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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
How I was trapped in a treasure by George Papandreou 
6th-Nov-2011 06:23 pm
Weather vane

The soon-to-be ex-prime minister of Greece is making headlines these days for more than just resigning (if he actually does). I saw him in person about a decade ago when he was Greece's minister of foreign affairs.

A visiting friend from the US and I were touring the Cathedral of Toledo's Chapel of the Treasure. That's a small room at the base of the cathedral's main tower that contains liturgical objects, relics, and other items of great value — particularly the Monstrance of Arfe (see photo). At 183 kilograms of silver and 18 kilos of gold, plus jewels, it's the most impressive piece, but there are additional objects of precious metal and stones crowding the little room. That's why it's a treasure.

As we were admiring the shiny splendor, a crowd surged through the door. Someone who was apparently a bishop was giving a tour to a tall, gray-haired, bald man with a moustache who was followed by an entourage: Papandreou on an official visit. He seemed to be interested in what he was being shown, though we couldn't tell whether it was real interest or dutiful politeness.

Meanwhile, my friend and I were stuck in the corner until the crowd finally left.

As prime minister of Greece, Papandreou has led a country that accounts for 2% of the gross domestic product of the European Union and has only 11 million residents. Yet it may bring down both the euro and the EU, and, according to some, he's the pyromaniac who set fire to the house of Europe.

And he and I were once in the same place, surrounded by a million dollar's worth of gold.

— Sue Burke

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