Athens suffocates as Greeks burn wood and chat about the heating problem

Posted by in Society

That was the number one topic over Christmas dinners and lunches, among family members, relatives and friends: the heating! “Do you heat this winter?” was the first question after the exchange of the usual Holy Fest wishes, the kisses and the admiration of the Christmas tree. The moment the aunts, the uncles, the cousins or the friends would make themselves comfortable on the couch the question to be shot was “Have you started heating already?”

The heated discussion that followed would quickly warm up the rather ‘fresh’ living room – a kind of welcome alternative to the cold heaters that remained turned off.

 No matter whether with central or private heating oil or natural gas system, Greece’s working and middle classes find it hard to turn the thermostat on and supply their guests and homes with that old fuzzy warm feeling. Whether with heating oil or natural gas, Greeks find it hard to pay an awful bunch of money that would remind them, they were part of European Union. 

In winter 2012, there is hardly a family that can afford to pay the double price for heating oil after the government raised the tax and pushed up the prices for 1.40-1.60 euro per liter. There is hardly a family that can afford to pay the price of natural gas after the tax was raised last year.

The alternatives like electric heaters are also used with caution due to the high prices in electricity and the upcoming hikes as of 1.1.2013.

My killer fireplace

Lucky are the ones who have a fireplace and thus in a location that can warm a broader area of the home.

As the lips nip on the welcome drink and the hands grab some chips from the bowl, the topic rapidly goes over the prices of wood for the fireplace. 

As the enquiries increased this winter, so did the prices for the wood. They doubled from 100 euro/tone last year to 200 euro. “How much did you pay per tone?” The prices vary between 10 and 15 euro per sack. How many kilos is a sack? Nobody can tell exactly. It depends very much on how fresh or dry the wood is, whether it has absorbed rain water or not. The latest trick of the vendors is to sell the wood per cubic meter. A trick that drives the prices higher. Of course.

Before the first drink is over, everybody is talking about the awful smell in the atmosphere every evening.

Suffocating in Athens

An unpleasant odour cocktail of burning wood, burning petrol and acid containing firelighters, enriched with the smell of burning newspapers and old furniture – used by those who cannot even afford to buy wood. There are reports that people chop wood from the parks in the Athens area.

Every evening as I open the balcony door to get some more wood for the fireplace I try to hold my breath and not inhale the suffocating smog. The smog swinging above Athens. It’s a new phenomenon. The winter smog…

 “The government increases heating oil by 48% and collects 75% less tax than planned. People turned to wood, the city suffocates,” wrote photographer Yiannis Larios and uploaded a panoramic picture of Athens, taken on 26. December 2012 from the rooftop of a building in Penteli area.

 Yiannis Larios: “This is Athens of shame.  Today’s photograph earlier. There is not plan, but a mandarin-style inspiration of irrational increase in heating oil. It  brings one-fourth in tax revenue and turna Athens into a chamber of soot. An experiment conducted by idiots at the expense of the health of us all. Share this.”

Meanwhile, the voices asking the government to decrease the heating oil tax are getting louder.

It doesn’t matter whether the people freeze and the government failed to meet its targets. Main thing is the revenues target was clearly written on a paper sheet and submitted to our beloved Troikans.

BTW: In London of December 1952, twelve thousand people were killed due to heavy smog caused by the immense burning of coal. We are not that far yet… But we will the moment we will stasrt burning our dining chairs and living room carpets.

PS Odd but looking at this picture I expect Charles Dickens to come around the corner…