Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sun, sea and Greek road hell on the way back

This is one of the busiest traffic weekends of the year here in Greece as it is the first big holiday move to the coast for many families. Where I live (Thessaloniki) most families move out to their summer homes on Halkidiki. This part of northern Greece is a three-fingered peninsula - consisting of Cassandra, Sithonia and Athos - the latter is not accessible to the public as it is a collection of over 20 monasteries belonging to the Orthodox Church. The first finger, Cassandra, is the main holday area which has been spoiled compeletely over the past ten years by widespread construction of maisonettes without any any real planning or care for the environment. Admittedly Halkidiki is an extremely beautiful area and can be reached by car from the city of Thessaloniki in little over an hour. Problem is though at times of the year like this the little over an hour can become three hours if you decide to travel out on a Friday evening and back on a Sunday evening, for example. Hoteliers there have come in for a lot of criticism this year as the tourist trade is down - mainly on account of the strong Euro against other European currencies yet they will not reduce their prices. Spoiled by better times, I guess.
But do not get the impression inspite of its popularlity that the area is cheap for real estate. I have a friend who build a maisonette on the first finger about three years ago and, although one row back from the beach, she paid Euro 280 000 (ca $300 000). Unfortunately there was new development in front of her directly on the beach - a row of seven up-market properties - price - Euro 1.4 million but sorry they are all taken - mostly by Russians.

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