Saturday night fever in Athens

Considering factors such as the exorbitant prices being charged for entertainment in the capital these days, the seemingly unwaning demand and the overall bedlam of bumper-to-bumper road traffic on a typical Saturday evening, the Athenian public’s persistence remains somewhat of a mystery. The chaos, and lack of substantial meaning behind it, was well illustrated in «Proastia» (Suburbs), an older track by the defunct electronic act, Stereo Nova, a pioneer in the local contemporary circuit last decade. «…Come along with us because it’s Saturday night, Saturday night, Saturday night / To a club of chaos / You observe the people who dance and the people who work / A friend of yours walks by, says hello and quickly leaves / There’s no meaning to this but the rhythm is rising / There’s you and a few others / Convergence of chance relationships, because it’s Saturday night…» Saturday night, then, with Athens at its dubious best. The roads are congested with streams of cars headed to the city’s various entertainment venues. Parking availability, on arrival, is an arbitrary issue. The crucial question is whether the night out will live up to expectations. Who, what and where can compensate for the subdued crawl down Kifissias Avenue in first and second gears? Moreover, the other crucial question is cost, and how much the big party will set us back. Complaints regarding entertainment costs have snowballed in recent months. A valid point is being made. For example, a solid night out in Athens, these days, can cost as much as a regular airline ticket to London and back; a drink at one of the countless bars along Psyrri’s narrow alleyways costs more than a dry martini at a prive bar on New York’s Fifth Avenue; a couple of pieces of lettuce and a frugal portion of badly grilled fillet steak are served as «alternative/creative Greek cuisine» – and charged likewise, while it would be cheaper to buy the entire discography of Dimitri From Paris, twice over, than actually see the act perform live. One can’t help but wonder whether things are actually as bad as they seem. Could, perhaps, this be another case of the widespread hyperbole that is so typical in modern Greek society, and the whinging that comes with it? Could we, in fact, be drowning in shallow waters? Because when – or if – the hype, design, name-dropping and other modern aspects of entertainment are disposed of, real quality differentiation can be brought into the equation for more objective judgment. Until then, we can only take to the streets, and test the euro’s mileage: A customary Greek Saturday night out usually comprises three parts – cinema/theater, restaurant, bar/club. But, thankfully, not all of us are the same, so we’ve decided to allow for variations to the basic model, depending on lifestyle. And, at the end of it, we asked for the bill. Economy Night Out. The package includes going to the cinema, a taverna and a bar. This student-inclined triptych won’t cost you more than 30 euros. Catching a movie costs seven euros; the taverna will cost approximately 15 euros – beware, by this we mean the traditional taverna, not modern, or «creative» cuisine as is subcategorized in Athinorama, the influential weekly entertainment guide, for which a further 10 euros needs to be added – and, finally, a stop at the bar afterward should cost about eight euros. Altering the economy plan, we replaced the cinema with the theater, and the taverna with a restaurant: A theater ticket is priced at 20 euros, and a trendy restaurant about 30 euros. The total cost, including the bar, rises to 58 euros. Should the adrenaline start running by this stage of the night, and some late-night clubbing is also needed, the total tab rises to 73 euros – that’s if you limit yourself to one drink. Dinner’s on Me. Excitement makes words roll from the tongue, especially if we begin believing – usually irrationally – that the evening’s partner could solidify into a more permanent thing. Stop, warning sign here – it’s an expensive thought to make. You’ll begin with a good film for two. That’s 14 euros. A decent, well-rated restaurant comes next. Dinner for two, including wine, should go for 130 euros. This is not the right night for clubbing, but a little more wine is what you both need as your ears are caressed by the gentle sounds of Dusty Springfield’s «Look of Love» at one of the charmingly seasoned downtown watering holes. Two glasses of wine here should add 15 euros to the tab. The evening’s total cost – 159 euros. DJ Claus Baus is Coming to Town. Conscientious young clubbers usually don’t emerge from their homes – usually their parents’ – until after 1 a.m. After enjoying mum’s meal, the clubber can afford a cab ride, averaging four euros, to the club. Entrance fees here go for 20 euros. DJ Claus Baus has done us a huge favor by visiting. Why resist handing over the money? The DJ Claus Baus show ends, but the tummy rumbles have begun. A pit-stop at an Everest outlet, for 1.50 euros, is a necessity. But, at 3 a.m., it’s still too early to head home. The long cues outside some late-night club don’t discourage, and, an hour later, the clubber is inside dancing to his favorite techno beats, but not before parting with 15 euros at the door. At some point, our young Nikos will get back home safely. Total cost – 40.5 euros. The Conscientious Parent. A visit to the local video store is just not good enough. The conscientious parent has booked tickets for the premiere of «Harry Potter» or «Lord of the Rings» at one of the Village multiplexes. The cost for two siblings, and their accompanying parent, amounts to 21 euros. Despite the ambitious lectures on a healthy diet, the trio is lined up for popcorn and a couple of Cokes. That’s another 10 euros. The film has ended and Harry Potter’s magic has vanished within minutes for the restless, insatiable youngsters. It’s back out into the real world and the kids are already dreaming about a kid-meal at the fast-food outlet conveniently located next door. Their dream becomes reality for a further 15 euros. The evening’s total entertainment cost – 46 euros. Anything for Parios. It’s a Wednesday afternoon and you’re trying to recover from your eight-hour work shift. The phone rings and it’s a friend from the past on the other end of the line. «About five or six of us are thinking about getting together for a night out to see [Yiannis] Parios and [Anna] Vissi this Friday night. We’ve reserved a table. What do you say?» Not a bad idea, «I grew up listening to Parios and continue to grow up listening to Vissi,» you think. «Yes, why not?» comes the reply. After a quick visit to the local ATM, you meet up with your long-lost pals at the venue and the evening begins. It all looks just like it does on television. Two bottles of whisky are ordered and, some time later, consumed. But Parios hasn’t even made it onto the stage yet. A third bottle is ordered. Eventually, the bill is brought to the table at about 5.30 a.m. The total cost here is 630 euros, or 126 euros per person.

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