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Tourism and Crisis

February 17, 2012

This week we have had Sandy and Winnie (Sheila’s brother and sister-in-law) to stay, which has meant that we could be tourists again. Tuesday, as well as being Valentine’s Day was also Sandy’s birthday so we all went out for lunch at the Cave of the Dragons with Hans and Hanneke and had goat.

On Wednesday there was a major power cut in Ferma, which meant no showers and more important, no breakfast coffee so before visiting the Minoan site at Zakros, we stopped off at a taverna for morning coffee.

Mine host was in talkative mood and so we were treated to a discourse on the economic crisis and whilst it was clear that he, like many Greeks, want to stay in the euro and not default (which is obviously seen as somewhat of a national disgrace), he was angry with the politicians for getting them into the mess and siphering off billions of euros to some place no one knows where. Most of all though, the anger is being directed towards the EU itself and particularly against Germany. We have read about boycotts of German goods and businesses being organised but had not heard anyone speak with such force on the subject before. On the other hand, not once have we heard anyone admitting that Greece has been living beyond its means and/or that they personally had not paid the tax that they, as individuals, should have done – not surprising perhaps!

I was reminded of an earlier blog when I referred to this subject and regretted not having taken a picture of a poster in a window in Agios Nikolaos. Yesterday we were there again and as the poster was still in the window, this time I got the picture.

Interestingly, there was also a stall in the main square staffed by young people, which  seemed to be dealing with issues to do with the crisis, so Sheila enquired what they were doing. It transpired they were providing advice to people who were unable to meet the additional taxes imposed as a result of the crisis and on other related issues, so even in prosperous Ag. Nik. the real problems are beginning to hit ordinary folk. 

The stats are appalling – unemployment at 20%, youth unemployment hitting 48% and the economy shrinking by the year. When this happened a decade ago with various so-called third world countries mainly in Africa, it was decided to wipe off the debt entirely, as being the only way in which their economies could grow and yet no one is suggesting it here! I wonder why but not being an economist, have no answers?

However, what is obvious even to the most casual observer is that the Greek economy will never recover whilst the debt remains and is being strangled under the iron boot of EU and IMF dogma. Meanwhile, young people lose hope and the Greeks generally lose faith in both the EU and democratic politics. All this brings back historical memories of Germany under the Weimar Republic. Don’t be surprised if the far right win a lot more seats in April’s elections.

Anyway, back to the tourism! After our lecture on Greek policitics and economics from the taverna owner, we went to the palace at Kato Zakros and then on to Vai Beach which was again deserted and beautiful. Winnie then showed us all how to skim flat stones on a very placid sea before finding treasure trove in the sand – over six euros! Being a generous soul, most of it was subsequently donated to a church in Ag. Nik. As the Greek Orthodox Church is apparently extremely rich and pays no tax on its substantial land holdings, the need here was probably not matched by the generous intent! On the other hand, the Church is apparently looking after a fair number of kids in Athens, abandoned by their parents who cannot feed them.

Yesterday, we went to the Minoan town of Gournia. There was much discussion on the importance of “lustral baths’ to the Minoans. We never did get to the bottom of this but here is Winnie with bottom in bath!

The next stops in this cultural odyssey were a Byzantine church at Kritsa and then the ruins of the Dorian town of Lato, which was new to us. It had a very impressive position overlooking Ag. Nik. and some very imposing blocks of stone – as someone remarked they must have had lots of slaves!

It was then off to Plaka to view Spinolonga from afar (no boats on Thursdays) and home via Ag. Nik. In the evening we went back to the authentic Cretan restaurant at Monasteraki which we have been too twice before, where interestingly the bill is always the same per head, irrespective it would seem, of what is ordered and how much wine is drunk! There could be a message here for Greek economists, perhaps?

Today, winter returned. We went to Agios Iannis (the abandoned village behind Ferma) and the temperature got down to 1.0 C and there was some sleet. 

However, there was still an opportunity for the Woods to go scrumping for oranges …..

But even though there was snow in the hills, the spring flowers were begininng to come out in our garden…….



And just in case you get the impression that there is no sun and/or that we have given up on the Greek, here is Sheila hard at both when it was a little warmer earlier in the week.




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One Comment
  1. Gillie permalink

    Wow – touristy bits sound great… you seem to eat a lot of goat? It all looks and sounds wonderful. Gillie xx

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