Spotlight on Geopolitics

Postcard from Northern Greece

I have ended my working summer season back where I had started from, in Macedonia (northern Greece), with a three-week stint at the 5-star Mediterranean Village, 2 km away from Paralia Katerini. Inaugurated two years ago, the resort is located right on the beach and could accommodate around 200 tourists in bungalow-type suites, some sporting their own private swimming pools. The packages are all-inclusive and are offered at moderate prices. The food is excellent and the facilities are top notch (…there is even a special refrigerated room where the garbage is kept in order to avoid infections and odours). The complex is spread out over a large stretch of beach, which does away with the stress associated with overcrowding. It compares more than favourably with similar 5-star hotels from Halkidiki, like Theophano Imperial Palace, or from Turkey and Bulgaria.

It should come at no surprise, therefore, that the Mediterranean Village attracts a large number of tourists from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, as well as some from Romania and Bulgaria, not to mention many other Greek nationals.

Buffet breakfasts and dinners offer plenty of good food, tourists having to pay extra only for drinks. A one-litre bottle of still water is 1.20 euros, 500 ml of draught beer 3.50 euros and a good bottle of red or white wine, around 12 euros.

When writing my Postcard from Santorini, I was not aware that such world-class facilities exist in the proximity of Paralia, the latter of which leaves one with the feeling of overcrowding, making relaxation a forlorn dream. I was spot-on, however, in my assessment that the future development and prosperity of Greek tourism lies in the construction of quality resorts like this, on the mainland. The Mediterranean hotels (the 4-star Mediterranean Princess near Olympic Beach, the Mediterranean Palace hotel in Paralia and another resort in Litochoro at the foot of Mt. Olympus) are located in the middle of vast stretches of undeveloped beachfront land, which should normally attract other like-minded Greek investors with deep pockets. The road infrastructure in the region is excellent and the Thessaloniki airport is one hour away. The climate in Macedonia is milder than in the Cyclades or the Dodecanese islands, with cool breezes coming from the Pieria and Olympus mountains. The heatwave-stricken Scandinavians I have met in Rhodes and Santorini, in particular, would give a sigh of relief here if only they knew about it.

Mediterranean Village offers summer jobs to well-qualified local Greeks and to quite a number of young students from other EU countries, such as Romania and Lithuania. In this respect, the resort has identical employment policies with Mr.Goschy’s Black Sea resorts, like Hotel Amfiteatru in Olimp, where I was initially trained as a waiter in 2008 (…as everyone knows, independent journalists have become an endangered species, even large newspapers like Romania’s Evenimentul Zilei have stopped paying for freelance articles or interviews years ago). There, as here, however, the students can prove to be quite a handful, for management and tourists alike. In future, the owners should look elsewhere to recruit seasonal staff, simply because their shenanigans have the potential to bring a classy operation to its knees… More established Greek tourism operators, like the G Hotel group, seem to know better where to recruit their Romanian staff, from similar 4 and 5-star operations in Romanian winter resorts. (More on the pitfalls of employing youngsters from smalltown Romania later.)

Alas, not all Greeks understand the value and importance of constructive criticism, such as I have sprinkled in my previous ‘postcards’. The feedback I have received in the Comments section is quite virulent and unfit to be put in print. If my postcards will be of some value to friends and readers when planning their next holidays, writing them has not been in vain.

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