Posts Tagged ‘igoumenitsa’

Sunrise over Greece

In Greece, March to Athens on 15 March 2012 at 15:43
March to Athens
Day 129-LV, Ηγουμενίτσα.

Igoumenitsa, March 15


Dear people,


We left nothing in the square in Bari but a single piece of cardboard. “Thanks to the Baresi, thanks to the Apulians, thanks to the Italians. From North to South, from East to West, the struggle continues, whatever the cost.”

Then we marched off to the harbour in parade, singing.

It took a while before we could get on board, because all the contents of our shopping carts had to be checked. It was the hour of sunset.

Marching to the port in Bari

“The boat! The boat!” comrade Mary cried, full of joy. And she started running. We climb the ramps in between the trucks, we park the carts on the deck and tie them up with ropes. Then we install ourselves in the lounge room with the drivers. They came from all over Eastern Europe, there was a Dutch trucker as well and three Iranians who drive up and down the Silk Road.

At the hour of steaming off we gather on the windy deck for a last salute to Italy. After that we sleep. Some of us in the lounge room. Others pitched their tents right on the deck.


This morning some of us were up early enough to see the solar wagon of Apollo rise over the hills of Greece. A magic moment. We’re navigating in between the green islands. On the starboard side you can see Corfu.

Occupy the deck




It’s a familiar panorama, I don’t know why, because I’ve never been here before. Maybe it’s the imprint of western culture. Greece is a part of our collective memory. As far as Europe is concerned, this is where the great story began.


We disembark. There is no customs, no police, no nobody. We stand on the tarmac outside the port terminal. So know what do we do? The answer is simple, like always, we take the square.

Igoumenitsa at first sight is a tourist transit town in the low season. From here people take the boat to the western islands, or to various Italian ports. Apart from that it doesn’t look interesting, even though it’s surprisingly clean. Along the streets you see French owned banks, German insurance companies and supermarket chains, Italian brand names and lots of bars. The Chinese have arrived here as well.





On the way to take the square.

Once we take the square we awaken the curiosity of the locals. Unfortunately, we have no-one in our group who speaks Greek, but in this particular place it isn’t so hard to communicate. A bit of Italian, a bit of English, a bit of Spanish, and you understand each other. Some people speak German, because they have lived there for years or because they have family who emigrated there.

Finally, police arrive on motor bikes.

When we got off the boat we had been warned by a local squatter to be careful. “This is not Europe. This is the Balcans. Here police don’t talk, they beat you up.”

Comrade Bobó and the Old Man

The officers on the edge of the square observe us, but they don’t approach. So we put up our tents to see what they will do. One of them walks over. He is a young guy in his early twenties. He doesn’t say we can’t camp, he doesn’t ask for documents. He asks us how long we plan to stay, and once he has understood who we are, he says: “I’m one of you.”

After the police comes the mayor. He is also one of us. He donates us an English-Greek dictionary. After the mayor comes the church, the eastern one. They are with us as well. They bring us lunch. And every once in a while, small groups of locals approach us. They express their admiration. They bring us fruit and juices, and they look forward to tonight’s assembly.

Finally we are visited by the owner of a hotel close by. He has promised to bring us a typical Greek diner tonight, and he has invited everyone to celebrate.

So, the port of arrival in Greece has embraced the March to Athens. We are touching a cord here. St. Nicholas be praised, it really seems like we are the 99%.

Acampada Igoumenitsa





With a Little Help from the Dogs

In Italy, March to Athens on 13 March 2012 at 13:03

March to Athens

Day 126-LII, Bari

Day 127-LIII, Bari

Bari, March 13

Dear people,

We have reached the sea, but we still haven’t decided which Greek port we want to sail to. It was the first point on yesterday’s internal assembly. Patras or Igoumenitsa.

One thing that we did decide upon was that we don’t want to split up the march. After that we took a vote to get a general idea of people’s preferences.

It was deadlocked ten to ten. And the interesting thing was that our group was rigourously divided along national lines. All the French but one voted for Igoumenitsa. And except for three abstentions, all the Spanish but one voted for Patras. The Italians were divided, and one of them honoured local custom by switching sides.

As you all know, I myself am very much in favour of Igoumenitsa.

Here in Bari we have also been joined by an American blogger from Occupy San Diego. He abstained, but in the end he made a very simple observation.

“I think the solution is already in the name. March to Athens. If there weren’t a sea to cross, we would have kept on marching. The boat trip should serve to cross the sea, not to shortcut the march.”

To unblock the situation, the moderator asked people if anyone had radical objections against one of the two ports. Three of us were ready to block Patras, but in order to avoid conflict no-one did.

If the assembly would have decided to go to Patras, I wouldn’t have blocked it either. I would probably have left the march instead.

The assembly decided to send a large transversal delegation to the navigation companies.

 At the port terminal, neither of the two companies made any trouble with regard to our shopping carts, but if we went to Patras, the dogs would need to have some kind of passport.

The dogs are with us since we crossed the Apeninnes. They are shepherd dogs decided, and they probably considered us to be a herd that needed to be guided. For some, this implied a form of ‘verticality’, and they denounced it. But one of the few principles of our movement is that we are inclusive, so everyone can come along.

The Greek company serving Igoumenitsa would close an eye on it. And apart from that, Patras is twice as expensive.

So that more or less sealed it. The dogs broke the deadlock, but at the moment the assembly still has to confirm the final decision.

Latest news, this right in. It’s just passed one o’clock. The assembly has confirmed. We are going to Igoumenitsa. We will depart tomorrow evening at seven. We will arrive thursday morning March 15 in Greece at seven o’clock in the morning.

Scenes from Acampada Bari


In Italy, March to Athens on 8 March 2012 at 23:19

March to Athens
Day 122-XLVIII, Altamura.

Acampada Altamura after the rain

Altamura, March 8

Dear people,

Where the police didn’t succeed, the weather did. At least in part. Last night the rains came down, and when it started again this afternoon we were a lot less bold than when we took the square the day before. Those of us whose tents hadn’t resisted started to seek shelter under a roof.

It was a real shame. Not only because the rain brings down the morale, but also because it impeded us once again to hold a popular assembly. The last serious popular assemblies we held were in Potenza and in Vietri.

Today we hide under the arches of the old cathedral for an assembly among ourselves. The tensions between us and our people in Athens haven’t yet faded away, and apart from that we have to decide to go to Igoumenitsa or Patras.

Even though I always try to keep my distance, I obviously have my opinions, and I have shifted my position a bit since I joined the march in Rome. By now, I have made a tacit alliance with the Old Man. We have come to appreciate each other, and we share the same long term goals. So whenever the assembly is about to decide on something important we meet up for a petit conseil de guerre, ‘a small war council’.

Instead of exasperating the assembly by simply blocking proposals, we try to prepare the terrain by measuring the spirits and trying to convince people before the assembly starts.

At the moment the important thing is to make sure we go to Igoumenitsa instead of Patras. Most of the French are in favour of Igoumenitsa. They did more than 1500 kilometres of march already, so 500 more won’t be a problem. Many of the Spanish are in favour of Patras. They want to walk less with the excuse that ‘we can do more propaganda in the villages we pass.’

Now, those of you who have been following my adventures, know very well that I don’t take myself – or life as a whole – completely serious. I like to play. And today I played the role of orator to defend the cause of Igoumenitsa. The original was in Italian…

“Dear comrades,

First of all, I would like to remind you that if we didn’t have the fortune of possessing a well filled treasury, then Patras wouldn’t have been an option at all, and we wouldn’t be here discussing about it.

If we decide to go to Patras, we will empty our treasury. And with all the unknown factors of Greece ahead there might come a day that we will bitterly regret it.

Having said this, there are a lot of more or less valid reasons to go to Patras.

We will be able to do more propaganda. We will be under less pressure. We will be able to choose between many possible routes, etc. But most of all we will have more time. Indeed, we will have so much time that we could easily take an entire month of holiday before continuing our march and still be in Athens before the fifth of May.

But I sense that the real reason why people would want to go to Patras is because it would mean we wouldn’t have to walk so much.

To me, Patras smells very much like the ‘easy way out’. I would interpret it as a sign of weakness, almost of defeat. And not just me.

My proposed route from Igoumenitsa

Surely I would understand us taking this option into consideration if we really didn’t have enough time. But I can assure you, with all the data at hand, that we can easily cross all of Greece and reach Athens before May 5, respecting the consensus that we reached at Sermoneta. [15 to 20 km a day. Two days of rest per week]

For me, this would be reason enough to go to Igoumenitsa. But maybe not for you.

That is why I want you all to realise very well what we are doing, and what we have already achieved.

Tomorrow this march will be four months old. Some of us have done it all, right from the start in Nice. And many of us have walked the greater part of it.

Not me. I have only been with you since Rome. But all the same, it has been a pleasure and an honour to walk with you people.

In these past four months the march has crossed the mountains three times, in winter.

I can tell you that not even Hannibal, nor Caesar, have ever done something similar.

Our march has encountered the snow, it has resisted against the freezing cold, against persisent rains, hail storms and more.

So here we are. We have reached the other end of Italy, and with our efforts we have conquered the hearts of the people we encountered on the way.

And now that spring is finally upon us, I cannot conceive the possibility that these hardened veterans would choose to sacrifice our treasury to bypass most of Greece and take the easy way out, going to Patras.

I honestly think that everyone who is to be considered a real marcher of the March to Athens has the moral obligation, towards him- or herself, towards the people who support us, and towards history, to finish this march in grand style by crossing all of Greece, starting in Igoumenitsa.”

Even though it was a tongue-in-cheek speech, the French loved it. They nicknamed me Cicero. I hope it will be enough. For now we haven’t decided yet. Whenever we have, you will be the first to know.


Drying a sleeping bag on the victory monument