In this section we will bring
you news from Greece and in particular our areas of Paxos, Corfu, Kefalonia,
Ithaca and Symi.
EASTER ON SYMI
Melanie Sharp, a
permanent resident on Symi and our local manager there, writes about
Easter on this beautiful Aegean island
Easter, the major
religious festival of the Greek Orthodox year, is a very traditional
occasion on Symi. This year, the Catholic & Greek Orthodox
Easter fall on the same date, Good Friday being 18th April - the two
dates only coincide about every 4 years so if you are tied to school
holidays or simply fancy being part of such a traditional period,
then 2014 is the ideal opportunity to visit Greece at Easter-time.
At Easter time
throughout Greece, families gather from near and far to enjoy the
age-old together, and on Symi the local families will welcome
cousins from Rhodes, uncles from Athens, daughters from Kalymnos and
seamen husbands and sons home on leave.
Though only a small
island, Symi has an abundance of churches and monasteries, the
largest being at Panormitis on the south of the island. In the
build-up to Easter Day, extended church services are held, at which
all are made welcome. In readiness for Good Friday, women of the
parish prepare their churches, dressing the interiors with dark
fabrics and flowers, while the church bells toll mournfully. In the
evening, funeral biers are carried through the streets to the local
church – to St John’s in the lower town and Lemonitissa or Kastro in
the upper town, known as the village.
Then on Easter Saturday
virtually the entire island population will attend one of the main
churches for a service lasting many hours. At midnight, as the
service ends, each person lights their candle from a neighbour and
voices the greeting ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ is risen) The
candlelit processions then wander homeward and the celebrations
begin, with firecrackers exploding, fireworks lighting the night
sky, boat claxons sounding from every bay and all the church bells
ringing out in celebration. Once home, the candle flame is used to
burn the letters XA (for Christos Anesti) over the main doorway,
which is said to bring good luck to the household for another year.
The following day,
Easter Sunday, everyone is ready for the feast which ends the 40-day
lenten fast. Some restaurants serve traditional Easter delicacies,
groups of people take off to the mountains with a picnic while
families entertain at home. Later in the day, effigies of Judas
(similar to Guy Fawkes dummies) are carried through the streets to
be burned with great ritual and excitement at dusk. It’s all quite
If you would like to
join the Easter celebrations on Symi, why not take advantage of
Travel à la carte’s special accommodation offers? At
Villa Laza and the
Laza penthouse, two of the best positioned and most comfortable
properties in Symi town, we are offering 15%-25% reductions for the
Orthodox Easter is late this year, providing a perfect
opportunity to enjoy
Greece during its greatest
festival. The dates (from 3 to 6 May) mean the flights to the
islands will be well underway and the weather warming up very
To coincide with
this Greek holiday, we have some good special offers on our
accommodation on the islands, with reductions of 25% on a range of
properties on Paxos, Kefalonia and Symi and even a 50% discount on
one villa in Spartia in Kefalonia.
If you’ve never
experienced Greek Easter, with its parades and processions, special
religous services and wonderful atmosphere – enhanced (for some!) by
exploding firecrackers here and there – this might just be the year
to visit. The festivities differ from island to island but on all of
them you will be made to feel very welcome.
accommodation rates start at £300 for a week at the Laza penthouse
on Symi, with villas on Paxos and Kefalonia available from £420. As
for the flights, the last time we looked the best value for Easter
week was with Easyjet to
Corfu for around £187 return.
But hurry... this
offer closes at
on 30th January.
(As it is exclusive
to our mailing list and Paxos News readers, this offer does not
appear on our website, so email
(firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone us (0207 286 9255) for
17 January 2013
Flights to Greece 2013 – the
As you will probably know by now, if you are planning a holiday to
Greece next year, easyJet has released its summer flying for 2013.
The airline hasn’t announced any new services to Corfu, Kefalonia or
Rhodes, not from the UK at least. This is unfortunate, since – as
many of you will have discovered – even easyJet’s seat prices rose
this year to eye-wateringly high levels, especially in the peak
weeks. The initial competitive effect of easyJet’s entry into the
Greek market seems to have worn off. It has decided to join the
club, allowing its rates to rise to the levels of the charter
The other no-frills airline, Ryanair, has not added any new routes
either but continues to operate to Corfu and Rhodes. So the two
scheduled operators now offer these flights to our Greek hubs from
Corfu: Bristol (EJ) E Mids (RA) Gatwick (EJ) Glasgow (RA) Leeds (RA)
Luton (EJ) Manchester (EJ) Stansted (RA)
Kefalonia: Gatwick (EJ only but Kefalonia is well served by charter
Rhodes: Bournemouth (RA) E Mids (RA) Gatwick (EJ) Liverpool (RA and
EJ) Stansted (RA)
With Thomas Cook revealing in the past few weeks first that it would
be taking seats on easyJet flights next year and second that its
aircraft fleet is being cut from 35 to 31, things are not looking
good for price competition on Greek routes in 2013.
Except for one thing. EasyJet and Ryanair have both increased their
flying within Europe, in particular between Greece and Italy.
EasyJet has announced a flight from Rome to Corfu, to operate three
times a week in July and August; it also flies to both Corfu and
Rhodes from Milan. And Ryanair, who also fly to Corfu from Milan (or
Bergamo, rather) has added services to Rhodes from Bologna, Milan
and Pisa (as well as Brussels, Dusseldorf and Stockholm, if you
happen to live there).
One reason I mention this is because I actually flew home from
Greece to the UK via Italy two weeks ago. After a week of September
sunshine on Kefalonia, my wife and I flew with Ryanair to Pisa, had
a few days in Rome, then flew back to Heathrow with BA. The combined
seat cost was 155 euros each, including baggage.
That compares well with the prices available for direct return
flights to the UK. As you may know, charter airlines almost never
sell one-way return seats from Greece and, partly as a consequence,
the cost of returns on with easyJet and Ryanair can be astronomical.
So next year it might be worth checking out the option of flying via
Italy. For one thing, there is plenty of competition on the main
routes – to Rome, Milan, Pisa and so on – which helps keep the
For another, I can certainly recommend a few days in Rome on the way
10 October 2012
On Monday this week the winds got up on both sides of Greece, in the
Ionian and the Aegean, churning up the seas and disrupting ferry
crossings. They have since subsided but this change in the weather
seems to have signalled the end of high summer. Temperatures have
come down a little, from their peak in the mid-30s to the high 20s,
and the islands are settling into September mode: balmy sunshine
during the day, still perfectly hot enough for sunbathing, and the
evenings fresher now the relentless heat of August is past.
This month and next are when those who know Greece and travel there
regularly start to pack their bags for another trip. The August
crowds have disappeared, the locals are more relaxed and have more
time, yet everyone realises this is still the tourist season: the
islanders are very keen to see visitors right up to the end of
October. Some places come into their own now, one in particular
being Symi, where the summer can last into the first weeks of
November. In the Ionian islands, too, which lie further north, the
season is gradually being extended, since late September and October
are excellent months for walkers and others who like a more active
One of the disappointing aspects of last minute holidays to the
Greek islands is the high cost of flights in peak season. Over the
last few years, the airlines have resolutely refused to bring their
prices down, making the cost of a late getaway to Greece much higher
than an equivalent break to other countries. As I write this,
Thomson are asking over £450 a seat for a 7-day return flight from
Gatwick to Corfu on 20th July. Can’t you fly to New York for that?
The reason is probably the obvious one – lack of competition. When
EasyJet first started flying into island airports like Corfu, their
prices were very competitive. Now they seem to have let their rates
move closer to the charters’. And the charter operators want you to
buy their package holidays, not just the flight, which is why their
seats are so pricey. The independent traveller is getting squeezed.
But happily there are still some reasonably priced flights to Greek
destinations out there. In a recent trawl of seat-only sites, we
- a Monarch flight from Luton to Corfu at £253 for an 8-day trip
from 30th July
- a BMI Baby flight from Manchester departing 23rd July for £295
- and even a Thomson flight, from Edinburgh to Corfu on 10th August
for 7 nights, for a surprisingly affordable £239 return.
And EasyJet still has returns from Gatwick to Corfu in August for as
little as £224 basic cost, if you can fly mid-week.
Not all these flights land at perfect times for the onward journey
to outlying islands like Paxos, but there’s always the option of a
private sea taxi or, failing that, a night in Corfu town and the
hydrofoil over the next morning.
So, if you’re desperate to get away for some of that wonderful Greek
sunshine, don’t lose hope yet of finding flights. Give us a call and
we’ll do the searching for you. It turns out there are still some
reasonably priced flights out there, even if you need a bit of
lateral thinking to find the best deals!
18 July 2012
A Silver Lining
If you are thinking of escaping the black clouds and torrential
rain of northern Europe for the sunnier skies of Greece, there’s a
further bit of good news today. The pound has risen to an official
rate of 1.26 against the euro, its highest in three years. The
official rate is not the tourist rate but that too is now above 1.2
euros to the pound – the Post Office today is quoting an online rate
of 1.22 euros.
What this means is that local goods and services in Greece are now
that bit more affordable. On a recent trip to Paxos, by avoiding the
most expensive options on the menu we were able to eat out for
around 28 euros for two, including a glass of retsina. That now
works out at £11.50 per person – still not as cheap as in the days
of the drachma, or even the early days of the euro, but a ten
percent improvement on last year, at least.
Combine this saving on the exchange rate with some of the
great last minute discounts Travel à la carte is now offering on
its accommodation, with savings of up to 40% on the full price, and
a late break to the Greek islands begins to seem even more
7 July 2012
The chief executive of the
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), of which Travel a la
carte is a member, posted this message about Greece yesterday on
... No one knows exactly what would
happen if, and that still is an if, Greece left the Euro, however
it is likely there would be a transition period when holidaymakers
would still be able to pay with Euros in bars and restaurants.
Speculation that Greek-printed Euros would overnight become
worthless is also unfounded. The British Bankers' Association has
said that a Euro is a Euro regardless of where it is printed. What
we are recommending is that consumers do not rely on plastic and
take plenty of cash with them as it is possible that an exit from
the Euro could result in issues with using credit and debit cards
at Greek banks. There is also no indication that holidaymakers
will be affected by civil unrest. To date, demonstrations that we
have seen on TV have been sporadic and limited to parts of central
Athens and the second largest city Thessaloniki, neither of which
are visited in significant numbers by UK holidaymakers. The vast
majority of UK holidaymakers fly directly into the Greek islands
which have not seen any unrest. I'm absolutely sure that this
year, as ever, people travelling to Greece will be welcomed by the
Greeks and their well known hospitality.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA
18 May 2012
What if... ?
been growing that
Greece will soon leave the
euro. Here in the
UK, the respected economic
commentator Hamish McRae added his own comment in the London Evening
Standard, entitled: ‘Greece
quitting the euro is no tragedy’. In the article, he looks at the
history of countries leaving monetary unions and how governments
went about replacing one currency with another.
So it’s worth
considering how a Greek exit might affect anyone holidaying in
Greece, and anyone planning
a Greek holiday in the near future.
Greece leaves the euro, it
will have to replace the currency with something else. Most
commentators think this will be something like a new drachma, which
to begin with would have the same value as the euro. Very soon,
however, the new currency would be expected to fall in value,
perhaps to as little as half its original worth, with a euro worth
two new drachmas. For any holidaymaker out in
Greece, the euros they took
with them or had already bought locally would then be worth twice as
How will it
actually happen? The normal pattern, according to economic
historians, is for the new currency to be introduced over a weekend,
with banks continuing to be closed for a few days to allow the new
currency to be distributed to them. They then reopen, with cash
being issued in the new denomination – either overprinted euro notes
or new drachma notes.
In that short
interim period, we expect local suppliers to continue to accept
euros. If there are problems with the processing of card payments,
our local staff will be able to work out methods of payment for
anyone affected by a halt to card transactions. Hamish McRae ends
his article with a piece of advice: “If you plan to go anywhere in
southern Europe this summer, take plenty of spare cash – including
pounds and dollars – with you just in case...” This is sensible
advice. The pound and, to a lesser extent the dollar, are the most
likely other currencies to be accepted.
There is no doubt
in our minds, here at Travel a la carte, that if the unlikely
Greece does leave the euro,
any practical problems will be short-lived. On the islands, the
local Greeks are experienced, level-headed and resourceful. They are
also keenly aware that tourism is the lifeblood of their local
economy and their main hope of economic recovery. So they will do
everything to ensure any difficulties are swiftly overcome and
managed in the best possible way. And with a specialist operator
like Travel a la carte, with our highly experienced staff both on
the ground in
Greece and back in the
UK, you could not be in
better hands if the unexpected happens.
We were in Fiscardo a few weeks ago and it was as beautiful as ever.
The hype in the press and media is silly and just not a reflection
of life on the islands. Good luck with the season ahead.
The welcome and smiles we received as the first visitors of the
season were very warming. No one hassled us to eat or drink
anywhere. We always received a little extra after a meal such as
cake or greek yoghurt and honey and nuts or a house digestif. The
prices were reasonable and as the exchange rate was in our favour we
kept to our budget. We plan to return for two weeks in late
September/October when everywhere is quiet.
Are things looking
up a bit for Greece? You might think so from a glance at the UK
travel sections this weekend. At last, the papers are beginning to
correct the impression that the entire country is in chaos and you
would be mad to travel there. The Mail today (Saturday) has a piece
about some of the smaller islands under the heading ‘Bank on Greece:
Forget its economy, the true treasures are hidden on these
unexplored islands’. For some strange reason it doesn’t mention our
favourites Paxos and Symi but that might be because these are a bit
easier to get to. For one of their recommendations, Patmos, the
travel advice is: seven to ten hours by ferry from Piraeus!
Today’s Times, too, is more encouraging about Greece as a holiday
destination. Replying to a reader worried about the debt crisis and
sporadic unrest and asking if they ought to postpone their trip to
another year, the paper says May is “a great time to visit Greece”
and that they “should be fine”. How right they are, on both counts.
And May is also a very good time to visit Greece price-wise, as
there are some very good offers to be had, including
Our regular travellers know, of course, that life on the Greek
islands pursues its own sweet way oblivious of any trouble in Athens
or other major cities. But there is no doubt that the adverse
publicity has put off many potential new visitors to Greece. Now
that the debt crisis has been solved, for the time being anyway, and
Greece is less in the news for the wrong reasons, perhaps those new
visitors will think again. If they do, they can be certain of a very
warm welcome from the locals, that’s for sure.
31st March 2012
Flying to Greece in 2012.
Part 2: The charters
In the first part of this blog on flights to Greece I reported on
how easyJet and Ryanair have been extending their flying programmes
to the Greek islands.
Before these two ‘budget’ scheduled airlines entered the fray, the
Greek holiday flight market was dominated by charter operators and
there is still a wide range of charter flights available to Greek
destinations. Often owned by big tour operators, the charter
airlines still tend to stick to their formula of one or two week
durations, and fixed arrival days (Monday or Friday on Corfu,
Wednesday on Rhodes) but between them they offer a wide choice of
departure airports from across the UK. Also, while they have not
adapted much to the new ‘budget’ competition, the charter airlines
can occasionally actually be better value. So when buying flights to
Corfu or Rhodes, it is always worth checking out a seat-only site
such as Flightline to compare prices.
The largest operator of charter flights to Greece is Thomson. Owned
by the German TUI, Thomson has been a leader in the UK package
holiday market for many years. Being part of a holiday company, the
Thomson airline is often reluctant to sell seats on their aircraft
without a Thomson holiday to go with them, at an affordable price
anyway. Nevertheless, reasonably priced seats can be found even
here. In addition, to Corfu Thomson offers the widest range of
departure airports from the UK – 17 in all – and is the only airline
to fly there from Doncaster/Sheffield, Edinburgh, Exeter and
Norwich. To Rhodes, there’s a more restricted choice of 12 UK
airports but they include Bournemouth, Cardiff, Edinburgh and
The next largest charter airline to Greece is the other major player
in the UK market, Thomas Cook. Their range of airports is smaller
than Thomson’s but they tend to be more flexible, making more
one-way flights available, for instance. This means it’s sometimes
possible to combine a Thomas Cook outbound, on a morning flight,
with a late return with easyJet or Ryanair, a trick which can help
with onward boat connections to Paxos or Symi. Thomas Cook operate
to Greece from Bristol, Cardiff and Newcastle as well as London,
Manchester and Birmingham.
Birmingham is also a particular strength of the last of the three
major charter airlines, Monarch. Monarch have a narrower selection
of departure points – they concentrate on Gatwick and Luton,
Birmingham and Manchester – but their seat prices can be better
value than the other two. Monarch can also fly at slightly more
civilised times than the others. It has an 8.30 am flight to Corfu
from London Gatwick, for example, and a 10.30 am flight from
Manchester, both on Mondays.
Wells Part 3:
flying down to Travel à la carte’s newest destination, Kefalonia
12 MAR 2012: Flying
to Greece in 2012. Part 1: The new flexibility
that the air over Greece has cleared a bit, financially speaking, it
might be a good time to look at what’s on offer this year in terms
of air travel to Greece and the islands.
first thing to note is how much things have changed over the last
few years. Once easyJet – founded by a Greek-Cypriot, of course –
bought the old GB Airways and with it that airline’s slots at the
main island airports of Corfu, Crete and Rhodes, Greek island
holidays became a whole new ballgame.
the case of Corfu – also the hub for our favourite island, nearby
Paxos – easyJet soon rapidly expanded its Gatwick service from three
to seven and more flights a week And to Gatwick it soon added
Manchester, Bristol and – new for 2012 – Luton.
recently Ryanair have seen the light, as well. They are now offering
flights to Corfu from Stansted and East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and
now – in welcome news for travellers from Scotland– Glasgow.
Plenty of these Corfu flights connect with the boat to Paxos the
same day and, if they don’t, nothing is simpler than to book a hotel
in town for the night. And another thing - many of the flights are
on days when Corfu airport is blissfully quiet: Ryanair, for
instance, flies on Thursdays from Stansted, Leeds and Glasgow, and
Wednesdays from East Midlands. And while Easyjet sticks more to the
traditional arrival days of Monday and Friday, they have their daily
flights from Gatwick and a Saturday flight from Manchester.
advent of these two budget airlines has brought far more flexibility
than was available in the past. Using the daily easyJet flight from
Gatwick, for instance, allows travellers to pick and choose both
what days they travel and exactly how long they want to stay. Ten
and 11 night (or 20 or 22 night) stays are now possible from Luton
(Tuesdays and Saturdays), with easyJet, Stansted (Mondays and
Thursdays) with Ryanair, Bristol (Mondays and Fridays) with easyJet
and Manchester (Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays) again with easyJet.
on the other side of Greece, Rhodes, the airport for Symi, is almost
as well served. Symi-lovers now have a choice of flights from
Bournemouth (Ryanair), East Midlands (Ryanair) Liverpool (Ryanair
and easyJet), Stansted (Ryanair) and Gatwick (easyJet).
while only easyJet of the budget operators flies to our wonderful
new destination of Kefalonia (twice weekly from Gatwick), this is
one island that has a great range of charter flights to pick from.
fit in with this new world of pick and choose flights and durations,
Travel à la carte has become the only specialist operator to our
islands to offer complete flexibility. Travel with us and you can
arrive and leave on any day of the week and stay for as long or
short a time as you like. The only minor restriction is in July and
August, when we ask you to arrive between Friday and Monday (on
Paxos), Saturday or Sunday (on Kefalonia) and Wednesday or Saturday
(on Symi). Beat that!
(in Part Two to follow: what the charter operators offer)
5 MAR 2012:
In an opinion poll of over a thousand Greeks reported at the
weekend, 67 per cent said they thought a return of the drachma would
make the country's situation worse, compared with 13pc who believed
it would make things better.
It’s unclear whether this 67 per cent will get their wish and be
able to stay in the euro. Many in the financial world believe their
chances are slim, although the pundits are less clear about when
Greece might be forced to return to its own currency.
But if Greece hangs on to the single currency for the summer, at
least, what are the prospects for prices in Greece? How strong is
the euro likely to be? This is what holidaymakers to the islands
will want to know as they plan their trip this year.
Well, from an official rate of around 1.13 last summer, the pound
has strengthened against the euro to 1.20 today, an appreciation of
6%. And for the summer? A ring around the foreign exchange dealers
produces a forecast of much the same for the summer: the pound is
expected to stay at an official interbank rate of around 1.20, which
translates into something like 1.17 for the holidaymaker.
With inflation in Greece running at 2.1 per cent, according to the
latest EU figures, this at least means prices for UK travellers will
be a little lower than last year. And local reports support this
view. The word out on the islands is that shopkeepers, bars and
tavernas will certainly be holding their prices this summer and in
some cases lowering them.
That is some good news for those of you planning your Greek holiday.
Watch this space for more information as the season approaches...
23 Feb 2012:
Strikes this summer?
Not surprisingly, in the present climate, we are often asked by
people considering a Greek holiday what would happen if their travel
arrangements were affected by strikes.
The first question has to be, how likely are strikes for this
summer? We have all seen plenty of reports about the strikes and
demonstrations in Athens and other cities on the mainland and it’s
easy to suppose that the same things are happening all over Greece.
But, as always, the islands are a different matter, as we saw last
year. Last summer there were a number of taxi strikes in Corfu and
Rhodes, and occasional disruptions on remoter islands such as
Kefalonia and Paxos. There were also seamen’s strikes across Greece
on a couple of days. And the air-traffic controllers refused to work
on two or three occasions, although never for more than a few hours
and only on days, as it happened, when there were few flights
directly to the main tourist airports. So what happened to our
customers during these strikes, particularly those trying to reach
their holiday villa or get to the airport for their flight home?
Well, as you can see from our About Us page, we have a team of very
experienced staff on the ground in Greece. When the taxis were out,
they put our clients on buses or, if push came to shove, organised
lifts in cars. None of our clients missed their flight because of a
taxi strike. Similarly, when the usual boats were out of action –
potentially a major problem on an island without an airport, like
Paxos – our teams on Paxos and Corfu booked everyone onto
alternative craft, either private sea taxis or leisure boats, to get
them to and from the airport on time. There was some extra expense
involved, as sea taxis can cost more than the standard hydrofoils or
ferries, but it was no more than £30 a head.
Should we expect the same this year?
Our staff on the islands are reporting a great reluctance on the
part of local tradesmen and suppliers to strike again. The taxi
drivers reportedly lost so much income during last year’s strikes
they simply can’t afford a repeat this summer. We also have no
reports of intended seamen’s strikes. Melanie, our representative on
the island of Symi, says one company has gone out of business, so
there may be one or two fewer boats operating from Rhodes this year,
but the remaining ones will be all the keener on our custom. The
same is true of the Corfu-Paxos services. And, as I’ve already
mentioned, on the Corfu-Paxos route there are other types of boat
which will be happy to pick up the business if the main ones are out
of action. At the airports, we have no reports of intended strikes
or industrial action by controllers or luggage handlers.
We should also see the threat of strikes in the wider context of the
Greek economy. The one area which might provide some light in the
general economic gloom in Greece is the tourist industry. Tourism
and shipping are the two biggest contributors to the Greek economy
and many Greek households are involved in tourism in one way or
another. With times as hard as they have been, almost all Greeks
will be desperate to make sure that visitors have as enjoyable and
as undisrupted a stay in their country as possible. The Greeks have
a fantastic reputation for hospitality and they will want to add to
that this year, I’m sure. So here at Travel à la carte we don’t
personally expect any major trouble on the Greek islands from
strikes this summer. It is not in the locals’ interest. But if there
are problems, you can count on our staff to overcome them as
expertly and smoothly as they always have in the past.
For details of Travel à la carte’s meet & greet services on the
Greek islands, follow this link
22 Feb 2012:
Chairman of the
Association of Independent Tour Operators Derek Moore has heavily
criticised the foreign secretary, William Hague, for treating Greece
as if it were a “war zone”. Hague recently advised British residents
in Greece and visitors there to register with the FCO in case of an
emergency caused by civil unrest. As Moore points out, and as
Travel à la carte’s staff on the spot can corroborate, the civil
disturbances in Greece are confined to certain areas of Athens and
Thessaloniki; there has been absolutely no sign of trouble on the
holiday islands. The vast majority of British visitors travel
directly to the islands, with very few passing through Athens or
Thessaloniki, and they are, as Moore says, at no risk whatever. He
calls on the foreign secretary to clarify his remarks immediately
and we agree completely with this request. So far as most of Greece
and all of our islands are concerned, Mr Hague’s statement is both
misleading and alarmist. It also, as others have noted as
well, contradicts the Foreign Office's own
travel advice for Greece, which currently has no travel
restrictions to the country.
this link for the full text of Derek Moore’s response to Mr
Hague's statement. Tony Wells
22 Feb 2012:
For the past two months, the British newspapers have been full of
reports and comment about Greece and its immediate prospects. Last
weekend was no exception, with a string of papers from the Mail and
the Independent to the Saturday and Sunday Telegraphs discussing the
dire state of the Greek economy and the growing resistance in Greece
to further austerity measures.
These reports can give the impression that the whole of Greece is in
turmoil and most Greek citizens are out on the streets throwing
stones and setting fire to buildings. But so far as the islands are
concerned, nothing could be further from the truth, as our staff out
there have been confirming. To give an example. Last Monday 13th
February, Reuters news agency reported that the previous day’s
violence in Athens and Thessaloniki had spread to “towns across the
country and the islands of Crete and Corfu”. Surprised that Corfu
was included, I emailed our resident Corfu agent, Stefanos, to check
what had happened there. His reply was that while there had been a
peaceful demonstration, there were no riots, no police involved, and
the only damage had been to the offices of two local MPs.
Most UK reporting understandably centres on Athens, where most
foreign correspondents are based. Corfu, though, is an hour’s flight
from Athens, as is Kefalonia, so a bit like Jersey in relation to
London. Paxos is another hour by sea from Corfu, Symi is two hours
from Rhodes ... so you can see how little events on these islands
will have in common with those several hundred miles away on the
So you should currently have no fears about taking a holiday in the
Greek islands. The Foreign Office travel advice on Greece remains
only that visitors should avoid demonstrations; otherwise there are
no restrictions on travel. This advice applies with even more force
to the islands, the smaller and more remote ones in particular. Tony Wells
21 Feb 2012:
The most recent
outbreaks of unrest in Greek before the vote on the EU rescue
package were confined to Athens and the mainland. Life on Paxos and
our other islands continued completely as normal, the main problem
there being caused by the weather. Our Paxos director Chris
Griffiths, who lives on the island all year round, said storms and
heavy downpours affected internet connections and led to power cuts.
On Symi, in one violent rainstorm, an English resident was
tragically swept to her death. Our Symi rep, Melanie, a permanent
resident, told us the island is still in shock.
Reuters reported that the political violence in Athens had spread to
Corfu but our man on the spot, Stefanos, who has been our agent
there for over 20 years, said the only incidents were an attack on
the offices of the two local MPs. There were no other demonstrations
or public disorder.
Those of you who want to keep track of political developments in
Greece might be interested in the English language websites of Greek
www.ekathimerini.com and Athens News in English
www.athensnews.gr. Tony Wells