Spotlight on Geopolitics

Postcard from Rhodes

The latest statistics regarding Greek tourism indicate a drop of 20 percent in the number of visitors over the past two years. Together with my wife, I have lived and worked in Rhodes for about four weeks this summer and as a result I now have a much better understanding of the problems experienced by tourists spending their holidays in the Greek islands.

Tourists, especially those from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy or Spain visiting Rhodes are less inclined than ever to dine out or spend their money on trinkets. The fault lies squarely with the local restaurateurs, most of whom could feature in Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares”.

Take, as a typical example, Nikos the owner of the pompously-named “Scalini’s“, a restaurant that tries to sell everything from Tandoori chicken to enchilada San Antonio, pasta, pizza, Chateau Brian (!), Entricot stake (sic!) and Greek dishes. The food prices are reasonable, but the drinks, such as fizzless Coke, cost an arm and a leg (2 euros for a 500ml bottle of stillwater, or 4.80 for a beer). The trick used by the owner is to make the restaurant look rather shabby, therefore affordable, when in fact it isn’t.

The waiters are forced to work in total chaos, as all of them watch and serve all the tables. As a result, customers are served by 5 different waiters during the meal, not all of them knowing what the others are doing. When they bump into each other on a full evening, the boss starts abusing them in Greek, loudly and offensively. The personnel is instructed to take the plates away as fast as possible, with the clients still munching on their last morsels, because the boss is after bigger turnover…

The “Diverso” bistro, down the road from Scalini, is focused on serving Italian dishes, from pizza to pasta, and is doing it rather well. An exception among Greek restaurateurs, Lakkis its owner is courteous and ready to please his mainly Scandinavian clientele. Unusually, the spaghetti are boiled fresh every time, the pizza is baked in a traditional wood oven and the interior of the bistro is comfortable and tastefully decorated. Unfortunately, the bistro looks posh, therefore expensive, although the prices are low for both food and drinks. On the downside, nobody in the place seems to know what ingredients should go into a Caesar salad, and the plates are too heavy and much too big for the size of the tables. The quantities used in an ordinary salad could easily be halved, as customers leave most of it uneaten.

All in all, future visitors to Rhodes are better advised to take the all-inclusive option, at least for a while. I have met quite a number of French, Australians, Germans who use Rhodes only as a stopover to Marmaris in Turkey. If the trend continues unchecked and local restaurant operators don’t clean up their act, the number of tourists visiting the place will diminish even further.

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