Monday, 14 August 2006

High season

Other years around the Ascension of Maria, on the 15th of August, the island has often been cooled by a shower. This year it looks as if the Weather gods will let Maria go to heaven in rather higher temperatures. Although last week there seemed to have been a disagreement on this typical weather: parts of the island were very happy to get a cooling shower. Other parts like Eftalou did not get one drop, while the far part of Eftalou, near the Eftalou restaurant, the one of Manolis, enjoyed ten minutes of heavy rain!

The island really needs all this water. Last week the northern part of the island, Molyvos, Petra and Anaxos, had serious water problems. This resulted in tourists fleeing their hotels and some even left the island. Only after some hotel managers complained to the island's government, the army was send out to transport water from springs to hotels and a day later there was running water again in the bathrooms of Molyvos. Only Anaxos, whose water problems were different, is still said to have some problems.

Well, these days there are enough angry tourists. They complain about all kind of things. They get bored, there are not enough glasses in their room, their toilet is not well enough cleaned, they think the salad is not properly washed. Tourists seem to not realize that they have travelled to a Greek island, where it is Greek High Season and everybody is worn out, because it is so busy and so terribly hot.

Let me give you one good piece of advice: Do not come to the island around the 15th of August. Unless you like to force your way in the midst of thousands of screaming Greeks shambling slowly towards the harbour. Unless you want to enjoy a noisy Greek family which seats itself just next to your towel on the beach. Unless you like to philosophise on the waitress who takes one hour to bring you your beer. Unless you are happy to have to end your romantic dinner because a whole Greek family takes possession of the dinning hall where you are eating. Unless you like to rediscover the old bread because the fresh is now always sold out. Unless you embrace some stress being on the road because so many Greeks seem to have never learned their highway code.

And when you want to make complaints about all of this, do not go to your tour leader! They arealready up to their eyeballs in the problems their bosses cause: overbooking, flight delays, bankruptcy. Realize that the hotels do everything to make your stay as comfortable as they can, but sometimes they have such little money that they are also facing a mountain of problems.

For example. Did you know that a lot of hotels who last year had guests from the Dutch tour operator Belair never got paid, because that company went bankrupt? And for sure you know that most of the hotels on Lesvos are family affairs. So that whe such a travel company does not pay it brings them huge financial problems. Last week the same happened to a Scandinavian tour operator. It went bankrupt but still had some guests on the island who were scheduled to go home with the last flight. Well, people on Lesvos learnt their lesson from Belair. The Greek travel agent told the hotels to hold onto the passports of their Scandinavian customers until all hotels and tour leaders were paid. And it worked. Everybody got paid and the guests could go home without any delay. It is said that on Crete they were not that smart and they will probably face other debts.

Tonight and tomorrow the Greeks on Lesvos will all visit a Church of Maria. Especially the churches in Mandamados, Agiassos and Petra. Some will make it a pilgrimage: crawling on hands and knees, some on foot and others by car. On the sea delayed ferries will race to their destinations and in the blue sky planes hurry to transport other Greeks to their holiday islands.

Tomorrow it is Ascension Day of Maria. At noon the Greeks will celebrate the day with an extended lunch, after which they will lie down for their well deserved siesta. Then their vacation will be over, they will pack their belongings and leave. But such a mass cannot leave the island on one day. So slowly, slowly the island will become itself again, being friendly to the guests and the people working at the restaurants will even remember how to smile. But do not be amazed, if on a deserted beach, you see a big Greek family approaching and of all the places to sit down, they will put their umbrella right next to your towel. I have yet to have anybody explain to me this Greek sociable behaviour, which also means that Greek people like to make busy restaurants even busier and will never sit down in an empty restaurant. Somewhere there must be an island that is so quiet that no Greek will ever put a foot on its soil. I am wondering where that can be...

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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