Sunday, 20 May 2007


You know that most of the time I write hymns of praise for the island. And that most of the time I love its inhabitants. However this week I will write about a nasty character trait that many Greeks have: professional jealousy. Greeks are easygoing people, except when one has too much success. Then they start teasing, complaining and in the worst case they send the authorities to investigate.

In Greece not only the foreigners need a nightmare of papers. The Greeks themselves hardly know what papers they need for a business. Mostly they settle their papers using a friend and whenever possible they try to avoid taxes and neglect laws. This is fine until somebody thinks that somebody else earns too much money. Then he will send the police to find out if this money making person has all the required papers, if he pays his taxes and if there might be illegal workers.

There are supermarkets that complain about people selling vegetables from a truck. Good businesses are boycotted because the owner isn't local, popular bars are said to be a nuisance for their loud music. Greek people don't like seeing their neigbours earning good money.

Last week air traffic controllers went on strike because they were unhappy. Travellers from Holland had to catch the boat in Athens to come to the island and Dutch vacationers leaving the island had to travel through Turkey to catch their plane in Izmir. On Lesvos some state guides were also unhappy. They did not strike, but they threatened to go to the police because they lose revenue thanks to the fact that less and less tourists will come with them. The guides enviously watch jeeps full of tourists being led by a non guide, or groups of walkers accompanied by a non guide through the gardens of Molyvos.

As long as there is tourism in Greece, state guides are trained to tell of the glorious past of this land of the Gods. When for example on Lesvos you go on an excursion to the Petrified Forest, there has to be a state guide. This is also obligatory when visiting a monastery or a village that has historical value like Molyvos, Skala Sykaminia or Agiasos.

However bus trips are not that popular anymore with tourists. They prefer tearing through the island in jeeps or taking walks. These excursions are very popular and mean that the number of people going to the Petrified Forest or Agiasios decrease, creating less work for the state guides. So they are angry.

They don't ask themselves why the public wants other excursions, they don't find out what excursions they want. They prefer to threaten via the authorities to accuse the guides of being illegal. Well, luckily enough you are allowed to accompany tourists, as long as you don't tell them anything about Greek history.

For example Dolf during his city tour accompanies you through Molyvos. He gives directions, leads you through the centuries old streets, shows you the way to the castle and makes sure that you can find the harbour.

Sigrid takes you along on her two day jeep safari. She drives in front, she indicates when you should change gear, she points out woods and rivers, she leads you up and down mount Olympus, she tells you where you can swim and eat and she makes sure that you have a night to remember at the Hot Springs of Lisvori.

Then there is Jan who accompanies the excursion Lesvos Specialities, usually called: walking with Jan. He points out what grows and what flowers, he tells stories about what is done with the plants, he shows you where you can buy regional products and he takes you to Perikles, where his wife supervises you making your own lunch.

Then there is the newest excursion: snap shot. This is for advanced walkers interested in photography. Jan (from walking with Jan) accompanies you on the Alexander walk up above Lafionas and he will make sure that you take beautiful pictures of the breathtaking views you will pass and how to take close ups of flowers.

It is clear that state guides are not educated to climb up and down small streets, that they will not bite the dust and race over mountains in jeeps and neither will they be educated to tell everything about what grows on the island and neither are they skilled to help with photography. So when these state guides are smart, they will realise what tourists want and improve excursions instead of complaining.

This means that on these new excursions there will be no guide but an accompanist. And whenever this person makes a slip of the tongue about Greek history, never mention this or the new excursions will be banned and the only thing left will be bus trips again.

However, I must underline that it is definitely worth going on an excursion to the Petrified Forest. Because not only will you see something very unique, but the bus trip travels through an impressive part of the island, so you can also see this excursion as an island tour. Dutch travellers may be happy to find besides a state guide the accompanist Dolf, the best bus trip entertainer you will find on the island.

If you do not speak Dutch, it's a pity. Because Dolf, Jan and Sigrid are at their best speaking their mother language. In this case I advise you to do like the Greeks: demand that your tour operator finds you an accompanist who speaks your language and who is able to accompany and entertain you on jeep tours and walking tours.

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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