The Greek tavernas are allowed to open again, we are free to sail and step by step Greece is opening its borders for tourists. So all goes back to normal. Or not quite?
“If needed we just fly back home,” we used to say, but it no longer works like that when our neighbors, Ruud and Annette, have to return to the Netherlands. Now it’s a case of belt and braces before they can finally fly at the end of May. To Brussels and then by train to the Netherlands. There is no air traffic between Greece and the Netherlands. There is almost no air traffic at all. The photo they send via Whatsapp shows a surreal image of an empty departure hall at the Athenian airport at a time where it would normally bulge with foreign tourists.
Normally, starting at Greek Easter, the terraces slowly fill up with people. Now when the first three tavernas in Ormos finally open their doors again on Monday May 25th of course we are present. Together with our Australian neighbor Mary. I worry whether there will be room for us at ‘Trata’, said to be the best taverna in the village, but that turns out to be totally unnecessary. The Greeks fail and there are no tourists on the island yet. In addition to ours, only one other table is occupied that first evening. Menu choice and staff are wisely limited. Fortunately it doesn’t taste any less sitting on the beach near the harbor in the shade of the tamarixes. But it is not normal …
We don’t see any tourists on our daily tour of the beach. And no sails at sea. We do come across a familiar face. When I greet him in my best Greek and ask if all is well, he looks worried. He explains that he rents out a few apartments to tourists from Estonia, his home country. Although there is just as little Corona in Estonia as there is in Greece, Estonians are not yet allowed to come over. He can only guess at the reason. Bureaucracy? Lazy officials? He has tried many things himself at the embassy, but it did not work. The livelihood for his family of a wife, three children, one on the way and two former street dogs is shattered. Unlike the Greek entrepreneurs, as a foreigner he probably won’t get any support of the Greek government.
Back on our boat we have a drink in the cockpit. “Look, a sailing yacht!” I jump up to look over the inner harbor wall at the large American Benetau that enters the marina. It is the first movement of a sailing boat we witness in about four months. Ron goes out to check if there are more to come, but no, the sea is empty. Normally the marina would be pretty full by early June, but now the yacht is still lonely in between a few local fishing boats a few days later. Today it sets off, leaving the marina empty again.
We do not sail yet. It is allowed now, but now we are not able to. Engine problem with our old Yanmar and the parts are hard to find. Our Dutch supplier doesn’t respond to our questions and when we call ourselves, the lady apologizes with a genuine Rotterdam accent: It’s ‘very busy right now’. We had already read something like this: the Dutch are now planning their holidays en masse in their own country because of the Corona problems and the boat market is flourishing as never before. And what do you do with a boat besides sailing? Right … jobs! The Yanmar dealer on Samos does seem to be able to help us, so we are now patiently waiting for our pending order.
In the meantime, the fishermen continue fishing. I wonder what happens to their catch, now that the restaurants are no longer purchasing it anymore. Our neighbor creatively solves it. When he returns with a big fish of 26 kilos, his wife comes to ask if we want to participate in a lottery: € 5 deposit and the winner gets the fish. We put our bet on number 7. It ends up being number 8. At least that is still normal: you never win anything with a lottery.
But otherwise it is all different. Not normal. It may not become normal again anymore. Certainly not as normal as it used to be. In the old days it used to be very normal. Much more normal than today. Right?