Greece This Month – May 2012
Greece this month In this issue: General Election Date Set for June 17 Stephen Fry lends support to Greek calls to return Parthenon marbles to Athens Sifnos in the Top Ten Islands according to National Geographic EMBASSSY OF GREECE Press & Communications Office 1a Holland Park, London W11 3TP Tel.: 020 77273071, Fax: 020 77278960 email@example.com
LIGHTING CEREMONY, ATHENS
London 2012 Olympics torch relay: magic in the air as flame fever grips the country In the week before it started, the only mental picture you could summon up of the Olympic Torch Relay was of joggers sloshing through puddles, past pavements empty save for a couple of hardy cagouled souls huddled under an umbrella, a thin plume of steam hissing from a torch extinguished by unstinting rain. Instead, as if on cue, as if under instruction, the moment Ben Ainslie took possession of the flame after it landed from Athens in Land’s End, the heavy pall of unrelenting greyness that had enveloped the country throughout the spring suddenly lifted. It was exactly as Locog had always insisted would happen: the Olympics has brought sunshine to the UK. So it has continued, up through Cornwall, Devon and into the West Country, under cloud-free skies, a procession of sustained, sun-speckled good humour. Enormous crowds have turned out everywhere the flame has gone, far bigger than anyone predicted, huge numbers saluting every step of its progress. Coe had claimed that 90 per
cent of Britons would have the chance to see the flame on its national tour; what no one had expected was for 90 per cent of the population seemingly to have already turned out before the torch has arrived in Bristol. It has not simply been the celebrities who have brought out the crowds, either. Sure, the sight of Will.I.Am moonwalking along Taunton’s high street is not something that can be regarded as commonplace but the real joy of the flame’s onwards march has been the manner in which ordinary civilians have been celebrated. The only sight most of those watching have had of the flame is in the hands of playgroup leaders, community coaches and sports club volunteers. Yet the response has been as enthusiastic as if they had
been tweeting rappers and tumbling strikers. That has been the triumph of the exercise: making the London Games feel somehow both national and local. What we have seen of the torch relay has been overwhelmingly positive. Indeed, watching the pictures of cheering crowds lining bunting-swathed high streets, what is so remarkable is how everyone seems to be having such a good time. That’s not just because the schools shut down while the flame passes by. Something in the collective experience has stirred a sustaining sense of community. It is just what Coe promised: the flame relay might well be the precursor of ames that belong to us all. And given that wehave paid through the nose in order to stage them, so they should.
Greece this month – May 2012
General Election Date Set for June 17 Greece unofficially began its new election period, ahead of polls on June 17, as party leaders clashed over who would be appointed caretaker prime minister before they finally agreed to follow the constitution and opt for Council of State president Panayiotis Pikrammenos to take over the role. The head of Greece’s highest administrative court was chosen
on Wednesday after the option of keeping on his predecessor, Lucas Papademos, in the role was ruled out. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos had been in favor of Papademos continuing but met with opposition from the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras..
Greece and the European Union Cooperation, Critical Assistance and fiscal Discipline One of the biggest global challenges of the last suffer from a lack of “competitiveness”, leading decades is definitely the economic and financial to a very big current-account deficit, which was crisis, whose origins can be traced back in 2008 driven mainly by a surge in imports. The rapid at the US banking sector. It quickly spread to increase in the size of the public sector was Europe -mainly due to structural deficiencies of perhaps not the only culprit responsible for the its Economic and Monetary Union- taking the consumer-spending spree that we witnessed form of a serious debt crisis with global especially during the latter years of Eurozone repercussions, exposing the lack of a regulatory membership though it was the most critical one. framework in the financial sector. Greece was The Greek private sector is not perfect, either: among the first European countries that were unit labour costs relative to the country’s main affected severely by this crisis, mainly due to the trading partners in Europe rose too fast, large weaknesses in the structure of its economy - the swathes of the private sector suffer from gross product of imbalances that were exacerbated inefficiencies because of the small size of firms, over many tax evasion is a huge years problem and large through the segments are overly accumulation dependent on of errors and government contracts. omissions in During the expansion policies that period of the Greek led to the economy we missed the creation of timing to introduce all excessive those necessary reforms debt. It is, to improve our nonetheless, competitiveness and worth achieve sound public mentioning finances. The inadequacy that Greece of fiscal and structural has probably reforms became all too been the apparent when the fiscal HE the Ambassador of Greece to the United Kingdom, membercrisis hit. The assistance Mr. Aristidis C. Sandis. state that provided by our euro benefited most from the Economic and Monetary zone partners at that critical juncture was indeed Union, a major achievement of the EU integration crucial for coping with the crisis. An process. The Greek economy’s remarkable unprecedented mechanism was set, the so called expansion during the last 15 years, triggered “troika”, with the aim to refinance our debt and largely by the improved housekeeping that took introduce all the necessary reforms. The policy place in the latter part of the 1990s, in the course of fiscal consolidation and reform implemented of nominal convergence to enter the third stage today is essential, given the scale of the errors of EMU and adopt the euro, not only changed the made over the past years. Only by applying this face of our country. It also made a significant policy can we free ourselves of the constraints contribution to the wider stability of SE Europe that high public debt implies, and lay the thanks to the ensuing very important expansion foundations for a different type of growth that, of trade and investment links with our above all, will be sustainable. Unfortunately, neighbours. During this period, we witnessed a Greece is called upon to correct, within an remarkable improvement in the standard of extremely short space of time, the accumulated living. All peripheral countries benefited greatly ills of many years. And this demands an immense from the low interest rate and the financial effort and involves enormous adjustment costs stability brought about by the euro. On the other for a period of time. Our participation in the euro hand, by the end of this decade, all was not well. area ensures the preservation of price stability It is often said that even before the true state of promotes financial and economic stability and Greece’ s public finances was revealed in the facilitates the implementation of the deep and autumn of 2009, Greece had been known to broad reforms required for the revival of the
economy. The Greek people recognize the need for a major economic and institutional transformation and they overwhelmingly support euro area membership, which they perceive as crucial for the success of this effort. On the European level, important steps have been taken, within a short period of time, in order to enhance economic and fiscal Union, by strengthening the economic pillar of the EMU. The new Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Convergence in the Economic and Monetary Union, as well as the ESM Treaty for the establishment of a permanent mechanism to provide financial assistance to member states in need and thirdly, the Euro Plus Pact signed last March, definitely move towards that direction. Through primary and secondary EU legislation we have managed to create a solid fiscal framework, which would effectively discourage fiscal deviations and eventually lead to sound public finances. This new framework is an important step in a two-year intensive effort to address the economic crisis through fiscal discipline. Furthermore, the element of growth should definitely be an essential part of the European strategy to address the current crisis and it should now be placed among the top EU priorities. In this respect, we should make use of several tools and means to generate growth, such as the completion of the Single Market, credit-related measures to increase liquidity, better mobilization of structural funds and use of "project bonds" to stimulate private financing of key infrastructure projects. Circumstances demand that we transcend our limitations and surpass ourselves. We have to work to the best of our ability and leverage our every strong point, in a spirit of cooperation. Despite the hurdles that lie before us on, all the countries– members of the Eurozone - great and small, strong and weak – share a real interest in securing its cohesion and stability. Any suggestion to dismantle the Eurozone is unrealistic, since such an event would risk the collapse of the common market as well. Moreover, we consider the Euro an indispensable part of the process of the European integration through which the peace, prosperity and solidarity of the European peoples is consolidated. support efforts of the Greek government. Diplomat Magazine, May 2012
Greece this month – May 2012
Development in Greece, development in Europe: opportunities “made in Britain” In Greece, there is consensus on one thing: the need to put the economy back on a growth track as soon as possible. More European countries have only one option: to deal with all issues concerning the sustainability of their deficits and debts. At the same time, though, we must prepare our economies for achieving international competitiveness and growth. Development policies should neither be deconstructive, nor wait passively for investors to come. They have to offer a dynamic response to economic change. Britain welcomes the measures Greece is taking in order to effectively meet these challenges. Both the British government –through the EU and our strong involvement in the Task Force– and the British companies can help achieve this. The two countries have strong trading links that range from shipping and financial services to education, tourism and mobile telephony. As Greece embarks on structural reforms, British expertise on innovative privatization and privatepublic partnership practices could prove exceptionally useful. Privatizations are not only about the flow of funds into state coffers. We have realized that, even in fields as diverse as e.g. Health and Defence, the private sector can help the State save resources and provide citizens with better services. We can share our experience with the Greek government and Greek enterprises. There is ample scope for increased British involvement in the Greek economy, from energy (hydrocarbons and renewable energy sources) and security to high-end tourism. A large number of major projects would bring investments and new jobs in Greece, provided that certain bureaucracy-related problems were solved. This is one of my top priorities. Trade and investment is the key to growth. Britain's coalition government, starting from the Prime Minister, has launched an unprecedented effort. A year ago, in our Policy Paper on Trade and Investment we laid out the strategy that is being pursued since then by the entire government, including British trade missions all over the world. We are supporting British enterprises, including SMEs, to start exporting, or expand their exports, to emerging markets. We are approaching foreign investors and promoting certain projects. In addition, we are working within international organizations to establish new free market economies. One year later, some progress has been made, but as Lord Green, the British Minister for Trade has aptly stated, this is “a marathon, not a sprint”. However, in the case of member-states such as Greece and Britain, growth requires proper policies and actions on the EU level. With more
SPORT AND CULTURE SIX GREEK ECO-DESIGN PROJECTS AWARDED BY THE OECD
than 24 million unemployed, growth has to be on top of our European priorities. This is the reason why in the run-up to the recent summit, the British Prime-Minister David Cameron and other European leaders from all corners of Europe, from the Netherlands and Poland to Italy, Spain and Portugal, presented an action plan for growth. Further to this initiative, the Summit agreed on implementing a set of specific measures, including: › An action plan for the single market for services and the digital economy › Measures for the opening of regulated professions throughout Europe › Specific deregulation targets per sector, along with a clear schedule and targeted actions for reducing SME regulation › Explicit commitment to completing energy market integration by June 2014 › A clear intention of the EU to sign free trade agreements with third countries and regions.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) awarded six innovative green projects developed by Greeks as part of its annual Global Forum on Eco-innovation in January. The competition, organized by the OECD to boost environmentally friendly business practices in Europe and to encourage new ideas in countries like Greece, included the participation of 28 Greek projects, representing around 8 percent of the total 490 from 37 countries. The Greek entries involved sustainable energy OLYMPIAKOS CROWNED EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS
This is a clear-cut plan, based on specific actions, and resulting from an unprecedented concurrence of opinion among member-states. Britain will keep on working hard, together with our partners, in order to make these commitments a reality. Some people may wonder: what is the relevance of all these things for Greece, given the specific challenges it is facing? An answer would be to compare Greece with Britain. Both countries have an outward-looking commercial tradition. Although the conditions are different, both Greece and Britain are faced with the challenge of reorienting part of their economic activity. Emphasizing on growth issues, both on the national and European levels, can help achieve this aim. The initiatives that the EU has agreed to take can provide assistance to both existing and start-up companies in Greece, as well as in Britain. And, thanks to their panEuropean character, these initiatives can also encourage bilateral business partnerships. So, I hope that Greece will enthusiastically support these efforts. I have stressed the importance of deeds over words. And this is true for me, as well as for the British Embassy. We want to work with Greek enterprises on jointly shaping European initiatives. We are also bringing together Greek and British enterprises, and support efforts aimed at the improvement of the business environment that will also foster cooperation between British and Greek enterprises. Of course, it would be impossible to conclude this article without any reference to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We want to make sure that the Games will bring together not only athletes, but also entrepreneurs. Leading Greek companies will participate in this summer's Business Conferences in London. Everybody is welcome to participate through the British Business Club (www.britishbusinessclub.org). Or, more simply put, contact us – we are waiting for you.
This is a reprinted article from ACCI’s Annual Business, Economic Review “Trade With Greece”. All rights reserved.
In a thriller-like finale, the basketball team of Olympiacos Piraeus was crowned European Champion during the Euroleague Final Four tournament yesterday in Istanbul. Olympiakos clashed with CSKA Moscow at the final, winning the European title for the second time in its history with a 62-61 score. CSKA led 53-34 in the third quarter and seemed well on its way to victory, but a 14point run brought the Reds back to complete their incredible comeback when Giorgos Printezis’s final shot went in with less than a second left to give head coach Dušan Ivković his fifth continental crown. GREECE WINS CHARLEMAGNE YOUTH PRIZE
A Greek youth media project, headed Europe on the Ground, was the winner of the 2012 Charlemagne Youth Prize. Europe on the Ground uses innovative forms of journalism to make Europe more familiar to a pan-European public. The Charlemagne Youth Prize is awarded annually to projects that foster a shared sense of European identity and integration among young people. The prize was awarded by EP President Martin Schulz on May 15 in Aachen. In his speech, Schulz said the project "makes cultural diversity in Europe tangible, promotes multilingualism and encourages the emergence of a European public."
Greece this month – April 2012
LONDON INTERNATIONAL COLLOQUY REUNIFICATION OF THE PARTHENON MARBLES On the 19th and 20th of June 2012 an international Athens. In many cases they literally are “halves”, as colloquy on the Reunification of the Parthenon many sculptured pieces are split between the two Marbles will take place at the Hellenic Centre in locations . That is why we talk, literally, about London. It will be organised jointly by the British “reunification”. Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Second, these sculptures are not merely adornments Marbles (BCRPM ), the American Committee for the but structural components of the Doric and Ionic Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (ACRPS) orders of the Parthenon. and the International Organising Committee – Third, the Parthenon is a Unesco World Heritage Site, AUSTRALIA – for the Restitution of the Parthenon one of the most widely recognisable of such sites and Marbles Inc. indeed (IOC – A – used as an RPM). The icon by colloquy will Unesco be addressed itself, parts by of which distinguished have been speakers chopped from all three off and are countries and displayed in from South another Africa as well country. as of course This is from Greece, surely The Logo of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles . and those unique, The grey part is in London and yellow part of the freeze in Athens attending certainly the colloquy will come from a number of other very rare . Thus to concede to the demand for the countries in Europe. reunification of these marbles could hardly set a The timing of the colloquy is significant. It coincides precedent for a “flood” of similar demands. with the third anniversary of the opening of the There are other traditional arguments against the Acropolis Museum in Athens. It also coincides with reunification of the Parthenon which are now the build up to the London Olympics. This is historical curiosities which do not merit such a important because every four years these games considered response. remind the world of our many cultural debts to Greece “Lord Elgin rescued the marbles from damage by the and the supporters of reunification of the Parthenon elements and vandals”. Well, yes, but that is no marbles always take advantage of this to remind the argument for continuing to hold on to them. world of the iconic significance of the Parthenon. “More visitors see them in the British Museum thαan This year the message is particularly close to home as would in Athens”. Statistical sleight of hand. the Olympics are based in London, the very city in “They are safer in the BM”. Doesn’t hold up to which half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon scrutiny of past treatment. currently reside. “The Greeks have nowhere to put them”. The new, Let us first clear up one issue. The “R” in the titles of purpose built gallery in the Acropolis Museum? the various organisations collaborating in this colloquy In our colloquy we shall not waste much time on these stands variously for “Return” or “Reunification”. It is arguments. There is much more of importance to sometimes used to signify “Restitution”. The consider including an in depth analysis of the concept differences are subtle but significant. The BCRPM is of the “Universal Museum” which is increasingly quite specific. We campaign specifically for the adduced to justify the BM’s higher order claim on the “Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles”. We do not marbles than the merely “parochial” Acropolis campaign for the return or restitution of cultural Museum. The BCRPM does not accept this, but at objects in general. Why are we so specific? least we appreciate the elevation of the argument to Many organisations and countries around the world grounds of museology. Is it too much to expect this to campaign for the return (or restitution) of a multitude be widened to consideration of cultural of cultural objects to their places or origin or interdependence, collaboration and cultural rights? ownership. The standard response to this is the As our distinguished panel of speakers from four “floodgates” argument: that to give in to one of these continents includes the distinguished South African demands would set a precedent for a flood of similar advocate George Bizos we shall of course discuss in demands which would have the effect of emptying the detail the various legal issues relating to the retention galleries of all our museums. of the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum. There are various responses to this argument. First, it is highly exaggerated. Second, it raises interesting For further information including registration details questions about the provenance of many objects in visit www.parthenonuk.com or contact the collections in many of our museums on which I firstname.lastname@example.org..uk could but won’t dilate here. Rather I make the case that the “floodgates argument does not apply to the Eddie O’Hara Parthenon marbles. First, the sculptured components of the Parthenon in Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Elgin collection of the British Museum comprise the Parthenon Marbles. approximately half of those which have survived the vicissitudes of history. Their other halves are in
AROUND ANCIENT GREECE Ancient Theatre Restored
Following approval by the Central Archaeological Council, the ancient theatre of Dodoni is to be restored after ten years of being closed to the public Dodoni, located south of Ioannina city in Epirus, was renowned for the Dodoni Sanctuary, a place of great religious importance to the ancient Greeks. The theatre was an integral part of the sanctuary and had been destroyed and rebuilt twice, since the sanctuary’s destruction in 219 BC. Dating back to the third century BC, it features a huge cave shaped into a natural cavity at the foot of Tomaros Mountain. It is among the largest ancient Greek theatres, accommodating about 18,000 spectators. Excavations in the site began in 1875 and continued through the post-war era. In 1960 the theatre was fully restored and opened to the public. However, extreme weather conditions, as well as three decades of visiting have burdened the monument. Now, restoration works are once again under way.
Acropolis Baths & Spa: Extraordinary Finds Come to Light
A luxury bathing complex dating back to Roman times, between the 2nd and 7th century A.D., was unearthed by archaeologists near the southern side of the Acropolis and within the perimeter of the ancient city’s walls, in the Makrygiannis district close to the Acropolis Museum. The extremely well-preserved baths found only one meter below the road surface, offered cold and hot bath services. Following the basic model for Roman baths, they included changing rooms, two water tanks for cold baths (frigidarium), individual showers, an area for warm baths (tepidarium), three areas for hot baths (caldarium), 4 furnace rooms (praefurnium) and an area for preparing food.As archaeologist Hara Harami, (3rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities) explains, the baths could have been part of an individual residence but, their dimensions and the nexus of surrounding sites suggest that they were part of a bigger individual or public edifice.
Greece this month – May 2012
This is the best time to visit Greece for your holidays Τhe Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises explains why During the difficult financial and political time that Greece is currently faced with, those travelling to Greece this summer are understandably concerned that their holiday may be in jeopardy. SETE – The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises wants to assure holidaymakers that this is not the case. This was the main topic of discussion during a meeting between the Greek Prime Minister, Panagiotis Pikrammenos and Dr. Andreas Andreadis, President of SETE, which took place on Saturday 19th May 2012. The Greek Prime Minister stated ―tourism remains one of the basic development axes of the Greek economy‖, and that the main target of his government is to ―reassure that the country is preparing for national election with stability and tranquility‖. Dr. Andreas Andreadis, President of SETE, commented ―We want to encourage international tourism and assure potential tourists that there has never been a better time to come to our country. We are trying to change the way our country and its economy is run, however, this is not going to affect the quality of a holiday. Greece remains one of the top destinations in the world and we reassure holidaymakers that this summer remains business as usual.‖ Answering to the main concerns that are expressed through the international media during recent days, polls show that more than 80% of the Greek people are in
favour of Greece remaining within the Euro zone. More importantly, the G8 Leaders placed emphasis on growth as well as fiscal discipline at their meeting on Saturday, whilst making a strong plea for Greece to stay in the Euro zone and the European Union, under the understanding that Greece is willing to commit to necessary structural reforms. In regards to concerns surrounding strikes and demonstrations, it is important to mention that the country is preparing for national elections and usually the pre and post election periods are characterized by tranquility, hence the chances of strikes in Greece for summer 2012 are far lower than in most other European countries. During April – May, the number of strikes and demonstrations has indeed been very limited compared to the same period last year. Greek banks are solvent and like all Euro zone banks have a guaranteed solvency by the European Central Bank. An infusion of 18 bn Euros, part of the PSI agreement, will reach the Greek banks this week from the European Support Fund (EFSF), further enhancing the reach the Greek banks solvency of the Greek
to check out Trip Advisor to see that hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers currently in Greece are enjoying sunshine filled, happy holidays and we anticipate that it will remain so. Holidaymakers will be able to lock in the best exchange rate since 2008. In fact, hotels and apartments are offering very favorable rates during this time enabling guests to experience a great holiday for reduced prices. In Greek cities and resorts, hotels are offering a wealth of extra benefits such as free extra meals or free children.
AN ALTERNATIVE SUMMER CAMP
Blue Flags Summer 2012
The Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature -coordinator of the international Blue Flag programme in Greece- announced the prized beaches and marinas for 2012, on May 23. A total of 394 beaches and 9 marinas were awarded by the international nonprofit Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), putting Greece in second place -after rival Spain- out of the 46 countries taking part in the blue flag scheme. The prefectures of Lasithi (on Crete), and Halkidiki (northern Greece) along with islands of Corfu and Rhodes
Banking system. Holidaymakers will be able to make any kind of financial transactions as usual in Greece during the 2012 summer. The British Foreign and Commonwealth office advised that travel is safe to Greece and that it remains a popular destination. Travellers only need
topped the list of destinations with the most Blue Flag beaches. Meanwhile, the Special Secretariat for Water of the Environment, Energy and Climate Change Ministry released its 2011 report on bathing water quality, concluding that 95% of the bathing water in Greece is of excellent quality. The Blue Flag is an internationally recognised standard for quality, rewarding sustainable development at beaches and marinas, relying on stringent criteria such as water quality and environmental education.
As summer approaches parents start thinking about how to entertain and keep their children busy during the break. Summer camps have always been a preferred option, for they offer relaxation, combined with lots of activities, as well as the opportunity to forge social ties, away from the usual parental or educational milieu. (Hyphen)ology is a study-travel-community service programme on the island of Lesvos, designed for high school students between the ages of 14 and 18. It combines academic excellence with cultural immersion to provide participants with an unforgettable summer experience. For two weeks in June-July, students attend courses on subjects of their choice, on topics such as Marine Environment & Underwater World, Modern Greek Language (at different levels), Greek Mythology, and History of the Universe.
Greece this month – May 2012
Antipaxos This tiny island has no shops, bars or village and barely any infrastructure. Can you have too much splendid isolation? The crescent-shaped beach on tiny Anti Paxos has the sleepy atmosphere of an English village fête. In the 30C heat, a portly, nut-brown grandmother is building a sandcastle with her grandchildren. A pair of young men are throwing a ball, trying to catch the attention of a beauty topping up her tan. The shadows lengthen lazily until suddenly, towels and picnics are packed up and everybody embarks on the sail home to the neighbouring island of Paxos. As the sun dives slowly into the sea, we find ourselves alone on a velvety black and silent island. Just 40 minutes away in Corfu, the first few ouzos are being knocked back ahead of another Club 18-30 night out in Kavos. We pull out our travel Scrabble and get stuck in. Anti Paxos is just a mile long and two miles wide and has no shops, no bars, no village and barely any infrastructure at all. The handful of residents toiled with picks and axes under the hot Greek sun to build the few rough, rocky roads and small harbour. The only way to get there is from neighbouring Paxos, which doesn’t have an airport, or by speedboat 45 minutes from Corfu — an island famed for its hordes of nightclubbing British tourists, an inverse replica of this rustic outcrop. We’re staying in one of the few villas on the island. It is perched on the side of a hill with huge views across the ocean to the Greek mainland, and looks like an elegantly converted cow shed. Within its thick stone walls there’s a pretty open-plan kitchen and living room, bedroom and bathroom, but the real treat is the bean-shaped swimming pool, and three separate, vine-covered terraces. Life here is slow. There are just a few inhabited houses on the island, all elderly Greek islanders who
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subsist almost entirely off the land, keeping chickens and growing vines to make their own wine. Fig, apricot and pomegranate trees jostle for space among the thorns that seem at constant threat of reclaiming the islanders’ hard-earned gains. Flip flops prove an unworthy match for the rough-cut path down to the beach, but it’s worth the sweat and stubbed toes on reaching the cove. The white sand is licked by electricblue waves and a few small boats are bobbing from their anchors. Protected on each side by tall white cliffs in formations that look like folded piles of white linen, it’s an amateurgeologist’s dream. Jewel-like fish dart around the shallows at the base of the cliffs, and we pull on our masks and snorkels and kick about among them for half an hour before heading to one of the two small tavernas on the beach. Open only in daylight hours, they serve freshly caught grilled fish and frozen-glass tankards of Mythos beer to the few people who have made the 15-minute boat ride over from Paxos. A private island turns out to not be without its own anxieties, however. The complete lack of shops brought on a histrionic fit of hunger in my boyfriend. ―It’s never going to be enough!‖ he wailed, poking through the rapidly diminishing stash of lamb chops and burgers we’d heaved over in a crate for the barbecue. With no option to pop down to the corner shop for that extra loaf of bread, our provisions took on greater significance. There was no choice but to plan each meal in advance and fully savour our Channelling our inner Robinson provisions. Crusoe, we pick grapes and pomegranates from the garden for pudding. It felt surprisingly good — frugally virtuous in a way that would seem ridiculous in London. Once we’ve walked in the boiling heat to the second beach and the deserted lighthouse perched on of the island, we’ve pretty much exhausted the eastern tip every activity available. For someone who isn’t interested in tanning and has an irritating
addiction to keeping busy the enforced relaxation soon begins to gall. On our penultimate day, when I’ve finished my second book, endlessly reapplied sun cream and swum eight times before lunch, I suddenly reach tipping point. In the midst of the hectic merry-go-round at home, isolation had seemed the idyll. Being suddenly plunged into serenity was, at that moment under the beating midday sun, painful. If we had any internet connection, I would now have been Google-imaging rainy London. Instead, we decide on a walk to the aptly named Bella Vista taverna, whose sensational dolmades prove a tonic. Perched on the edge of the hillside a ten-minute walk above the second beach, its flagstone terraces provide a view so perfectly beautiful — all glittering blue sea and hazy islands — that it felt as though we’d walked onto the set of a washing powder advert. The endless waves of simply cooked good food (fried calamari, courgette pie, grilled sardines, fresh tomato salad and honey-soaked baklava), are washed down with rough island wine. As we wander back along the deserted tracks to home, a half remembered sentence, most likely filched off Twitter, loops through my mind. ―It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it,‖ wrote the Bohemian poet Rilke. It seems being still is no less of an art than boundless activity.
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