage she runs. We toured the complex, which has a variety of classrooms for learning a slew of trades that will serve her orphans well once they reach 18 and look for work. She's doing inspiring work in a city that certainly needs her.
My dad and I got stuck with a dreary day in Yerevan, so we made the most of it by visiting the massive Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan) statute -- there's museum in her pedestal! -- and the surrounding grounds of an amusement park in the process of setting up for the summer season. The statue used to be of Stalin, looming over Yerevan, so you can imagine how thrilled locals were to topple that menacing Georgian and replace him with Lady Armenia in 1967. Sadly continuing his legacy of murder, the process of taking down the Man of Steel killed a pair of men.