Friday, September 04, 2009

7 Quick Takes: Greek Edition

This week's quick takes are from our recent holiday on the Greek island of Thassos ...

1. The world has changed. Ten years ago when we last went to Thassos, most of the holiday makers there were British or Greek, with a sprinkling of Germans and Scandinavians. This time round, there were lots of Greeks, a tiny handful from the UK, and large numbers from the old Eastern bloc - Poles, Russians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Slovaks and others.

2. Only a few years ago around 10,000 people visited Thassos from the Uk every week. Now it is down to just three plane loads - around seven or eight hundred people. We have been trying to work out why. Judging by the large proportion of repeat visitors (ourselves included) it is nothing to do with the island itself. Our guess is a combination of factors: less people opting for package holidays thanks to the recession and the ease of independent travel using internet bookings; small travel companies being squeezed out by larger competitors; and the big companies concentating on a more limited range of destinations. We wonder if Thassos will still be available as a package from the UK at all a few years down the line. It would be a shame if it isn't, as it isn't an easy place to reach independently.

3. An old Thassos favourite of Tevye's is the doughnut man, who walks the beach with a tray of very yummy doughnuts. Tevye had built up expectations to the extent that when playing "beaches" before we left for our holiday, Cherub would begin the game by saying "I'll be the doughnutter!". Fortunately the doughnut man was still there and the doughnuts even better than we remembered, especially the chocolate ones. And Cherub didn't have too many doughnut / sand accidents. The doughnut man has also been joined by the sweetcorn man, so Cherub's repertoire has been extended ... as well as "Come and get your doughnuts!" we have "Kalamboki! Sweetcorn!"

4. One big improvement since I first visited Greece thirty years ago ... If one needs to answer a call of nature when at a taverna or bar, there is no longer a dreadful moment of uncertainty as to what lurks behind the door ... sit or squat? Greece has moved on and is now in the age of the automatic motion sensor hand towel dispenser (which sadly proved too technical for a certain adult member of our party!).

5. Cherub developed a new obsession while we were away. Uno. Every day had to begin and end with rounds of the card game, and she squeezed as many as she could persuade people to play in between. She nearly drove us insane, but her number recognition improved no end.

6. Many European cities and resort towns have little road trains that take tourists round the sights. Most are rather sedate, trundling along to the sound of worthy commentary. Thassos has the Great Fun Train, all flashing fairy lights, tooting horn and jingly Greek music, which rattles back and forth along the two mile length of coast between Skala Potamias (where we stayed) and Golden Beach every evening. Full of a polyglot assortment of families and couples, children waving excitedly both to and from the train as it passes the tavernas and bars along the sea front, the Great Fun Train lives up to its name. We loved it, and Cherub would have ridden on it every day, given the chance.

7. Menu mistranslations always provide good entertainment in Greece. I thought "salty flapjacks" (savoury crepes) was going to be this year's favourite until I spotted my all time winner: "God (frozen)".

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary


Theresa said...

I have to know: what in the world is God (frozen)???

The Bookworm said...

Cod. It was listed under fish and seafood ;).

CaliforniaKat said...

With all of the English speakers around, it always surprises me they could get someone to give it a quick look-see. But it does make for some interesting reading :)

Thassos is a wonderful island, and it's kind of a good thing that it's no longer overrun with tourists. It preserves the authenticity.

Dorothy said...

It sounds brilliant, Kathryn.

Our favourite mistranslation from Greece was,

Boiled string.
(String beans. We think.)

So glad to hear about the demise of the squattie potty.


Karen E. said...

It all sounds so lovely.
And humorous. Love the God frozen. :)