For once I spent my Greek holiday not on the mainland but on an Island. It is not something I plan to make a habit of for reasons that I shall admit to – I guess that I am just an unreconstructed snob. It all started at Gatwick airport last weekend as I waited with my partner in the departure lounge for a flight to Zakynthos. As I surveyed my fellow passengers I noticed a large number who were young, had large numbers of tattoos and various bits of their body pierced, seemed to use the F word in every other sentence and who were loudly discussing how they were going for “the season.” My heart sank.
By the time the flight was passing over Dover my fellow passengers were already drinking. My heart sank some more.
And so to Zakynthos. My partner had cleverly arranged a taxi from the airport to a little place called Keri beach which had almost no houses and just a couple of tavernas and a couple of bars and being not yet “in season” it was more or less empty. It has another advantage. It is a place frequented by the Germans, Swiss and Scandinavians and not the British. And so we had a great time.
Keri was actually a strip of land between the sea and a freshwater lake. But between 1956 and 1972 the lake was the site of oil production and the wicked Yankee oilmen do not seem to have cleared up terribly well. As such the lake is now a brackish reed bed into which oil now seeps. Nature has adapted to this and the wildlife is varied and splendid and I would recommend the Pansion Limni (www.pansionlimni.com) run by the charming Martha to anyone. We ate wonderful vegetables from her garden and fresh fish from the sea and if we ate out it was standard but decent Greek fare.
In the bay is an island known generally as Turtle Island. It looks like a Turtle and that is where Turltes breed. I have actually seen Turtles copulating in the Galapagos and it is quite a sight. Perhaps I should not go into details. Actually the real name of the island is based on the Greek for wild dill which grows in abundance there
But back to the Brits. They were ALL heading for Laganas Beach. In a spirit of voyeurism my partner and I popped over to see it one evening. Being pre-season nothing was open but the shops and bars and cafes told us all we needed to know. The food is aimed at the English. The booze is cheap and plentiful. There are tattoo parlours a plenty. The accommodation cheap and cheerful. In short Laganas beach could be transplanted anywhere in the world, there is nothing remotely Greek about the place at all. And in a few weeks’ time it will be packed almost exclusively with Brits there to get absolutely shit-faced every night, to eat utter crap and if possible have sex with a drunken stranger.
The reputation of the English throughout the Greek islands is terrible. A nice German couple at Limni asked Martha if they could hire some motorbikes. “Don’t. The English hire bikes and get drunk – you are risking your lives.” As a nation, on the Greek Islands were are not associated with Lord Byron and the great classical scholars or even with earnest middle class tourists keen to see the wonders of the Ancient world but instead, 100% with Laganas beach behaviour and worse.
My partner – being a deluded lefty - has to be pushed to admit that she feels a bit superior to our compatriots at Laganas beach. I have no such qualms. The widespread acceptance of drunk driving, street brawls and worse seems to me pretty despicable. And it seems to me that to go on holiday and then behave exactly as you would on a Friday night back home but more so seems terribly dull. Surely folks have some element of their brain that wishes to learn about another culture? It appears not. And so does meeting such folk bring out the snob in me? Yes.
I know that I should not feel superior to these people and there is a bit of guilt that I feel as I look at their tattoos and wince. As such life is so much simpler for me if I stick to the mainland of Greece. Head off to Delphi or Mycenae and a) I am doing what I enjoy and b) I can do so in the happy knowledge that I will just not be encountering “those sort of English people.”
PS My partner has asked me to remove the word deluded in my description of her. That is the thing about lefties, they do not understand that they are all deluded. Maybe not having read the Guardian for more than a week she is suffering withdrawal symptoms and needs to mainline a bit of delusion to calm her down? He wrote patronisingly.