Sarah Gardner: In Greece today, political parties wrapped up their rallies and made their closing arguments ahead of Sunday’s big election. The choice? To continue with steep austerity measures or risk being thrown out of the eurozone.
So how are Europeans reacting to all the drama? To find out, our correspondent Stephen Beard has been selflessly touring the continent’s pubs and bars. Stephen’s euro tour ends today at, you guessed it, in Greece.
Stephen Beard: The Faust Cabaret Bar in Athens is a product of the economic crisis. The Lonely Planet Guide describes it as one of the city’s trendiest, new bars. It was set up only seven months ago by Alekos Sissovitis and his partners. He was a TV soap star until the downturn led to the cancellation of his show. He chose to do something very unusual and brave.
Alekos Sissovitis: Most of the Greek people, they were taking their money out of Greece to Europe, trying to save them. And we had to invest all the money that we had in this business.
Alekos decided that what his fellow Athenians needed was cheering up, with a form of entertainment tried and tested in hard times — cabaret.
Sissovitis: This cabaret was very successful back in the 1930s through the war — people wanted to find happiness somewhere. A live performing is always good when a society is in a crisis.
“Mein Herr” song
And the first song from the floor this evening, the highly topical hit from the movie “Cabaret.”
What better way for the Greeks here tonight to tell the Germans to get lost and to forget their woes. Part-time worker Spiros Komikern says he’s determined to have a good time and reject the German insistence on austerity.
Spiros Komikern: I don’t think the answer to the problem is to spend less, go out less, drink less, smoke less, eat less, do everything less — I don’t think that’s the case.
Many of the revellers in Faust have little choice, but to scale back their spending. Student Antonis Ritsis depends on his parents for support and their income has plummeted.
Antonis Ritsis: We don’t go out as we used to be.
Beard: You’re out this evening, though?
Ritsis: Yes, but when I go out I try not to pay a lot.
“Big Spender” song
Since half the people in this bar are probably broke, this song may seem a little cruel. But co-owner of the Faust, Antonis Peresterakos, says he often lets customers have a free beer if they’re obviously struggling. That’s the Greek way of doing business.
Antonis Peresterakos: For this small bar business, even if we lose at the end of the year 2-3,000 (euro), for us it’s not always a matter of profit and loss. It’s not the German approach, I think.
Beard: No, exactly. That is the problem, isn’t it?
It is just this free-wheeling approach that exasperates the Germans. But the Greeks are feeling pretty exasperated, too. Nikolas Gale and his girlfriend Irene Rasouli are in the Faust Bar tonight. He says that in Sunday’s election he’s going to vote again for the anti-austerity party, even if that means Greece is forced out of the eurozone.
Nikolas Gale: Maybe it’s going to be a good thing. Why should we be in the eurozone if we don’t have money? I don’t see the point of being in the eurozone. It’s pointless.
Beard: What about you, what do you feel?
Irene Rasouli: I don’t know, but I feel sad for my country.
Lighting specialist Fortis Mantelos scrapes a living and still lives with his parents. He says he’s totally numb and confused by the crisis. He’s still not sure how he’s going to vote on Sunday or whether he wants to go back to the drachma or stay with the euro.
Fortis Mantelos: I want a solution, that’s all. I want to end this thing to see my parents miserable, my friends miserable, myself being miserable. It’s dead end for us. So, a change. If it’s drachma, OK. If it’s euro. I just want a change.
Greece’s affair with the euro may well be drawing to an end. If Greece votes against austerity and reform again, it may soon be saying bye-bye to its eurozone partners.
At the Faust Cabaret Bar in Athens, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
Gardner: During Stephen’s pub tour we asked you to send in the price of a pint in your neck of the woods. The most expensive? $10.71, that’s in Shanghai, China. And the cheapest? 75 cents, that’s a Pabst Blue Ribbon at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn in Wilmington, N.C. We called to confirm. It was true. You can still submit from anywhere in the world — click here to submit and check out our beer price map.