Sunday, 25 May 2008

Cavo Gavathas

Imagine: you are exploring the west coast of the island and when you arrive at Gavathas, you can't go any further because they've built a huge resort... This is going to happen on Crete when the Greek government, the Greek Church and the British investment Group Minoan get their way.

They want to change the westernmost point of Crete into Cavo Sidero, a huge holiday resort, that will be promoted as the biggest eco-friendly luxurious tourist project in Europe. The project will include villages built in traditional style and no less than three golf courses!

First of all, you should never trust something that is luxurious and eco- friendly. Eco and luxe don't go together. Like you can never fly eco-friendly, even if you pay a lot of money for your 'Green Seat'. Investment companies just put a green sticker on a project, call it eco-friendly and hope that people will believe them.

Take a look at the plans for Cavo Sidero. All scientists agree that Crete will slowly dry up thanks to climate change. Even a child can work out that such a huge project with 6 villages and 3 golf courses will use an enormous amount of water. Will Cretan agriculture have to stop because some tourists want to play golf on a bright green course? (Although it's the increasing Greek agriculture that is one of the causes of water shortages).

The project group says they respect the environment. But how can you keep the landscape green the whole year round? There aren't many landscapes on the Greek islands that remain green in the summer time...

There are many reasons to oppose this project, even if the only reason is that it's a shame that they will disturb such a huge part of the environment and privatise it. You can sign here ( a petition against the decision of the government, which sees Cavo Sidero as a prestige project and against the Greek church that sees money in it because they own the land and want to rent it out to the Minoan Group.

Moreover I think that mass tourism is out. Just like all those silly all inclusive hotels. Those are also pretty eco unfriendly. They waste too much food and they show no respect for the local people. Even on the big tourist island of Rhodes restaurants have had to close because the hotels want to do their own catering. Happily enough a lot of those all inclusive hotels are dominated by Russian tourists who are new to the international tourist scene and have no idea how to behave in public. Coming back from Turkey a lot of Dutch tourists say: never again on an all inclusive!

Lesvos knows only a few of these all inclusive hotels. When the first one opened in Skala Eresos the Greeks felt cheated: The English not only flew the working people to Lesvos, but also the food! So what are the locals getting out of it?

In the west of Lesvos is the little harbour village of Gavathas, not discovered yet by big groups of tourists. It's even prettier than Skala Sykaminia, which is famous for its little Church of the mermaid. Only in July and August will Gavathas have its share of Greek tourists. In the other months, when you are enjoying a meal in one of the two restaurants that look out over the harbour and the bay (there is a third restaurant without this magnificient view) or when you saunter along the street which most inhabitants view as their living room, you will think you have found a lost paradise.

It's as if investment people do everything to find places where they can disturb the peace. Because Gavathas has also been targeted by somebody who has plans that are too great. Between some houses they are trying to squeeze an all inclusive hotel. You won't believe it when you see how close the 5 or so buildings are to each other.

It doesn't look very spectacular and the buildings don't disturb the view of the village too much. But I still wonder how this hotel will change the lives of the small number of inhabitants. Most of them are fishermen and they always smile at the few tourists who visit their idyllic village. The doors of their small houses are always open and most of the day the villagers lounge on wooden benches on the street in front of their houses.

The sandy beach is still not spoilt by rows of sunbeds. That might change next year, if the hotel is ready. So let's hope that all inclusive tourists will not like going to such a little village where there is no shop or bar and you are far away from bigger villages and tourist centres.

At the end of Vatera beach there stands a huge concrete skeleton, like some warning fingers raised to the hills: here as well there was somebody who had the idea to build a big resort, but even before the place was ready, building stopped. Maybe in Gavathas as well, next year this project will still be just concrete. Then only the concrete makers will have made some money from it...

Copyright @ Smitaki 2008

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