Two days before the Greek election on June 16th, the chances of flying to Greece the following week looked increasingly unlikely. As Syriza gained momentum in driving an intense campaign against austerity, Greece looked to be heading for an early Euro exit - a shake-up which could have happened just days after the election, resulting in unprecedented chaos across the country and widespread international panic. With this in mind, I held little hope of flying to the island of Kefalonia for a two week break which had been in the diary for months. Aside from purchasing some travel essentials, packing was left to the last minute; especially the small matter of exchanging my currency, which I anticipated could have easily been handed over to me in Drachmas rather than Euros.
Despite my scepticism, New Democracy triumphed on June 16th and promptly formed a coalition with PASOK and the Democratic Left. This was the outcome that Europe had been hoping for, a result which cemented Greece's place in the Euro (for now at least), and meant that my flight would be taking off the following week as planned. Having travelled to Kefalonia numerous times over the past fifteen years, I have made lifelong friendships with some of the locals, and this year I was genuinely unsure of what to expect arriving on the island in the middle of a global crisis, of which their country was the centre.
Turns out, I needn't have worried. "Crisis? What Crisis?" Nikos exclaimed, when I asked how his local business was coping. "We have sun, sea, health. We will get through it all," he added.
Similarly, Spiros at a vibrant local restaurant commented that business was up compared to the previous year.
"The locals are coming out to local areas to feel safe. They feel a sense of security being around their own people. It is better to be out socialising rather than sitting at home watching the news. We are all in this together."
This optimistic outlook was refreshing to hear as I had anticipated much bleaker circumstances. I envisaged empty supermarkets, business closures and continuous shortages. However, I found none of these to be an issue, and all seemed as well as it had been in previous years. Indeed, there even appeared to be a number of refurbishments within the touristic areas of the island, tourism being a factor which could strengthen the Greek economy if holidaymakers keep flocking to the islands.
"Of course we are worried," Spiros confirmed on further discussion. "It would be disastrous if Greece had to leave the Euro, but we are finding our feet again. This is a European crisis; it is not only a Greek problem. Kefalonia has been affected by the changes, but it is not as bad as it seems. All we can do now is look forward."
It was heartening to see that Kefalonia, an Ionian paradise, had been left largely unaffected by the extremes of austerity measures. Of course, it may be a different story in Athens where poverty is clearly apparent; however, when considering the impact of the Eurozone crisis on the Greek mentality, Nikos summed it up in one sentence: "Crisis? What Crisis?...What would you like to order?" Yammas!