Monday, 4 July 2011
There are days that I could wring the necks of some Greeks. This is because of a huge birthday party we had, with many friends and family coming to the island – with some of them telling me pretty upsetting stories about their hotel owner or a car hire company. I had to do my very best to tell them that not all Greeks are like this.
Greece who is dancing a dangerous tango with bankruptcy cannot afford to loose tourists. Tourism is the economic segment that at least brings some money to the empty treasury of the state. Here on the island there are some entrepreneurs who are doing everything in order to save their business from Greek ruination. But some are not.
It is a disservice when a Greek that give you a warm welcome when you arrive, but then bluntly says that your reserved room has been taken and you have to make-do with a room in some backyard hotel – or when arriving at the airport your reserved car for five persons turns out to be a small car for four persons – or in a row of several cars the police decide that your rental car is the only one wrongly parked and gives you a ticket. Hotel owners had the whole winter to do some rebuilding, but some only started to build when the first summer guests arrived; as if all that construction noise is an attraction for the guests who came to enjoy quietness! These are not very friendly welcomes for the visitors to this island. I sometimes ask myself what people here are doing to manage their hotels or car rentals agencies. It is clear that some of them really are in need of a good course in customer service.
However these are only small incidents and when the victims of such a welcome recover from their first fright, they discover that Greeks are by nature hospitable and warm people. Although I must say that the Greek small entrepreneurs, like the hotel and restaurant owners and car renters of this island are in a difficult position because ¬– to say it simply ¬¬– together with the Greek lower and middle classes they have to compensate for all the unpaid taxes of the rich.
So, it’s no wonder that in Athens they take to the streets and demonstrate, so you’d better not venture these days to Syntagma Square or near the parliaments buildings of Athens.
On Lesvos there is nothing to be seen of this unrest – even though the general strikes have caused some delay for a plane or two and we have had some small power cuts. Although the Greeks here are a little sad – life is becoming more and more expensive and nobody knows what is going to happen to their country – but life continues as usual. As in other summers, charter flights disposit hundreds of tourists on the island who come to enjoy sun, sea and the countryside.
Crisis or not, the earth gives what she has always given – vegetables and fruit; a little late, because of the cool weather – but plenty and not more expensive. The fruit season has started and the trees are full of apricots, cherries, mulberries and prunes. The first cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes and eggplants have been harvested, while the bean season has already finished. For the tourists life on the island seems to be like a cloudless sky.
However, it seems as if the weather is participating on the side of the protesters. Clouds gather in the sky and, more than once, they have formed a front, looking like riot police with shields, to block off the sun. Yesterday it poured cats and dogs in some places on the island and the weather forecast for tomorrow also predicts some rain. Mornings and evenings can be rather cool and a jacket is indispensable when you go out for dinner. I am still sleeping under a thick duvet in the night, which is unheard of for a Greek summer night in July.
So there are very comfortable temperatures here in Greece, especially for the tourists who experienced extremely hot weather in their own countries like Holland and Germany and have come to cool off in Greece!
Until now summer has been strangely cool and full of hot debating. Will you help the Greeks? Come and have your holiday in Greece. I am sure you will not regret it because people who spend their holidays here always return home very satisfied, even though they might have met a person who forgot how to behave like a ‘hospitable Greek’.
(If you are in doubt about Lesvos being nice enough for your holiday, order the book Scatterlight Donkeys & Foxballs Ice Cream and get seduced by the stories and the pictures of this beautiful island.)
(with thanks to Mary Staples)
@ Smitaki 2011