It’s all Crete to me – taxes and tzatsiki

Moussaka madam?

Crete is the largest of the thousands of Greek Islands you may want to hop to for your perfect sunshine European vacation. Floating in the blinding blue of the Agean sea, Crete is the birthplace of Zeus home of the mythical Minotaur and was latterly the stomping ground of the (now extinct) pygmy hippo. It is also part of a wider Greek economy struggling to deal with national debt, political corruption and an ambivalent attitude towards the paying of taxes. The second day I was there the government shut down the state TV broadcasting channel ERT because it was ‘too expensive’ and the next day there was a general strike. This didn’t seem to affect the happy holiday activities on Crete which has only been a part of the parent country since 1913. The island has a strong and independent culture which doesn’t much care for fancy new rules and regulations. Crete is one of the few parts of Greece which can support itself even without the tourist dollar. It has a rich agricultural trade in Olive oil, citrus fruits, wine, herbs and honey, lower unemployment than elsewhere in Greece and a relatively rich population. Cretans like to do things the way they’ve always done them. Having been invaded by Romans, Venetians and Turks at one time or another in their history, Brussels bureaucrats don’t seem very scary.

Greek philosophers

The countryside is surprisingly green and the climate pretty temperate. There are beautiful wild flower-filled gorges and traditional villages to explore. Lovely food, wine, shopping and beaches. There’s something for everyone on Crete. If you want to get continuously drunk, stay up all night, meets lots of other dodgy English people and get into a fight on a daily basis, try Malia. If you prefer something rather more sophisticated try the beautiful city of Rethymnon which is where I whiled away most of my week. No one could accuse Crete of being short of mountains. If you do go a wandering your calf muscles will take a pasting as you trek about, and you do need to take lots of water to avoid delirium due to dehydration. We walked the fairly modest Myli gorge which was the nearest one to us but there are some much mightier ones, like the famous Samaria gorge you can try if you want to really tire yourself out.


Can’t be bothered to walk round?

We met an English lady who explained that Cretans still operated as very strong family units and usually employ their offspring in the family business and house them on the family land. Apparently Cretan family vendettas are famous and still go on today (sounding a bit Mafia to me) She said she was struggling to make the little bar she’d bought with her husband pay, when she had to cough up 40% tax on everything, and the ‘all inclusives’ were taking over the holiday market. Cretans most definitely do not like to pay 40% tax. What did they get for their money? Nothing! Where were the schools and hospitals promised by the government?

I say pfff! to the Euro!

The Old town of Rethmynon still has lots of Turkish and Venetian features and an authentic Greek charm. As you tuck into your Cretan specialities, sipping surprisingly good Greek wine, while sitting under a lemon tree, economic strife seems far away. You toss a prawn to one of the pretty, wise eyed feral cats which are everywhere in Greece and think, ‘I shall come back here.’
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