Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Money makes the world go round

Again there were Wild West images from Crete, the island that's infamous for its feuds. It seems that the Cretans no longer have patriarchs who look after their family. They seem to have become drug lords who think they're in Colombia. Last year in November, when the police raided Zoniana one officer was nearly killed because some heavily armed men were waiting for them. The whole country was upset and the entire region around the mountain village was combed by a huge police force under the scrutiny of the Greek media. They found masses of weapons, proof of bank robberies that took place on Crete earlier that year and millions of euros in the bank accounts of simple sheep farmers.

On Sunday it happened again. When some police officers went to the village of Malades (near Iraklion) to ask about a marihuana field, they were shot at and one officer was seriously wounded. You can bet that now an even bigger police force will go to Crete, because it;s a disgrace to the Greek government, showing that they've get no control over the drug lords of Crete.

Anyhow, the Greek government is in for a hot summer. Not just from the fact that it seems you are reading last years papers when you see the list of wild fires growing. The scandals around Siemens also seem to be at a peak and have caused a crisis in the Pasok party where high placed members got away with nice big bribes. That's not to say that the other big party of Greece, Neo Democratia, will get away with clean hands.

And then there are the soaring high prices. The government just blames the worldwide food crisis. That is very easy. They won't think about taking a closer look at the wholesale business, nor will they put a stop to the increasing prices (you would almost think that they had some interests there...) Meanwhile the tourists can't believe their eyes entering a supermarket, seeing the high prices the Greeks have to live with.

The only people to oppose this crisis are the extreme right and anarchist parties. Last week in Thessaloniki a right wing demonstration against the high prices was attacked by anarchists. Earlier this month there was a more fun protest in Athens by some masked youth who entered a supermarket, took as many basic products as they could from the shelves and went out on the street to distribute these goods with a flyer saying that this was a protest against the high prices.

The government slowly starts to understand that these high prices could be a reason for dropping numbers of tourists. They really have to worry because tourism is still the biggest earner in Greece.

Seeing Molyvos you wouldn't say that there are less tourists. Yesterday night the streets of the village were overcrowded and the hotels are so full that overbookings are a daily hazard. Elsewhere on the island they still complain that there aren't enough tourists or that they have no money to spend. This is easy to explain. Europe subsidised the new European countries such as the Czech Republic to travel a little around Europe and now Lesvos is filled with masses of Czechs that flew at a very low rate to the island, but have problems facing the high prices here.

Therefore it's good that the Greeks start spreading their holidays and visit the seaside more and more before August. The Greeks usually all went for holidays in August, but now you already see them appearing at the beaches at the end of June. And when a Greek saves or borrows the money for a holiday he really goes for it, without thinking of the increasing prices.

Going out for dinner in Greece used to be less expensive than to go to the shop and make your own meal. Today it's the other way round. Five years ago a dinner would cost around 10 to 15 euros. Now, and especially in Molyvos, you have to count on between 20 and 25 euros a dinner per person. I've said it before, the further you go from the tourist centres, the cheaper it becomes. Last week we went to Skamnioudi (close to Lisvori) where we ate amongst other things ray fish and kalamaria and we ended up with a price below 10 euro a person. (It wasn't at the taverna opposite the little harbour, but a little further along the sandy road following the coast in the direction of Skala Polichnitos.)

It's a shame that Greece has became so expensive for many tourists. Lesvos even became more expensive. The island is not known for the quality of its hotels (I sometimes even wonder if the Lesvorians know how a modern hotel should look). However the reason to come here is that the island is still not spoilt by mass tourism. It's still a charming Greek island with a landscape that has many beautiful spots that you only have to share with just a very few people. You have to pay for this small tourism but I'm sure that it'll be worth every eurocent you spend on it.

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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