Don’t believe the hype

Agios Nikolas
The sun sets over Selenitsa

Almost a year to the day since my last missive, and unless you’ve been skulking behind a rather large rock, you’ll have noticed a certain degree of commotion in the Aegean quarter of the EU.

Fret not, however, this is not a forum for politics, economic theory or flag-waving. I will not be regurgitating the dramatic events and sentiments of the past 6 months….. apart from, to reflect on just one aspect of the ‘troubles’- and to offer a little reassurance to those in any way concerned about the plight of the natives.

Since the election of Syriza at the beginning of the year, Greece has rarely been out of the international news media spotlight. Without spilling into diatribe, let’s just say that some of the stories in the mainstream press have been a little…… fear-mongering, perhaps?

Reading the news from our home in London, the media message is clear; FEAR-panic-devastation-hopelessness. Abandon hope…. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

I can’t deny that any of these things have not happened, or are to come, but the schlock-horror headlines do not represent the sights, sounds and sentiments of my own first person experience in Greece.

Yes, like a new plague, everyone in Greece has suffered, save, perhaps for a handful of elites. But in the birthplace of Stoicism, there seems to be no other option than to get on with the business of life. The sun continues to rise. Children play. Shops and businesses open (and close). And tourists in their thousands spill from the airports to get a few weeks of sun and hospitality.

Which brings me back to the real world. Yes. Back in the Mani for the fourth summer running. What’s changed? Not a great deal on the surface. Although tourism is down slightly, at σπίτι μας (our house) we are greater in numbers.

Visitors from Athens, Corfu breeze in and out of our days – which have settled into a routine of wake, breakfast, beach, taverna, home, lunch, nap, and then whatever we choose to do with the rest of the day.

Το παιδί μου (the little one) at the tender age of <3 already speaks better Greek than his dad, repeating and consolidating every little phrase, like some kind of advanced alien intelligence (albeit one that runs around in his pants). It’s fascinating to witness.

Filling the gaps I see waterfights in the garden between 3 generations of Maniots. Dead snakes littering the road. Coffee burning to ward off κουνούπια (mosquitoes). Tipsy locals waltzing at the village panegyri. Food – too much of it – beef, pork, chicken, lamb, rabbit, fish; and fruit in abundance, falling from the trees and beckoning us from the Tannoyed siren song of the manavis.

What I don’t see is fear or panic in the eyes of the people I meet. Without wanting to sound trite, Greece is in a terrible shape for sure. But the headlines speak only of fear, and this does not portray the whole truth. Don’t believe the hype. Come, visit, see for yourself.