The Greek god of wealth is Plutus. Zeus blinded Plutus so that he would disperse wealth without prejudice or favoritism. Despite these extreme measures, wealth distribution in Greece, accentuated by the economic crisis, is an issue that is shaking the country and reverberating around the world. We have seen one stark side of it in our new home of Vouliagmeni.
Vouliagmeni is a suburb of Athens and is the southernmost point of what is known as the Athenian Riviera. The small seaside town has one of the highest real estate prices in Greece and is where affluent Athenians have their second homes. What we didn’t realize is how affluent Athenians are and how a town that caters to the uppermost crust of society can be so isolated from a crisis that is impacting the rest of the nation.
The restaurants in Vouliagmeni were buzzing on the weekend, with groups of polo-shirt clad men and designer sunglass-clad women sipping drinks on white cushions overlooking the Mediterranean. The shabbiest car we have seen here is an Audi. It’s hard to take a picture of a luxury can without it being eclipsed by another one. Here is a red Ferrari turning a corner where a white Lamborghini was parked. I tried to get a clear shot but a group of policemen started yelling something about pictures not being allowed. It was all Greek to me, but I didn’t want to argue.
In the beach parking lot, it’s all Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes.
The only grocery store in town has prices that put Whole Foods to shame. The cheapest sit down meal is the souvlaki corner where lunch for the family came to 30 euros ($40).
The streets are lined with orange, olive and fig trees. All of them are ripe with fruit that we haven’t seen anyone daring to pick. Every time we leave the house, Ava and Kayan beg us to pick fruit. We keep telling them that it’s just for decoration. I suppose when one has so much money, why bother plucking fruit when you can buy it instead?
Vouliagmeni is an the ideal location for us. It has great beaches and a quiet vibe, but is easy access to Athens and a few other beach towns. However, we feel isolated from (what we had imagined to be) Greek culture and what is happening in the rest of the country. Then again, the town of Vouliagmeni has been very welcoming to us and giving us the opportunity to experience their side of the crisis.