Reading my last blog about Greece, one would think that all we did there was gorge. Yes, that is technically correct, however being the cunning multitasking foxes we are, Chris and I managed to eat and make plentiful observations during our 6 week stint in the country. We are just that good.
So how about that woeful economic situation in Greece then? Oh yes, how did I forget to mention the most wide-spread news around the world???? Probably because the only sign of economic struggle we’ve witnessed came in the form of perpetual winging of the locals. As nice as they are, these people can complain your ear off within a minute, be it in a coffee shop, at a campsite or even outside a local supermarket. A guy the other day got so angry telling us about the ‘tragic state of the economy’ he started literally spitting venom as he yelled at the top of his lungs. Chris was speechless. Germans don’t really do that sort of emotional baggage unloading, especially not in public and definitely not to a person they’ve known for a total of 45 seconds.
Yelling..now that’s another Greek thing…
If I’m sounding a tad harsh here, it’s because usually one can detect tell-tale signs of a country’s economic struggles. First of all, everything is cheap (struggling locals couldn’t live otherwise), restaurants and coffee shops are empty and even seaside villages will be unfrequented by locals at the height of summer, having to work 18 hour days to make ends meet. Not so much in Greece. Street food may be cheap but restaurants and cafes are expensive yet they all seem to be doing a booming trade. Many drive around in nice cars and brand new scooters, and most seem to just loiter up and down seaside stretches with their loud music blaring a-la-Bondi Beach in the late 80s. Yet Greece also has one of the most expensive petrol prices in Europe, so what gives?
As one green-grocer told me (my Aussie friends can picture this in a Con-the fruiterer voice):
‘The problem with Greece is the young people! Look at Turkey…look at Brazil…they are not happy and they protest day and night for weeks and even months at a time. In Greeeeeece, they protest maybe one day or two; the moment the sun comes out they go to the beach and play racquet ball!’
As funny as this outburst was, the man actually made a valid point. The reason we’re taking this local economic crisis with a grain of salt is because of the insane amount of local youngsters (in their 20s and 30s) who spend their days sunbaking on the beach, playing racquet ball and consuming copious amounts of freddos, the local iced coffees which go for an eye-popping €4 each. Chris and I have had ONE freddo each the whole time we’ve been here, and that’s only because we scored a two-for-one deal at a local coffee shop. People drink this stuff all day long: four, five maybe six a day is the norm. Where on earth do they get all this cash from?
Well, that’s another sore point. Get into a conversation with a 30 year old in this country and he/she will tell you there just aren’t any jobs going around; speak to a 60 year old here and he/she will tell you that because there aren’t any jobs around, their 30 year old children are moving back home and sucking their savings dry like an Armageddon was imminent.
According to Anthony, our lovely campsite owner in Pieria, the problem is education, if you can believe that. He says that because the post-war generation was uneducated, they went into schooling overdrive with their kids, meaning that nowadays every 30yo in Greece is the proud holder of a university degree. In Europe (and this is generalizing of course) university degree holders will not and do not want just any job. They want one in their field of study…or else they’ll live with their parents until the cows come home. The cows, incidentally, aren’t going anywhere because farming is also the single biggest industry to suffer the disastrous consequences of a very well educated population.
As opposed to countries were economic crisis is palpable (Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania) in Greece you’ll be hard-pressed to find a 20-something goat herder, 20-something fruit & veggie seller or, for that matter, a young local pumping gas at stations. These jobs are either taken on by older Greeks or younger immigrants, mostly Albanians.
Personally, I think there is a much simpler explanation at play here. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it’s actually the after-lunch siesta culture which is directly to blame for the downfall of a country’s economy. It’s the one thing Greece, Italy and Spain have in common and it’s really the best cause-and-effect reasoning I can come up with. Spend a third of your daytime sleeping and you’re bound to be less productive!
Oh…these three countries are also the largest producers of olive oil in the world so perhaps that may be to blame…damn must think about that too. On a different note, I’ve recently read a report that the fastest growing olive oil consumer country in the world is China, locals are literally going nuts over it; so there may be hope for Greece yet, if they can manage to snatch a big chunk of that market before anyone else does.
The issue is undoubtedly a much more complex one. Greece is not immune to the odd controversy about corruption and it is true that the tax rates in this country are just insane or at least completely inflated in relation to what people get in return. I’m not sure what the pension situation is like here but again, the biggest complaints are coming from the youngsters and, if truth be told, they seem to do a hell of a lot of complaining and not much else.
The passing visitor certainly would not be aware of any major crisis, unless of course he was to chat away to locals, which is both inevitable and highly entertaining. Aside the petulant complaining there’s another trait we’ve found very common here.
Speak to anyone long enough (mostly the men) and you’ll soon learn, through tangents which could rival the ‘7 degree of separation’ theory, that EVERYTHING is in one way or another, derived from Greece.
Pizza? It’s originally from Greece! Coffee? It’s a Greek invention! The wheel? Greek! PASTA??? Oh yes, the Greeks made it long time before the Italians but they didn’t like it. No, I’m not kidding, ask about the origins of ANYTHING and you’re bound to get a long-winded explanation as to why ‘He comes from the Greek something or other’. It’s really quite hilarious and understandable too when you’re dealing with one of the most ancient cultures on the planet.
What can I say? We’ve had an absolute blast here and we’re relishing the fact that we’ve been able to enjoy every single aspect of the country, now that summer has well and truly arrived.
The Peloponnese turned out to be infinitely more magical than we’d ever expected. The sheer natural beauty of this country, let me tell you, is not defined by its innumerable dreamy islands alone.
Head down here if you ever get the chance, and you can enjoy the kind of supreme scenery you’ll find in but a handful of the world’s corners, coupled with lovely people and good, wholesome food.
Oh crap…I’m starting to sound like a tour guide again 😉