ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Heavy snow covered the Acropolis and other ancient monuments in Athens and halted COVID-19 vaccinations in the Greek capital on Tuesday as the weather disrupted many services across the country.
When Western Europe got a break from winter weather, temperatures dropped in the southeast of the continent and winter storms hit Turkey as well.
The snow, an unusual sight in Athens, a city of over 3 million people, also stopped most public transport, while fallen trees resulted in power outages in several suburbs in the mountains.
Snow is common in the mountains of Greece and the north of the country, but much less common in the capital. Some Athenians cautiously emerged outside and took photos on balconies and in the streets.
The snow arrived as Athens and some other parts of Greece remained closed to contain coronavirus infections. Schools and most businesses are closed and residents are required to stay indoors during a night curfew.
Some kids skipped online classes on Tuesday to play in the snow. Adults also went out to play and dug up some skis for use on the capital’s hilly slopes. A man was driving up Pnyx Hill in central Athens near the Acropolis.
Norwegian Ambassador Frode Overland Andersen tweeted a video of him driving down a hill in the Filothei suburb with his teenage daughter.
“Challenge accepted,” he wrote after a friend in Oslo asked him to prove that it is really possible to ski in Athens.
“It was the best day ever in my home office during the lockdown,” the ambassador told The Associated Press. “Unfortunately my skis hit pretty hard, so I’ll grow and prepare for next season.”
In front of the parliament building, orange snow plows cleared the streets of ice and snow, while the President’s guards, clad in traditional pleated kilts and pompom-tipped shoes, were given heavy woolen coats.
The cold snap, which has already led to snowstorms in large parts of Europe, left temperatures in Athens hovering around freezing on Tuesday, but should rise abruptly to highs of 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday. In neighboring Turkey, heavy snowfalls and blizzards forced the closure of a highway in northwestern Turkey. Around 600 vehicles were stranded on a nine-kilometer stretch of snow-covered road, and another 800 more vehicles were stranded elsewhere, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Sections of Greece’s main road were also closed on Tuesday, and most ferry services to the islands were suspended while flights from regional airports to Athens were suspended.
Greek fire service spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis said the service had received more than 600 calls for help in the greater Athens area.
“The calls mostly concerned fallen trees and the transportation of people stuck in their vehicles to a safe place, but also the transportation of kidney dialysis patients for treatment,” he told state television.
“Vaccinations have been postponed, but we’ve helped move doctors and medical staff to where they are needed, and we’ve helped power engineers reach damaged utility poles in areas where access was difficult,” said Vathrakoyiannis.
Power and water outages have also been reported in central Greece. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with emergency relief leaders to help residents in darkened areas and snow-cut villages.
“We naturally recommend that great care be taken with any movement, avoiding any unnecessary movement,” Mitsotakis said after the meeting, adding that the authorities did everything in their power to keep the streets open and areas without To supply electricity with electricity again.
“I think we will all be patient when we deal with a phenomenon that is truly unprecedented,” he added. ___ Follow Becatoros at https://twitter.com/ElenaBec and Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos ___ Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey and Thanassis Stavrakis, Petros Giannakouris and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Athens.