Thursday 20 May 2010

In the face of adversity the Greeks offer three doses of humanity!

Late May and the locals here on the island of Zakynthos are feeling the pinch. Tourists are coming in, but in dribs and drabs, just when they are needed in droves.

So how do those working in the tourist industry react to this worrying economic challenge? Do they try to screw us out of our last tourist cent?

I walk to the stunning beach of Gerakas, where yer man says it will cost me 8 euro for a sun lounger. I tell him I only want half an hour, just enough time to dip in the torquoise sea and dry off. He says it'll cost me 8 euro for half an hour or all day. I don't have 8 euro on me, so I tell him I'll leave it, turn and walk away.

He yells after me.
"Hey you, come back. No money is not a good reason. I give you lounger anyway."

I offer him a one euro coin but he refuses.

Later we pop into the Calypso bar at Mimis for an aperitif. Host Spiro adamantly refuses to accept any money for our two ouzos.

Off to Nikos taverna, where by 9 o'clock we are the only diners. We've been there three times in two weeks, but feel a part of the family, eating while they eat at the table beside us. As we sit down we are told that the boss is paying for our wine tonight. We smile at himself Niko, (a dead ringer for Bobby de Niro) and he waves back at us, smiling.

We feast on three courses of delicious local food, cooked in the wood oven and are presented with a bill for an unbelievable 24 euros. As we stand to leave, 4 generations of the family come over to shake our hands, smile and thank us profusely. We are given a bottle of 12 year old ouzo and stumble home, warmed more by their hospitality than their excellent food.

When the hard times hit in Ireland we hoped that it might banish the grasping greed of the boom years and usher in the return of compassion and mutual care. Greece is in even more of an economic mess than Ireland, but I wonder if we can match their warmth and generosity? I certainly hope so.

Tomorrow, volcano permitting, the plane will bring me back to the Hemmarroid Hisle. As always, it will be good to be home, but I will miss the genuine warmth and constant friendliness we strangers have been shown by the locals here.


Paz said...

I think we do need a good dose of poverty and adversity to remind us how to act again

Charlie Adley said...

Maybe we do, but it's a shameful indictment of the state of our way of life, if we all have to suffer before we behave well towards each other....