Watching as Greece falls apart

Athens has become a battlefield of late. The country has to save 28 billion Euro by 2015 or risk default. I’d ask how the hell that happened but then all you have to do is look at the mess Ireland is in. Sure, they’re very different situations but the end result is the same. Recession and austerity.

How did things get so bad in Greece? This post might go some way to explaining things.

You see, as precipitous as the rise in national debt has been over the last couple of years, it is still amateur stuff compared to the way we piled on the debt between 1981, the year of Αλλαγή, the Change, ushered in by a massive 48% majority, (Time coverage here) and 1993, when the Maastricht rules finally started to bite and we were forced to pull the handbreak on our burgeoning government budget.

Didn’t the Irish Government do something like that in the 70’s? Borrow and borrow and borrow again? Cue Charlie Haughey’s famous quote in 1980. Even though he was living the high life the rest of the country suffered through a bad recession in the 80’s, as it is now..

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Greece. The impression I’ve got from the media here is of a country of self employed people who mostly don’t pay taxes and where jobs go to family members (rather than on merit), of a massive civil service that people aspire to join rather than go into private business (due in no small part to the fact that family members get the best jobs). How depressing but as an outsider looking in I don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction!

For more, follow some English speaking Greek people on Twitter:

Photos of the protests: 1, 2, 3, 4.

These days will pass, but I have a feeling the EU and the world at large will be a very different world.

My trip to Crete.Right, a bit …

My trip to Crete.

Right, a bit more detail then. Crete is amazing. We went on a package tour to Hersonissos. The town itself is simply a tourist resort with lots of pubs, restaurants and shops selling exactly the same stuff (lots of it bore the tag, “Made in China”).

Drink is cheap, Players Cocktail Bar offered two drinks for the price of one, so 4 cocktails for EUR10 was great (but the atmosphere in the bar was terrible!). The Camelot nightclub is very cool and Martina and myself danced a night away there! Drink is expensive there though, costing even more than in Ireland. Kelly’s Pub was much better and that’s where we spent most of our nights.
The “PR” people outside bars were very annoying but they disappear when the area is busier later in the year. A lot of the bars weren’t crowded as it’s early in the season. It was great that they stayed open until 4am during the week, and could stay open for 24 hours at the weekend!
We watched the Ireland/Cameroon match in our appartment block, Blue Sky Apartments, but only managed to catch the second half as we somehow slept in. *grin*

The traditional Cretan Night was really good, it was set in a small village in the mountains (Kato Karouzanos, population: 15) and had a mix of traditional dancing and plenty of local wine. We were treated to a shot of Rakki first and I bought a bottle of the local brew for EUR 3! It’s very strong stuff but I haven’t tasted that bottle yet. The dancing was excellent, first with Cretan dances, then Greek dances. Martina and Rosanna were dragged up a few times, and I also did a few dances myself! hehe.

Then there was the trip to the former leper colony of Spinalonga. Our guide was very enthusiastic about his work and it was obvious he had a deep affection for the island. Took lots of pics here too.
Oh yeah, there’s 7 rolls of film to develop. Lots of good stuff!

Of course, I can’t forget Star Beach where we spent way too much time! John went overboard on the Bungy Jumping and did it 5 times! Rosanna, Martina and myself did it just the once and I can tell you, it’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done! I just switched off once I got to the top of the 50m crane and thought about diving into the cold waters of Church Bay near Cross Haven. Once I dived over the edge of the platform I realised how far it was to the water, yelled “shit” but there wasn’t anything to do but carry on! I still get flashbacks of it and experience the terror all over again! Martina took pics of me doing it, as I took photos of the others. When she was jumping, Martina took her time on the platform before diving off and I broke out in a cold sweat imagining the terror she must have felt. Glad I did it, and I found out afterwards that guys at work had laid bets on me jumping or not!
Not quite as stressful or terrifying, but still exciting was paragliding. Martina and myself went up together. We were suspended under a parachute and dragged along by a speedboat. Very nice! Of course, getting dumped into the sea afterwards was a bit shocking especially when you have a large parachute strapped to you!
On Thursday night, Martina and myself took a cab up to the old town of Hersonissos for dinner. It was beautiful up there and a lot quieter than the more touristy sea-shore area we stayed in. Meal was excellent and staff very friendly, pointing out the better traditional dishes on offer. (“it’s all Greek to me!”, oh alright, I had to say that somewhere!)

Do I recommend Crete for a holiday? Yes, without a doubt! If you go on a package holiday to a resort then make sure you get out of the town. We never got around to hiring a car but the excursions showed us a lot of the surrounding countryside.

Back to work tomorrow. *sigh*

Quick update from Crete! We're …

Quick update from Crete! We’re in Hersonissos and the sun is splitting the stones. Temperatures in the shade are at 22 degrees C. woo!
What have we been up to? I went para gliding with Martina (have pics, will scan them in!), John went bungy jumping, twice! Lying on the beach, soaking up the rays, visiting water parks, going down slides. (wow!)
We’re going to go to a Greek Night tonight with traditional food and wine, boat cruise to a former leper island tomorrow..
Hoping to hire a car on Friday or Saturday and visit Krista in the mountains or a plateaux that’s about 40 miles south of here, we’ll see.

Cretan people are very nice and polite, it’s amazing! Every night we’ve been out there have been people on the street extoling the virtues of this pub or that restaurant which got annoying after about 5 minutes. Even when you ignore them, or say no, they’ll say “thank you” or “have a nice time” – they just don’t get angry!

There’s a couple of Irish bars here too, Kelly’s Bar was the nicest, although O’Donaghue’s was nice too!

BTW – hangovers and water parks don’t mix!

check back for more updates in a few days!