Nik, the bartender at the _________ put everything in perspective. "We're not Europeans, we're Greeks. Those guys in the parliament in Athens, they're not Greeks. They're Europeans."
The animosity is evident everywhere, in the conversation, in the graffiti, in the strikes. Our guide in Crete, told us he was very angry with the government, through gritted teeth. Our cab driver in Athens slapped out his hand to the Parliament buildings as we drove by (similar to "talk to the hand", but for Greeks the worst of possible insults). Nik said, "They think they know what we want. They don't. We don't want the Euro, we want the Drachma back."
Perhaps they don't know what they really want. After all, the Drachma had been devalued twice in the ten years before Greece entered the Eurozone. As angry as the people are, they seem to be in a half-step between going forward or going backwards. In Athens they are hunkering down for the winter. Our guide to Delphi told us this was her last tour for the season. What are you going to do now? She had saved some money and she was returning to school for the year. After that, perhaps she would be guide again next year.
On Mykonos, Nik knew what he was doing. "I work hard. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week for six months. Then the tourists go home and that's when we have Greece back for ourselves." What will you do? "Nothing." Big grin. "Why do I need to do anything? I can go into a cafe and drink coffee with friends. No tourists around. I travel. I'm going to Cyprus this winter." And then next year? "April or so, I come back to work. What better life is there?"
Nik's midnight relief is a man called David from Romania. "David is my last name. You wouldn't be able to pronounce my first name." He came to Mykonos to get work. "I'm the guy no one likes. I'm an immigrant who is taking someone's job." Certainly the cab drivers railed constantly about the illegal immigrants (ie: North African) who have "just shown up." On the other hand David says that he got his job very easily and of course inside the Eurozone anyone can work anywhere. The manager of our hotel on Santorini was Romanian as well. Mykonos and Santorini both have unemployment rates of 25% and over half the island's population has been without work for over a year.
Greece has been trading on its history since the Romans arrived. This is its saving grace, what pulls it out of trouble year after year. But even that isn't managed well. George, our guide in Crete, asked about whether Greece represented itself at travel trade shows in Canada. He didn't expect us to say yes, and grimaced when we did say no.
If however, there is anxiety in Athens it is not felt on the Islands. "Time to party," shouted Nik on our last night on Mykonos. And indeed, with people from around the world sitting at the bar, eating, drinking and laughing, it is hard to understand the enormity of this country's plight.