Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mythos, the saviour of Greece

Following recent concerns over Olympic legacy, We have just returned from a seven day fact finding mission to a far flung corner of Greece to see how things have progressed since they hosted the games in 2004. Well that’s what I put in the expenses claim that is currently winging its way to Lord Coe and his crew. Realistically it was the only place that could accommodate us for a seven day period sandwiched between the end of the cricket season, the start of the school and college year, the August weed cut and the onset of the duck shooting season. The Canary islands seemed to be on fire so we

opted for Lefkada an island up from Corfu and Kaphalonia that statistically is due some major seismic activity any minute now. We travelled with five teenagers which may

not quite equate to the impact of the 2003 earthquake that toppled most of the buildings in the island's capital Lefkas but threatened to come quite close. Unsure of the currency of first choice we left the currency exchange to the last minute opting for Euros but keeping a few pounds in reserve and a handful of drachma retained from a student trip to Crete many years ago when I had a fringe and before my chest had slipped.

Most places were booked up, beaches, bars and boats were all busy, business looked good , the favourable exchange rate with the pound to euro made living fairly cheap and easy with a half decent dinner with wine of sorts and beer costing around sixty pound. A seven seat dory could be hired for seventy five pound including a day’s fuel and a quad bike for a day whizzing around the mountains, thirty five pound.

Kafeneion culture was very much to the fore as it has been for centuries, discussion was often heated and one can only guess at the subjects, with tourist trade good and most in the town gainfully employed in one form or another, events at central command over the past decade must be high on the list for discussion. Why were the books cooked in 2001 to allow Greece into the European union and the subsequent over borrowing to fund massive infrastructure projects, services and public sector wages? The Greek government has a history of wanting to “treat its people well” and with good cause, the country took a bit of a hammering in the middle of the past century, the brutality of civil and world wars, famine and earthquake all live long in the memory of many Greeks, but the six year splurge on easy EU credit did the everyday Stavros a disservice

Following the election in 2009 it became clear that the Greek government had been a little lenient with the truth as to their true financial position on entry to the EU in 2001 and also during the years that followed and once a clearer picture of their financial position was established the roof fell in on the economy. A huge burden of debt must now be repaid by your average Costas and Sophie, and not by the third rate politicians who ran the country during the early part of this century that included the Olympic games of 2004. The games of 2004 are still seen as a positive thing by most Greeks but their legacy is a host of dilapidated stadia and a crumbling sporting infrastructure, crippling national debt and some pleasant accommodation for the third rate politicians in the cool of the hills.

But that’s enough politics. A fishing rod crept into the suitcase, a six piece eight foot spinning rod that was put to use in the harbour to winkle out small bass and bream on float fished bread on a size sixteen hook to four pound line; double maggot would have cleaned up as it does on the cob at Lyme Regis were the bites were also hard to hit. Many of the locals legered with smnall baits thirty yards from the shore but didn't seem to be faring any better, one chap fished every day with his pet cat.

Ten minutes spinning from the boat with a two inch toby while the youth of today snorkelled nearby produced a long beige coloured fish with paddles for pectorals that I have yet to identify, and a slow troll back to base, produced a bend in the rod and a snapped line a hundred yards from the shore. Next time I may sneak a fly rod in as I am sure I can get away with fewer clothes; extensive shufties with the snorkel suggested that some of the quieter coves that we visited in the boat may well have produced some decent sport.

In town the Yia Yia’s were out, black clothed matriarchs who sat in judgement in shops and cafes holding their own discussion on the state of play. One dispensed delicious home-made Feta and Tzatziki from buckets at the back of one shop with a scowl that should have been squeezed out of her at sales school.

Teenagers proved good company and provided humourous tales of their midnight adventures including being coaxed into a nightclub for a knock down fee of ten euro only to sit through two hours of Greek stand up comedy..............in greek,
the expensive drinks didn’t help the evening along but they remained in attendance for several hours in order to get full value for their entrance money even though they didn’t understand a word that was said throughout the show.

Aquaculture is huge in the region with cages full of farmed bass and bream in the sheltered coves around the island, 40% of the world’s farmed bass and bream are produced in Greece, with Italy and Spain the principle markets followed by the UK and Germany.

The islands lend themselves perfectly to the production of these two species and several techniques in their production have been pioneered in Greece. There may also be money to be made in medical tourism as we caught sight of two ladies studying the menu outside the medical centre although we couldn't pick out hip and knee replacements among the starters.

The big mystery for me is Mythos, the leading Hellenic beer, and why it is not a world-wide brand. Sustained consumption has failed to deter me from the view that Mythos is good stuff, I even snuck a bottle home to drink in the rain away from the golden glow of a greek holiday and it still tastes good. It may be a subsiduary of Carlsberg, but it’s brewed in Thessalonkia,

I have yet to hear a bad review and half of Europe associates the brand with Greece. A marketing campaign with Greece’s most famous son Homer should set the country back on it’s feet, that or change the brand name to Duffos and incorporate the second most famous Homer to push the product.

River stuff to follow, mentally I’m still on the beach..... it was that good!

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