Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Visit of an ex-princess


The start of the summer season this year was pretty sudden. Thanks to Easter the village was made unsafe (A Dutch saying) by not only foreigners-having-spring-holidays, but also by Greeks-having-Easter- holiday. Well, they didn't really make the village unsafe, we don't have those boozing-and-yelling-youngsters. Most of the tourists here behave well, except for some Greek tourists who shout in restaurants because they're always in a hurry to have their food served.

Suddenly the hotels were fully booked and the village opened the shutters of all the shops, caf├ęs and restaurants so that the main streets of Molyvos became busy again. Going for a walk in the mountains it's not unusual now to meet desperate people who have got lost due to difficulties with the Dutch translation of Mike Maunders walking guide or because they have no idea how to interpret the directions in the walking guides from the Andersons.

On the busiest days like Easter or the First of May the local tourists also arrived in Molyvos and on these days it was difficult to get a table in a restaurant. It sometimes was so busy that even the main road was closed, mainly due to Greeks who refused to visit the medival village on foot. Molyvos was incredibly busy and cosy and celebrated with movies and music, fireworks and parades.

However animated the start of the season was, it was difficult to warm up. Weather kept the people cold. Sometimes clouds and a cold wind made sure that temperatures were pretty low for the time of year. While in Holland and Belgium beaches were overcrowded, here the people are not so keen yet to take a dive into the blue sea.

Thanks to the end of the holidays most people returned home, then on Sunday night Molyvos was surprised by a Royal visit. It started with a huge sailing yacht approaching the harbour and then armed police took up strategic positions on the quays. Then a small boat brought Queen Sofia of Spain to shore.

This was an unofficial visit, so no red carpet was laid out. When I asked people why Queen Sofia was coming to Molyvos, most of the people who saw her arrive answered: shopping!

Shopping? In Molyvos? I really had to laugh at this. I could just see Queen Sofia entering the dusty supermarkets and the souvenir shops that for years have sold the same stuff, probably no different from elsewhere in the country. Or did she come for the Lesvorian specialities that used to be sold only in the co-operative store at the Donkey Station, but can now be found in many of the shops in the Agora? Lesvorian olive oil, the preserved sweet fruits, ouzos, all products with increasing international fame. I wondered what the glowing Mayor of Molyvos told Queen Sofia, walking side by side through the Agora.

Anyhow, she just missed the local musicians by some hours. After seeing a movie on rebetica music on Saturday Night, they took their instruments and played, sung and danced until late on Sunday Morning.

But Queen Sofia will have seen enough Greek dancing and singing in her life. She was born in 1938 in Athens as a Greek princess and daughter to king Paul I, the then ruling king of Greece. In 1962 she married the Spanish Prince Juan Carlos who became king of Spain in 1975. Sofia however lost her title of Greek princess in 1967, when democracy in Greece was 'restored'. Well, democracy... It was the junta that ended the kingdom and threw Sofia’s brother Constantine, who succeeded his father in 1964, from the throne. And even after the junta the Greeks didn't want their royalty back. In a referendum held in 1974 the majority of Greeks voted against a monarchy.

The ex-princess is not from Molyvos, nor from Lesvos, which certain people were whispering when she visited the village on Sunday night. And she was not welcomed like a queen, but who ever she spoke to seemed to be so honoured that you would never guess that this anti-royal referendum ever took place in Greece.

So why was the Spanish Queen visiting Molyvos? Was it a sentimental journey because she met her husband on a cruise among the Greek islands? Has their love Lesvorian roots? Because somewhere by an island they must have exchanged their first kiss...

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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