Greece: The country of great contrasts

East vs west, villages vs urban conglomerations, rich vs poor – «Greece, the country of contrasts» could be the slogan for an advertising campaign for the country if those contrasts did not have their darker side. Villages around the country are being abandoned while others – particularly where tourism is flourishing – are growing. Whole towns are plagued by poverty and unemployment as factories are moving north of the border. Athens is smothered in smog, an unknown phenomenon for the islands. Half the country’s cafes are filled with tourists, the other half with immigrants. «These contrasts are typical of postwar Greece,» said sociologist Aphrodite Teperoglou, former director of research at the National Center for Social Research. «Regionalism is also to blame. The isolation of many small communities is an obstacle. However, no one has ever gone to the trouble of drafting a development program based on each region’s particular characteristics. No wonder regional inequalities are increasing.» The state is dragging its feet, but the solution could arise by itself, believes Costis Koutsopoulos, director of the National Technical University of Athens’s Geography Department. «Thirty percent of the population lives in… the capital, which has reached a saturation point. The city itself is pushing out its residents.»