Those wonderful Greek People

Greek Villagers

A little modern history?

Don't say the word 'politica'. Yes - politics is a Greek word. With over 20 political parties at the local elections it gets - interesting. I have been to a polling station. I suggested forming an English Tourist Party. Some of the officials actually looked concerned. Most laughed. More tourists on the island than Greeks.

Greeks love to talk. They also love to argue. Each has his own point of view and nothing short of an earthquake will change it. They are open and frank, once you get to know them. They are a very generous people and they do not expect any return from their generosity other than a friendship very few of them find. Not easy to understand - but true. If you do get through to them slowly a friendship will evolve that is unique. It is not wise to judge them by your own standards, they have their own. Very different to ours in some ways but once you accept them and understand them they are - Greek. I can live with that.

They are a very proud people. Always treat them with respect and kindness. If you want to really confuse them take you glasses or plates back to the bar. You will either get a smile and a thank you or a look of total bewilderment. Either way they won't forget you. Once you become friends don't be surprised if you are greeted with a kiss on each cheek, the men as well. I was taught by a very nice looking Greek lady many, many, times. I just wish the men would shave more often.

The Greeks love to gossip. Everybody knows within 12 hours exactly what everyone else has been up to. Including the tourists. If an English girl has a 'fling' with a Greek boy on holiday it is instantly known and the old gossip grape vine goes into top gear. Greek girls lead a very sheltered life. Greek boys think young lady tourists are fair game. They are not 'pushy' though like some countries close by. I quite like the young Greeks I have met. A little macho sometimes but courtious and open. Over 70% of of the marriages between British girls and Greek boys fail. Most Greek men like to be THE BOSS.

I bought a book in Melitsa, about the modern Greek. It said 'A Greek is never wrong or he will never admit it'. I have been told most definitely that a well known very large English supermarket chain sells Turkish bacon. It had Turkey written on it.

The Greeks are different to us in that they just will not tolerate any infringement of their personal liberties. If anybody tried to put up a No Smoking sign in 10,000 cubic metres of shopping precinct, like we do, they would be laughed at and the notices used to get the next barbecue going (if the person who put up the notices was lucky).

Greek celebrations were often accompanied with fireworks. There was one difference. They sometimes used dynamite. They also got hurt. I have had to put this in the past tence because it is now illegal. I wonder why.

There also seems to be no concern as to how you sit (or how many) on a motorbike or scooter. The driver usually faces the front but the pillion sits anyway he or she chooses. Mature Greek ladies quite often prefer the side saddle approach. They also have little three wheeled tractors pulling a trailer which can manage about one and a half villages including vegetables and livestock.
I wrote the above in 1995. Alas in 2001 there were no three wheeled tractors. Smelly, dirty and slow, just like the M25. I can only assume that EEC Regulation 1988/7654321 - Z/ 14/ Ref X91 is the cause, but I doubt it.

In Athens hundreds of parking meters where put up but were completely ignored and then removed. I have been informed by a very irate Greek person that the reason the parking meters were removed was because they were put up illegally and were enforced by private collectors. Sounds like Al Capone. The same irate Greek person then informed me that Al Capone was not a Greek.

The Greek police. There is a local joke around Sidari that since their police stations have been air conditioned they seldom emerge. This is not true or course as there are no bars in the police stations. All of them speak a little English so if you get lost don't hesitate to ask the way to the nearest taverna. There main function in life seems to be to keep the tax inspectors away from Greek festivals where they would probably end up on a spit. Perhaps we could arrange something similar for traffic wardens, double glazing salesmen, and those persons who set the timing on traffice lights.

Their tax system is out of this world. Every single purchase for everything has to be done on a certified till and you must be given a receipt. I have been informed by 'Marietta N' in the tax office in Corfu Town that this is to stop tax evasion.
Ask any barman or waiter what he thinks of it. It makes our system seem positively logical. I can't believe we are more honest.
Tax inspectors do random checks on tourists tables to see that they have been issued with the correct receipts and the till is correct. I have known an error of less than 1 cause a very heavy fine and a great deal of worry for the barman. So look after those little bits of paper. THEY might be about.

There is also a very strong feeling amongst the locals that most of the money made from tourism goes to Athens and very little is spent on improving local conditions. Roads and street lighting have been improved in some areas but public transport is still very limited although it does seem to to be improving slowly. They have some very nice public coaches around now and the are VERY cheap.

Their way of life revolves around the English tourist in the summer. There are Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, German and other nations there ,about 20% at a guess, but growing each year. Never met anyone from France though - their loss. For six months of the year many Greeks work 12 hours a day with maybe a couple of hours for a nap in the afternoon. For many of them the winters are boring (I think they actually miss us or something) as most of the tavernas and shops are shut and there is little to do except help with the olive harvest, change the bar for next year, build a new one or new apartments. I have also been told that sliding under the table due to the odd Ouzo is also in order.

It is not generally know on Corfu that the Duke of Edinburgh is Queen Elizabeth's husband and that he was born near Corfu Town. His Highness is of Royal Greek blood but perhaps things were moving too fast at the time.
The Greeks decided they no longer wanted a Royal family some years ago and unfortunately they are still squabbling over who owns what. The birth place of the Duke is being renovated and no doubt will be open to tourists. At least one Greek gentleman has just realised that maybe severing all ties with their Royal past was not such a good idea after all.
No doubt in years to come the legend will develope like Ulysses and Nafsica who 'met' (this is a family web site) on every coastal village around Corfu, and the Duke of Edinburgh will have been born at least once in each village.
One other thing they do not know is how well he fought during the second world war as a Captain in the Royal Navy.

Changing the bar for next year is a major winter event. Almost every bar will change, sometimes beyond recognition. The idea is to make your bar or taverna bigger and more attractive than those around you and therefore get more tourists. Some of the tavernas are now on their 'nth' refit at the front. As you walk towards the rear you go back in time. The only thing that stops them in the end is the road. In one case I know they have even started on the other side. If you want to sit outside you have to cross the road to get a drink.

Tavernas. The nearest equivalent in England being a pub / restaurant. Some are Greek tavernas and some are English tavernas. The difference is the music - sometimes. Greek music is loved by Greek's and judging by the Eurovision Song Contests very few others. (That was written in 1997 - how times change) I am told most of the modern Greek songs are about unhappy romances. Sounds like it. On the other hand when a traditional song or an instrumental is played that is much more familiar to us. Yes - you will hear the theme from Zorba the Greek at which point at least one Greek gentleman will leap up and start dancing. Many taverna's and bars play modern English stile 'music'. If you can call it music.

It is also known in some tavernas and bars that the louder your music is the more your customers will like it. So loud in fact it is impossible to talk which means everything is done by sign language - which is easier to learn than Greek. There are quiet bars and tavernas for those who want to relax and maybe get to know a local or just chat with fellow tourists but they tend to be a little way away from village centres. No music at all = power cut. Does happen now and then - but not enough.

There are certain requirements for a bar. Unless you have SKY on a massive television (one or more), Karioki, a Hi Fi system capable of waking the dead, a pool table, 'Free Parking' signs, 'Free Pool' signs, name of bar signs, massive umbrellas and a buxom English serving wench you have problems. You must of course always have the television, loud pop 'music', and Karioki all on at the same time. So far I have found many that meet 90% of these requirements but not one that meets them all. I do joke of course.
Thank God.

Note:- SKY is NOT available in Greece. Want to bet?

Strange thing is NOBODY charges for pools or parking or sunbeds so why bother with signs? Because everyone else does - ah well that's Greek logic for you. By the way the word 'logic' is Greek. Strange.

One night my youngest daughter wanted some pancakes and my wife fancied some scones. I made some, shops were still open of course for flour, eggs, etc. Seemed a bit rude to eat them in front of other tourists so we made a lot and handed them around for free. Nice with honey and lemon. Vasillis ate 6, I can still see the honey running down his chin. Not knowing Greek very well the flour was plain. The scones were just a little hard. Rock Hard. Can't win them all. The shops were still open so 'no problem'.
Next day there were signs all over Melitsa selling 'crepes'. I looked at a few. Dreadful - worse than dreadful. There is this Greek mentality that thinks that I must do exactly what everyone else is doing at ANY cost. I did not see any signs up for scones though - I wonder why?

World Cup Football
I always thought that people from Mediterranean countries were a little less reserved that us English. This is not so. Anybody who has been in Sidari during World Cup Football time will agree. The look on the faces of some Greek barmen is one of deep concern. The noise from those fans who have imbibed in 27+ bottles of Amstel lager (as a warm up) would make the average SS Stormtrooper take up knitting. If you like football then Sidari is for you. If you don't then a few minutes walk and the cries of 'golly gosh', 'well I never' and 'tut tut' fade as a kindly Greek patron assists you into a haven of peace and quiet. Several Greeks have asked me why some tourists spend hundreds of pounds and travel thousands of miles to watch television all day - every day. There is a very simple answer of course.

Dogs. You will see many dogs wandering around. They all seem very friendly and quite harmless. Please don't feed dogs in a taverna, the owner will spend the rest of the evening trying to get rid of it. I would not feed one near your apartment - unless you want another lodger. One very sad point about Greece is that some people have no respect for animal life at all. There is nothing like the RSPCA with the legal powers they have. Random poisoning of dogs and cats is common. What a pity that a country that prides itself on it's culture can allow this barbaric cruelty to continue.

The Greek way of life has changed completely in the last 30 years or so. If you drive out of town and into the hills you will see abandoned terraces and little cottages. A walk through old Peroulades village says it all. Nobody retires on Corfu. Maybe that is why they live on average two years longer than the British. The food and way of life no doubt helps. I hope we do not spoil it too much. Corfu being shut for six months lets them recover a little.

Life before the tourists.
It is not so long ago that tourism was a minor income for the people of Corfu. Twenty years ago or about that. The nearest I can imagine is a farming country village at the turn of the century. Each family had it's own family plot to grow fruit and vegetables on. There were lambs, goats, fish and fowl. Most had their own olive trees. They worked hard enough to provide, clothing and essentials. Can you imagine a life without bills every day? It must have been pretty tough if you had tooth ache or something more serious. Nevertheless you will see many senior Greeks who have run up four score or more in years still very active indeed. Many still prefer to live a life not too far removed from their parents. A life that many of us would envy.

Life now.
I think it is true to say that some aspects or tourism have not benefited Corfu. Over the years I have seen beauty spots almost destroyed by bad planning. The Canal De Amour is a classic example. The cliffs are covered with tourist tavernas and more are squeezed in each year.

In September 2001 a new massive and ugly apartment complex had almost been completed where once there was a large hill covered in olive groves overlooking the Sidari to Melitsa beech. Costa Del Sidari here we come. This has since become the infamous Sidari Village apartments.

Family life has suffered. Barmen work up to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 months, it must have an effect. You will see very few elderly barmen working. ' That's the system'. Those are Greek words. It is a system that has come about because of us, the tour operators and of course greed. A 12 hour day for about 14 - makes you think.

For four hundred years the Turks ruled Greece cruelly. On 19th October 1827 at Navarino Bay a combined naval fleet (English - French & Russian) under Admiral Sir Edward Codrington sank the combined fleets of Turkey and Egypt. Over 60 of the Sultans ships were lost, one British ship the Asia was dismasted and one French ship needed repairs. This was the last large naval engagement by sailing ships. It has been described as sordid slaughter because the Turkish fleet, although larger in numbers, had very inferior ships and training. A sad end to three fine sailing traditions.

Throughout Greece there are many cemetery's where British, Commonwealth and American soldiers lie. They died both during the Second World War and during the Greek Civil War when Russian backed 'freedom fighters' (communists) attempted to take over the country by force and remove the legally elected pre-war Royalist government.

To me one of the prettiest places on earth is the cemetery at Suda Bay on Crete which goes right down almost onto the beach. It is perfect in every way.

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