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Originally published February 26, 2009 at 11:02 AM | Page modified February 26, 2009 at 11:09 AM


Strike shuts down Acropolis in Athens

A strike by Greek workers closes the Acropolis in Athens, shutting out tourists from one of Europe's most famous cultural sites

The Associated Press


ATHENS, Greece — Tourists who came to Athens on Thursday to see the Acropolis — one of Europe's most famous cultural sites — found themselves met at the gate by striking guards explaining why they had shut the place down.

The antiquities sites guards, who are temporary contract workers, are demanding permanent positions and the payment of wages they say are past due. Thursday was the first day of a strike the guards say will last three days, meaning Athens' signature tourist site will remain closed into the weekend.

"I'm very, very frustrated," said Paul Jones, a 27-year-old a New Yorker who is studying archaeology in Turkey.

"I'm sure they are getting the short end of the stick," he said. "But I came a long way only to see half of Athens closed."

The Acropolis, a flat-topped hill rising 490 feet above sea level in the middle of Athens, holds the ruins of the Parthenon, an ancient temple built between 447 and 432 B.C. in honor of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, from whom the city took its name.

On Thursday, about 30 strikers picketed at the entrance, handing out flyers explaining the closure in Greek, English, French, German and Italian.

In the flyer, the workers accuse the Culture Ministry of failing to live up to its financial obligations, and say they are owed several months' worth of wages.

"They want to impose temporary forms of work with no benefits and low pay," said Yannis Nakos, an archaeologist who came to support the guards.

"We're not happy about closing the Acropolis," he said. "We respect culture and for this reason we want to work as employees, not as slaves."

Nobody at the Culture Ministry was immediately available to comment.

Acropolis guards have called strikes in the past. In 2007, they called off a planned four-day strike in late July, the height of the tourist season, after tour operators warned that repeated closures were damaging the country's travel industry.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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