One of my favourite quotes from A Christmas Carol is that Scrooge ” knew how to keep Christmas well ” He had, of course just had a visit from the Troika in the shape of three ghosts of Christmas. Greece had theirs in the shapes of Frau Merkel, The EU Central Bank and the IMF. I would guess that Scrooge got off lightly.
However after three days here I must say the Greece does a Crisis well when I compare it to Puglia. Just before Berlusconi was ousted from power by the same Frau Merkel he was asked what about the crisis. Crisis he said in a quote reminiscent of the British P.M. Sunny Jim Callaghan in the 1970s what crisis all the restaurants in Rome are full and nobody can get a table.
That is certainly no longer true in Puglia but here in Greece it most certainly is. Every place last Sunday on the drive down was packed to the gunnels with people. The roads were jammed with cars heading out to eat and what cars. Not a clapped out old Fiat in sight. Everything looked new or almost new and the audis and Mercs were too numerous to count.
The only place where there was no traffic was on the magnificent EU motorway built to allow Bulgarians and Romanians to come to Italy for their hols.
We drove for 89 kms on this and saw three cars. the Italians built the tunnels the French the flat bits and the Germans supplied all the machinery so a win win for the boys and some magnificent scenery for the odd motorist who travels on it.
Nafpaktos on the Gulf of Corinth when we finally got here after hours passing huge lakes
not realising we should have been on the other side of them and had added 110 kms to the journey, is exactly the same.
Every hotel here is full and the bars that line the beach are also a sea of faces. September is when the Greeks take their holidays and unlike Puglia ( 40% down in tourism ) this area is booming. Every hotel we try for on the next part of the journey is either sold out or last room only.
How have the Greeks done it ? If you believe what you read I thought we were coming to a Country ravaged by a Troika hell bent on wrecking the place. I thought we would see miles of closed shops and beggars on the streets. Just now there was a cloud burst and people were running to their cars. The man who sells lottery tickets table by table was also caught out in the rain. Now years ago in Greece this job was done by war veterans who had lost limbs. They were clearly poor and eked out a living . This guy trotted over to a Mercedes 280 and jumped in throwing his lottery tickets on the passenger seat.
It just shows I guess that if you take to the streets after every cut in spending it has an effect. The cuts get cancelled and life moves on. The Italians who in the main don’t want to stand up and be counted tend to suffer in silence. “What good will it do ” many say.
Prices over here are higher than Puglia. A cappuccino is always between €2.50 and €3.50 and beer in a bar can be almost eye watering with many charging €3.50 for a small bottle. However eating out and wine are about the same.
What is noticeable is the price of hotels. Here they are about 50% lower than in Italy and of a good standard. This one is just €50 a night with breakfast and what a view from the balcony
Beach chairs and sunshades are way cheaper than Puglia as is bottled water from the various vendors. It is therefore not surprising that tourism numbers this year in Greece are through the roof even though they have had a summer similar to the one we have had in Puglia. Little sun and lots of rain. A lesson I guess for the tourism types in Italy.
With GRIM aldi ferries doing a couple with a car for €90 o/w it is quite possible that the missing 40% of Northern Italian tourists flocked over here instead. I certainly couldn’t blame them.
Still it seems the greeks are doing the crisis well and that certainly Puglia is suffering far more than here . Maybe it will change when we hit Athens .
Maybe Renzi’s threat of any reforms or the Troika is not quite so strong an argument once you have seen how Greece is doing and maybe all it takes is to drop a few prices to get things moving again in Italy.