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Greece is Still Open for Business, Despite Political Turmoil

July 19, 2011


Rhodes Harbor // (c) 2011 Wojsyl/

dpa, Berlin, July 19, 2011
By Tobias Schormann

July 19--RHODES, Greece -- Dennis Schladenbeck from the northern German city of Brunswick could not have expected his vacation to start out the way it did.

Instead of lying around on the beach of the island of Rhodes with his bride, the 31-year-old found himself stranded at the airport. Air traffic controllers in Greece were on strike to protest against the Athens government's austerity programme.

But now, Dennis is sitting next to the swimming pool of his holiday resort in Lindos on Rhodes, and there, he notices nothing of the Greeks' anger.

Noontime on the beach of Faliraki, a tourism area on Rhodes' eastern coast, and the sun is blazing and the sea is blue.

The man at the pedal-boat rental place has pulled a hat down over his face and is evidently taking a nap. Is everybody on strike here? It looks like it, the way everybody appears to be lying lazily around under the sun.

Real protests naturally are something else. At the end of June, as the Greek parliament was passing the controversial fiscal austerity plans, there were violent clashes in Athens, and there were nationwide strikes for two days. Flights were delayed and ferry boat services cancelled. But then?

"Nothing. Things here are the same as ever," says Guenther Sagener, a Berliner on holiday in Faliraki. A look at the town's streets shows that the buses are operating and the shops and restaurants are open.

Still, some people are uncertain about things. A Lindos hotel manager, Christos Palatinakos, for example tells how he received emails from vacationers who were worried about the scenes from Athens they were seeing on television.

But so far, no vacationer has let himself be scared off by the pictures from the capital. Any vacationer hoping that the hotels and beaches might be less crowded due to the political turmoil in Athens is bound to be disappointed.

And is some sort of going-out-of-business sale starting up in the vacation spots, with "Everything Must Go" signs posted?

Not a chance, says Sandra Weber, a vacationer from Regensburg, after a week-long holiday on Rhodes. In a bar, a cocktail is priced at a "special offer" of 3 euros (4 dollars). There's a shop which is offering a souvenir rebate -- buy five wristwatches, you get another one free. Going out of business sales are a lot different from this.

For many items vacationers must even pay more than they did before, holidaymaker Gisela Hense from Munich believes. She noticed that petrol has become really expensive.

Apparently this has been noticed by the Greek locals living on the holiday islands as well. One can see how many of them are having to save their money. "The restaurants are emptier," says Hense.

Hotel manager Christos Palatinakos says, "People simply don't have the money for eating out. They have to try to survive."

In vacation resorts like Faliraki one doesn't notice this so much. Here, the scene really only starts to take off late in the evening. The giant ferris wheel on the main road is illuminated, throbbing music is heard in the discos, and people are dancing on top of the tables.

Athens is far, far away and the motto seems to be: The party goes on. English, Italians, Russians and Germans crowd up to the bar.

And speaking of which, are the German tourists possible looked on askance? After all, it was Germany which within the European Union had taken a hardline stance about Greece's austerity efforts.

But Dennis Schladenbeck says he hasn't heard any offensive remarks.

"When you talk with the Greeks here you do notice that they're in a lousy mood. But as a German you're not going to be treated badly as a result."

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