Chaos of Athens as seen from the sky

At peak hours, his job has him far from Athens’s traffic jams, but he shares commuters’ woes. «You’d expect me to have got used to it after so long, but one never does,» said Dimitris Koliomichalis, one of the country’s few flying reporters. Head of Skai Television’s traffic department, every day he flies over Athens in a helicopter to report on the situation in the city’s main streets. His reliable and often graphic reports from the air have earned him fans among professional drivers and ordinary commuters, many of whom don’t leave home before they hear his reports. Everything looks smaller, more insignificant from above, he says – everything except the traffic. «Every day I get desperate at the sight of what lies below me. Desperate for my fellow-citizens, the endless working hours lost, the time wasted,» he says. Every morning and evening he is a silent witness to an undeclared war. «That’s just what it looks like. We pit ourselves against a formidable monster, and we always lose.» Just a few days ago, when truck drivers abandoned their juggernauts on the national highway outside the city, Dimitris witnessed a traffic jam stretching for 19 kilometers. «A few days later, a truck broke down on the Nea Philadelphia bridge and all hell broke loose. It is not only the demonstrations, but the poor state of the roads everywhere, our terrible driving, the absence of police. Only if the police ensure that there is road assistance for heavy vehicles at regular intervals along the highway will we be able to avoid bottlenecks. At the moment, if one truck overturns, the whole city comes to a standstill.» Dimitris can guess which roads will be blocked at certain hours of the day. Both main highways, Schistos, Kifissias and Katehaki avenues, the coast road. «Those are the most difficult arteries in Attica. The worst days are Monday and Friday, barring the unforeseen,» he added. He has noticed that the traffic police tend to downplay the extent of the problem. «Often I hear one thing and see another. Even on the Attiki Odos there are problems, mostly due to poor construction. For example, drivers heading for Lamia are channeled into a single lane. If that backs up, so does the rest of the Attiki Odos.» Still, despite the fact that he is often the bearer of bad news, Koliomichalis loves his job. «I think that I help people and that gives me satisfaction. And don’t forget that Athens looks nice from above – although the longer you spend in the air the more it turns into a monstrous concrete jungle. But watching a sunset from the sky is indescribable,» he admits. Back on the ground, at least he knows which roads to avoid.

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