Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Northern Greece and the EU Bailouts: Still working, still beautiful, but needs to suck it up Buttercup

Hey everyone, I am glad to hear the prom edition had so many good reviews.  July means summer vacation, and this year has been a relaxing start, which is about to get crazy serious with George and I going to the United States.  This upcoming trip will probably result lots of great blog issues, as George's encounters with America could easily be a reality show when a city boy encounters the farm.

Before I go to the United States, I had to write about Northern Greece and our travels there this past week.  For those who only watch the news, you would think the entire country is falling apart, and that all Greeks are suffering horribly.  While the situation isn't rosy by any means, it is no where near as dire as what you see on the news.  Based on what you see on the news, Greece is falling apart at any minute, people are crying in the streets, there is nothing to do, and at any moment there country could fall apart.

Yes, Greece does need to get its shit together.  The best explanation of the crisis in Greece was written by Michael Lewis in his book Boomerang, as it explains the Greek and German mentality before and during the crisis.  Fantastic book worth reading, and there are some big cultural things people miss out on.  For example, it is still cheaper today to transport every Greek citizen by taxi, then to keep paying for the railroad system to work.

The other issues are you cannot have every citizen be self-employed and not paying taxes, you cannot have people retiring at 55 getting gigantic pensions, they need to pay taxes, they cannot expect massive bailouts for nothing, they need to make reforms they should have done 30 years ago when they originally joined the European Union, and they need to live within their means.  You cannot have a pensioner supporting 3-5 people on his/her pension.  It is meant for one person, not to pay for grandchild to go to the beach and smoke cigarettes.  There needs to be real investment, as Greece seems to make nothing but olive oil and ouzo for export.  They need to have industries besides tourism.

The agreement made this week by the European leaders seemed to take a page out of what the European Union does with Romania and Bulgaria. The weird part is this deal is worse than what the Greek government was offered two weeks ago.  In hindsight, I bet the Greek people did not anticipate Eastern Europe telling them we love you, but you need to suck it up Buttercup, because we do more with less money.  The only way Eastern Europeans would agree to another bailout is if Greece was monitored like they have been.  The Greek governments have lied many times before about their finances, and it's why they've been in recession since 2009.

The current package is a nanny type supervision which Erie County had to go through.  I felt horrible when all the corrupt New York leaders and Hillary Clinton said Buffalo's county government needed 'adult supervision' almost 10 years back, but it was true.  Republicans and Democrats worked in tandem to steal millions from the county government, leaving it bankrupt and not much choice but for towns to raise taxes to keep police forces and libraries.  This is what Greece needs now.  However, I wonder if the Greek people will go for it.  Maybe George and I need Drachmas when we go to Greece next month for Elana's wedding.

That being said, Northern Greece is a heck of a place to visit.  Thasos is a cute island about 5 hours  plus 60-90 minutes on a ferry boat from Sofia.  Few may know this, but this area of Greece was part of Bulgaria until the end of WWI, when Bulgaria was forced to give it to Greece, and then a few million Greeks were transplanted to the area after they were forced to leave Turkey in the 1920s.

While Halkidiki is probably more beautiful, Thasos is no slouch, and offered some beautiful views which reminded me of the Albanian coastline.  There are some great places to hang at the beach and eat, although all the food is Greek.  George joked that Thasos is little Bulgaria as all the food is like Bulgaria, the prices are the same, and the only difference is the Greek flag is flying.

Businesses in Thasos seemed prepared for the event, and they are helped by the fact that everyone seemed prepared for this economic collapse to happen.  My hope is that you enjoy the pictures and commentary, and go visit Northern Greece.  It's a cool place with beautiful beaches at affordable prices.  American peeps and gays, it may not be on your radar, but it should be.  Enjoy the pictures, and be ready for George in the U.S.A. blogs when we get back from the States.

Seagulls following the ferry from Kavala to Thasos.  The ferry ride lasted about 90 minutes, and they followed the boat the entire time.  They loved eating bake rolls, Cheetos, Doritos, and anything else the peeps would give them.
View from the hotel in Thasos.  Great view on a hazy day near sunset.  
Lots of people out for dinner on Paradise Beach in Thasos Island.  This restaurant was full of Serbian, Romanian, and Bulgarian tourists.  Good for the economy, but I hope Northern Greece isn't the only part of the country still working.  
This salad menu includes a Beetroof salad, Grab salad, and my personal favorite, a Variety of Creams salad.  I can only imagine what that salad could be and what 'creams' are used.  

I asked for a lemonade at Captain's restaurant.  They said they had lemonade, and brought me a Sprite (a lemon-lime soda) telling me this was indeed the fresh lemonade I had.  Not what I was expecting, but hey, you cannot win them all.  
This one is just for my mom.  Despite the crisis, they had bread and butter at most restaurants we went to.  Yes mom, this is something Bulgaria could learn from.  
George was not very excited about going to the beach in Greece of all places.  However, this rabbit got his attention and he loved how it got to hang out in this person's yard.  There's hope we'll make him a farm boy yet family when he goes to Clarence Center.  
The pottery shop in Thasos with an amazing view.  
Buying pottery in the shop.  
Sunset in Thasos.  On a hot day, this was just what was needed.  
Salmon was also a nice treat, and perfectly cooked.  Hmm, hmm, good.  Great seafood in Greece at affordable prices.
Probably not the safest way to have electricity run through Thasos.  This was in the exact center of town on the main touristy walkway.  But with the government in crisis and no money, it is going to stay this way for awhile as I doubt they're going to have the money to fix this.  
A beautiful watering hole overrun by Eastern European tourists.  Rebecca mentioned there were few people last year, and how cool, relaxed, and awesome it was to spend the day there.  Not this year.  It was insane this year, and it was like a typical Eastern European traffic jam at the lagoon, in the people did whatever the hell they wanted to.  If someone got hurt, oh well, as long as it wasn't me.  There were babas bathing by the side refusing to let people out.  There were small children in rafts while people were diving in.  There were people diving in from opposite sides and hitting each other every once in awhile.  And yet, no one got hurt by some miracle in pure Eastern European fashion.
Men showing off for the ladies by jumping from the top.  I did not jump from that high, as one of our mates jumped from there and said he touched the bottom of the lagoon.
This is one of my tests of putting me in the picture on the seaside.  As you can see, I'm highly skeptical I will pull this off, as I am 'Detroit Lion 0-16' horrible at taking selfies.  This is definitely another loss, as this was the best of the selfie pics. 
Great cliff side views that reminded me of Albania.  Thasos reminded me of Albania and what the Albanian Riveria could look like in 10-15 years.  Luckily, I got the chance to be a passenger most of the time on the island, rather than driving in Albania.
Rebecca honking at Rachel and I to get our butts back in the tank while we were taking pictures.
This cat is watching his garbage cans near the hotel, hoping for egg mixed with hot dog scraps.  He is definitely saying, "Touch my garbage, and I will kill you in your sleep!"
George's Tavern near the beach.  George did not find this so funny.
The 56 stair workout to get to our hotel room, as this was built on a hill.  Had some great views from the room as a result.  Definitely a mini workout when you're walking up this 5-6 times a day.