Monday, 30 July 2007

Fish & Chips, please!


Last week people from the village of Malia on Crete went out onto the streets to express their anger. They're fed up with tourists, especially the young, under 30, British tourists who terrorise their village. Whether or not they're drunk, they make the streets, bars and restaurants unsafe. They hassle other people, they drop their pants at every opportunity, they have foul mouths and they think nothing of making love in public.

The inhabitants are afraid to go out at night or to go out for dinner. This is upsetting their routine, because Greeks love to take a stroll in the evening, they love to sit in the street at night and talk about the problems of the world, they're used to going out to dinner late at night, especially in summer.

You won't find these sights on Lesvos, with tourists going crazy no matter where they are. Here you don't find large groups of youths roaming the streets completely drunk, nor people who think they're allowed to do whatever they please. On Lesvos you'll only find a few tourists that think they can lie topless in the sun wherever they want and stay shamelessly naked while changing their clothes, while Greek families who hate this look on.

Tourists who come to Lesvos for the first time are amazed when they don't find big tourism here. There are no big hotels, no long streets filled with souvenir shops, no bars with their music so loud that you can't hear yourself think 20 metres away, no restaurants that sell fish and chips.

Lesvos is still an island like a Greek holiday destination should be: just a few international tourism centres like Molyvos, Petra and Anaxos in the North, Skala Kalloni in the middle, Skala Eressos in the west and Plomari in the south. In between you'll find a vast and varied landscape that will enchant you. For the people who love company you have some busy beaches, but there are still enough quiet beaches where you can read your paper. There are modest hotels and pensions and restaurants that serve nearly all just Greek food.

In Lloret del Mar in Spain you can't find Spanish food anymore. There the Dutch tourists are so afraid of Spanish food that they just eat what they would normally eat in Holland. Well, I don't envy them because I love Spanish food, especially tapas. When Spanish tourists want to invade Molyvos I will receive them with open arms, as long as they bring their own tapas bar with them.

It's not that I'm complaining. I love Greek food, but I have to say that the restaurants here on Lesvos all have the same small menus. The only international dish which is really accepted in Greece is pizza and on the whole island there is only one Chinese restaurant (in Mytilini).

There are many tourists who come back each year and stay for a month or longer. When I see them going out for dinner each night, I wonder if they don't get fed up, eating the same things every day. I make it a challenge to cook foreign dishes with Greek ingredients: paella, couscous, bami, Indian chicken in yoghurt. And with some help from Holland I can even serve sushi here.

In Molyvos there are some places where they have some variations on the standard menu. There is The Brasserie, a little before the harbour, that serves a dish of the day like curry every week, there is Sansibal on the way to the harbour that serves amongst other things real steaks and there is the Captains Table that serves various dishes like taboule salad.

Though when I go out for dinner I prefer to eat Greek. After a few days cooking at home, I miss the grilled octopus, kalamari, fresh beans, home made feta, lamb chops, stuffed zuccini flowers and so on. I pity tourists who are afraid of the Greek kitchen because the food is seasonal and so is very fresh.

The heat wave has gone, temperatures are back to normal for the time of year. During the heat wave you just longed for ice cream or watermelon. Now that the sweat is not pouring off my body anymore I can sometimes long for things that don't exist here on the island. My longing for real Dutch herring is ever since I found the Greek sardelles past├Ęs, but sometimes I really want to have a snack like a croquette or a croquette ball, or a smoked sausage from the Hema (all probably equivalent to the British Fish & chips).

Otherwise, I'm sure that not for hundreds or thousands of smoked sausages would I want to live in Malia or Lloret del Mar. So I'd better do without a croquette.

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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