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Train your will in Greece

There is something in the view that the Greeks are a race of strident individuals hell bent on exercising their will. Nothing brings this out more than when you are in a queue and no queues elicit more anxiety than train ticket queues, at least in Greece. The train has never conquered Greece as it has elsewhere in Europe.  The standard explanation is that there are too many mountains. Italy also has mountains running down it’s spine but fair enough Italy also has a large industrial north and many low lands. I think there quiet a few mountains in Switzerland and there are quiet a few trains but fairs fair they hold all that gold  and it’s small.

In Greece there’s a conglomeration of rail companies that have never really merged. It all feels a little like the old city state rivalry.  But myths about a national identity start really easily and people love to have a box to put people into don’t they. Well there is something in this one I sure. Say what you like they have done it and been there and influenced more of our engineering, medicine, philosophy, poetry and art t than any other race hands down and they know it.  They are fiercely proud and they have had some raw deals from modern times. The hero lives on however and when the train queue is going nowhere individuals rise from the masses.

I tried to work the web site and failed, I didn’t even come close even though it was set on English. It just didn’t seem to work.  I didn’t seem to be a big thing at all. The queue was so much smaller than the one I dealt with in Barcelona.  There are just not that many trains. Still it took some time mainly due to a very organized older man. He kept bringing odd bits of paper out of his very large briefcase. Once that block was cleared I was on my way to the front and before I knew it I was there. The window was as many things are in the world of the Greek railway a compromise.  It sold suburban rail tickets as well as tickets to the Peloponnese. A somewhat odd combination I thought but I was not in the frame of mind to judge.
The girl in the window seemed to be nice, maybe even I say wholesome. She was a keen observer however as soon as I uttered that I wanted a ticket to Patra she knew that I was not going to insist on my rights to her time. She told me that it would take some time to do such a ticket and seeing that there was a train leaving soon and that there were people who needed tickets much more urgently than I that I should step to one side while she served the more needy. Fair enough I thought. Couple more people went by and  a really wholesome girl and her mother also wanted to buy a ticket to Patra. They were Italian I think as they spoke in English to her. They were given the alternative queue. I smiled to them and indicated that they were second in the queue behind me.  They looked a little unnerved yo be in the same category as me. I was however delighted to have the company.  They looked very conservative and I thought meek. They were friendly and we chatted as you do in a weird world.

It was about then that the trouble started. It started as much trouble does quietly. A very wilful Greek girl arrived at the window and asked and got a ticket to Patra. We all watched and even without Greek I knew what was going on. Despite this and to assure my companions that our queue has some basis in reality I said “Well I think she is going today and she needs the ticket now”  “No” said  the mother “she is going today” She was urgently trying to get her daughter to be active in asserting their rights in getting their tickets. The daughter knew a thing or two about her mum and was trying to calm her.  All this noise had changed things in the queue. People started to mumble and people were walking to the front to check it out and to see what was what. Now another forceful Greek woman had had enough and pushed through and slapped her money down and got a ticket. Then a group of Indians all arrived at the window together and asked for and got tickets to, yes indeed the mother horrifyingly exclaimed, Patra.  Great decent was erupting as the older man who had held up the queue before returned to change his tickets as they were some problem. The mother was rebellious. As the older gent finally left the final straw arrived. It was very fat for a straw. In fact he arrived at the ticket window wielding his stomach like one of those big metal balls they use to knock down buildings. I have never seen this done before and was rather impressed. He did not give a fig about whatever fuss erupted he seemed to thrive on the energy as he fixedly demanded his ticket with a volley of sidelong abuse to the peanut gallery that was now the end of the queue. It was then that the mother cracked she stepped up to the window and tapped the fat man on the shoulder and let loose with a stream of the most scary sounding curses and rants that I have ever not understood. I suppose it was Greek cause he retorted in an angry bass voice that must have given his throat gravel rash. Then it was on for young and old. It was a lot like the scene in the Marx Brothers movie Coconuts when everyone fills up the small cabin. I saw a window of opportunity at the window so I stepped forward and politely said “I think it’s time for my ticket now” She nodded and we did the business in no time at all.