Greece is the word, that I heard, it’s got groove, it’s got Meaning


Still a little broken, in late April I headed to Greece with Satu for a week of work on the river with the some local paddlers in the wonderful deep canyons to be found there. But of course, I needed to pack everything for the next two months first, as I was straight into Piemonte season and the French Alps. After a 2AM start from Slovenia, we drove to
Milan Malpensa, where I finally found after years of trying and searching an excellent parking house. By mid afternoon I was in Athens with Satu and our Greek hosts Eleni & Spyros. Spyros has been on many of Gene17’s Steep Creekin’ weeks, and also completed the 2009 D4DR Class V programme. After an introduction to Greece’s contribution to world wide coffee culture the Frappie Expresso, we headed for the hills.
Greece's contribution to Coffee culture

A small village in the hills was our location for several days as we ran a number of BCU courses for local paddlers,. running two great sections nearby. Previously in 2003 I had been to Greece on a Class V mission, and it was not so ace, deep canyon’s full of siphons and long shuttles. When what I got this time, was a lesson in the right rivers for the right geology, in Greece its metamorphosed Karst rock, that forms deep clean canyons for Class III cruising, however if you add several boulders, that back the river up to make it steeper, you get ugly siphoned out Class V. So if you are going to Greece, it’s for Class III river running and not ugly siphon dodging. Here is the wonderment that met us:

Into Gorge
Spyros & Satu on the Upper Kali
Amazing views from the river

What can you say, Greece is prefect for early season cruising. And what more they have some very nice food, everywhere you went you could get it, even more prefect.

more fine Greek food
A prefect little harbour

After the work, we hit the road and visited a few of Greece’s famed sites, you know them, it was ace, and I managed to avoid the riots in Athens too. Like most of Mediterranean Europe the people have a strong cash culture, and like anywhere I have been like this, a lot of cash is spent and certainly not declared to the Government as income, no receipts, no bills, just a figure and cash paid. In Greece it’s endemic, everyone has money, but the Government, and hey that is why they have borrowed so much for so long, and now no one, well the EU will lend them any more!! Aside from the mass tax avoidance, Greece has a whole bunch of issues with public job protection, similar to Germany, but likeGermany not the sense of honour to do that job, so the paid full time holiday is common, where a public servant once qualified for a protected job, no longer goes in, as they can not be sacked!!! The armies of ghost workers have added their contribution to the need for Greece to borrow endlessly, shame, and no one other than the Government and public servants seam to be bothered………

I headed out to Italy, and the awaiting Valsesia Steep Creekin’ action, safe in the knowledge I will be back in Greece for more fine Class III Adventures

PS All Images by Satu


2 responses to “Greece is the word, that I heard, it’s got groove, it’s got Meaning

  1. Nikos Mavris

    Well my friend… I’m surprised!
    In less than a week that you stayed in Greece, you managed to understand the whole Greek issue and now you ‘re giving us a small lecture of who is to blame for the economic crisis we are dealing with…!
    Next time, you ‘d better take the time and read more than an english newspaper to learn the facts – especially about public servants who are the only ones that cannot escape taxes for their income – before passing judgement for the Greek people in general.

    I hope that you were most welcome in Greece, during your last course. Luckily, very few Greeks follow this blog, so you may safely return, knowing that you will still be considered an asset – almost a legend for some – for what you really are: a great kayaking instructor!

    I’m very sad I had to write these lines…
    A former student

    • Well Nikos, it is very clear that I read a little wider than the English Newspapers, and nothing substitutes opinion on the ground. And much of my comments in the above blog post were based on what I learnt whilst being in Greece this April. And of course, my comments are not a judgement, but based on observations and informed opinion, so as such no judgement is given, other than on the questionable management of the Greek fiscal position, developed over successive governments in the past years.

      There is little doubt that public sector workers from across heavily indebted states, will feel the government sharp cuts the most. The more the government is in trouble the more difficult the cuts, and in real terms on public sector pay this means job losses where labour markets are more flexible and wages cuts in states where jobs have more protection, yet in the private sector, the effects of the global down turn have been firmly felt for some time, an there is little protection on offer, only unemployment at worst or a sharp wage cut at best. In the case of Greece, where public servants gain considerable protection from the ebb and flow of economic circumstances, from people in Greece I often heard to term, “paid siesta” as a goal of employment, where once public servant status was granted, there is a life time guarantee of work, whether you go in or not, these ghost workers are the scorn of normal citizens. The average retirement age in Greece was 53, where in Germany it’s 65, there is a firm feeling as to why the main stay of economic stability and funds for the bail out must come from a nation that works for longer.

      Nikos there is no escaping the reality on the ground in Greece and across Europe as a whole, the fiscal position of most governments means, tax rises, sweeping public spending cuts, public sector job losses and wider tax avoidance counter measures, and for the time being Greece is at the epicentre of global attention on this matter.

      It’s perfectly fine for myself to comment on these matters, as this tides runs through my door too, and as ever political debate and opinion is shaped by interaction and communication. You may not like what I say, but I respect your point of view and am happy understand your comments especially as you are clearly in the firing line of events.

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