I write this to you from the island of Crete, where the beaches are two-thirds empty, the hotels less than half full and some restaurants all but deserted.
For us, it’s a July holiday paradise. Turn up at any beach, any time of day and have your pick of the best spot, visit local points of interest and there’s no need to blink up through the mists of lost sleep at the crack of dawn to avoid the crowds – there aren’t any. And yet (of course) the people are as welcoming as ever, if not more so and the landscapes unchanged at strikingly beautiful.
But the British are turning their backs and Greek people are worried. They could be angry but they’re not.
The people we have spoken to have expressed their disappointment at the British media (British newspapers are for sale at every supermarket):
♦ GREEK SUPERMARKETS ARE RUNNING OUT OF FOOD! It isn’t true.
♦ MEDICATION IN SHORT SUPPLY AS PHARMACIES RUN DRY! It isn’t true.
♦ AIRLINES TO GO UNDER AS FUEL RUNS OUT. It isn’t true.
♦ GREEK AUTHORITIES TAKING SPARE EUROS FROM BRITS LEAVING GREECE! A skill our tabloid journalists have always excelled in, the appalling lie.
It has to be said, I am many miles away from a troubled Athens, with hundreds of islands scattered across the Aegean between us, but here in Crete, the beaches are beautiful, the food fresh and plentiful, the wine inexpensive and the hospitality of the Greek people warm, welcoming and considering their recent history, frankly as inspiring a community you are not likely to meet anywhere else.
Today the banks reopen, and although there remains a restriction for the Greek population in accessing their own hard-earned money and personal life savings, we have yet to see a cash machine queue or one without money in it, and we have been able to access our own money freely. Sewing hundreds of Euros into the lining of the swimming trunks was a wasted week back in Blighty. Again – NO ACCESS TO CASH FOR TOURISTS; it isn’t true.
And it’s not just Crete, I hear from friends in Skiathos and Mykonos similar tales without woe. For tourists, you will notice little change. Of course, some restaurants won’t take a credit card, the Greek people cannot access their own cash beyond a rationed daily limit and their only way to pay their suppliers is through the money we give them, this is now a cash based society, and you know what? Good. We’ve become so locked into our new payment systems at home, that we fail to see the hideous social divorce wrapped up in one word contactless. What a shameful aspiration to have welcomed into our lives, to be without contact.
The Greek’s need more contact, not less, and it is we that can give it. Of course from our protected islands of new Conservatism we can bemoan the silliness of a ‘No’ vote in the recent referendum but the Greeks are a proud nation and ask yourself this, do you not have the opportunity to celebrate your own pride in who you are and who you have the free right to become?
Have you not spent years campaigning, or watching from the sidelines those who do fight for the human freedoms from the autocratic superstate who has spent your life informing you that you are a second class citizen? Given the opportunity, I too would have voted no. And whatever else you may think, or wherever your own political affiliations lie, the Greek people did not ask to be part of the European superstate the single currency has become, nor did they cause the world-wide economic troubles that affected us all. Is it fair then that they appear to be paying the greatest price?
Greek’s and gays have always got along, some islands almost exclusively attracting the gay traveller, I believe Skiathos now even offers Mamma Mia themed boat excursions if you can bear such Piers Brosnan influenced awfulness. Or, be adventurous, ignore the opening bars of Chquitita (it is after all Spanish) and go somewhere else and give a little back. And so if you’re considering a late August or early September sojourn into the sunshine, go Greek. And if you’re staycationing this year, ask your local shop to stock Mythos beer and buy real feta, not that ‘Greek-style’ nonsense.
I’m leaving Crete tomorrow for the island of Karpathos, I shall take my Greek taxi to the Greek bus and fly out on a Greek airline to spend another week eating Greek food and drinking Greek wine in the company of the Greek people. They deserve our attention, yours too.
Cosmos (part of the Monarch group), Thompsons Holidays, Olympic holidays and Thomas Cook all have last-minute deals in all island locations, available online.