Sunday, 27 October 2013

camp life

We decide to stay a little longer in Paleohora - to take advantage of the good weather, the nearby beaches and the cheap camping.  The campsite here looks like it's hardly changed since it opened.  You can tell this, apart from the old toilet/shower block with 70's tiled walls, because the main part of the site is for tents only.  We haven't seen a site where the tents get the best pitches, in the shade, away from the road.  Most sites these days are really designed for vans.
view from the campsite cafe
It's low season now and the site is quiet.  There are three Austrians camping nearby.  Karl first came here 29 years ago, as a teenager.  He confirms that little has changed.  A little landscaping, some new toilets and hot showers behind the cafe which it took us a few days to discover.  He comes every autumn.  He looks like a Robinson Crusoe to me - tall, bronzed, long hair, vivid blue eyes.  He and his friends are evidently happy here and when we ask when they will leave they all just shrug their shoulders.  On the far side there's another Austrian woman who came in June and has returned for a week's break and near to her a young Greek hippy called Nico, who helps out in the cafe in the evening.  Nico lived in the UK for 9 years, training sniffer dogs.  He doesn't look the type, with his beard and long hair, baggy trousers. He says he loved it in Dorset but after 9 years the weather finally broke him.  The man is Greek though.  He refers to a swim he had a few days back when it was still warm enough to swim.  Now it's too cold. In contrast there's an older German couple in a campervan who have come for the winter.  A few others come and go, but rarely stay long.  We have become residents.
Karl and Irmi, always relaxed, always smiling
The campsite is run by a family, Manolis and his wife.  Manolis has an Asterix-style moustache and a penchant for a dramatic pause when speaking, when there is no need for drama.  There seem to be other extended family who come and go, an old fella who turns up with his fluffy dog to watch the telly and play backgammon, some other locals who drop by for a drink in the evening.  One fella turns up in a camouflage bandana and matching fatigues most nights.  It's the dress of people out hunting in Greece, and it looks a bit odd on him, because he doesn't look like he's been hunting.  He has two of these matching outfits in different shades of camouflage.  He also boasts an Obelix-style moustache. Karl tells us that this man is Manolis' half-brother by the same father.  His name is also Manolis.  They are preparing for revolution, for the army to overthrow the government, for an end to corruption, an end to idiotic politicians.  The owner tells us this and explains why he will vote for Golden Dawn, the fascist party that has risen in popularity.  This is alarming stuff.  Here in Crete you do not feel that the people are really suffering from the economic crisis.  Food prices are high in the shops - maybe higher than UK prices - and if you earn the average of 570 euros a month then that's a problem.  The difference is that if you have land you can grow your own vegetables, keep animals, produce olive oil.  So it seems that if you work in tourism or live in the country you are probably protected from the worst.  However, if you live in the city and have had wages cut, or you're unempolyed, then.......
from Chania - not everyone is a Golden Dawn supporter

So why does Manolis want to vote for fascists?  Didn't his family fight the Germans to stop fascism?  Actually, when you look at the history of Greece, they appear to have already had a fascist government when the last World War broke out.  It just wasn't interested in getting involved.  When Mussolini demanded that his army be allowed to enter Greece, the Greek General Metaxa, who like his namesake brandy was often drunk, famously replied "Ohi!" (No!).  Benito was not chuffed.  The Italians invaded and the Greeks fought them back.  Tough luck, here come the Germans.......(The Greeks still celebrate "No!" Day on 28th October, with military parades and marching schoolchildren, with all the verve of any new nation.  And this is what we realise makes Greece so vulnerable - it is still a relatively new nation.  New and divided.  In the civil war that followed when the Germans left, more Greeks died than during the World War.) Manolis explains his frightening right-wing tendencies: he hates the communists and he hates the corruption in the country, the lying politicians.  Life would be simpler with a military government.  The judiciary would function properly.  Oh, so simple it would be!  In the meantime he is refusing to pay his taxes.  So, no change there, then...

After the night of rain and the day of cloud and high winds the weather settles down again and the temperatures rise once more.  Karl refers to this as the African side of Crete.  The mountains form a barrier with the northern European side.  We stay a while.  On the site there are quite a few cats that wander about.  One of them pisses on our tent.  Not once, but twice.  We take to deterring them from coming close by throwing stones at them.  But you have to hit the cat, otherwise it thinks you're throwing food, and it gets all sociable with us.  After a week we explain to the Austrians why we are not so kind to the cats.  Karl tells us it's the fluffy dog that pisses on the tents - he saw it do it to his own....

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