Travelling or living permanently abroad for me is a blessing, one I'm thankful for every day, but you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. We've been in and around Crete now for a while, we absolutely love it here, and even after a stint last year in my favourite location, Egypt, we decided to return back here to the island. But has Paradise fallen?
We love this Greek island so much, we decided this year was the year we'd plant a base here, we bought a Greek car and said goodbye to our Honda Shuttle which has taken us through the UK, France, Spain, and Italy, we also had the opportunity to move out of our usual holiday/furnished accommodation to an unfurnished house to begin accumulating our own furniture, everything was going smoothly, I'd found my perfect new home, a beautiful haven overlooking the ocean, and the mountains of Crete, with a pool and enough space for my family of 5, and everything was perfect, it felt really right.
I was due to pick up the keys to our new home on the 30th of June, and I was super-excited!
REALISING THERE WAS A PROBLEM.We first noticed the issue on the 29th of June when we were driving through our local city, Rethymno, and for the first time ever noticed we were in a traffic jam (that has never happened before in Crete, ever). Petrol stations had lines coming out of them with multiple cars.
As we were then driving home we realised this wasn't normal, every petrol station for the entire drive (about 9 in total counting the pumps in the city), all had signs on the pumps "Thelos Benzina" (and variations of this) or in other words "No Fuel".
I went online when we got home to find out what had happened and saw the news about the "Greek Crisis" - Greece was about to default on their Eurozone debt repayment, banks were going to be closed, ATM restrictions were placed to a maximum of 60 euros a day, and in a panic, people were clearing out the petrol pumps where I lived.From what I've been told this petrol issue was isolated to just some locations on the island, I just happened to be in one of them.
I didn't have enough petrol to pick up the keys to my new home, actually I had about enough to get me to the petrol station only. My husband walked around several stations around our local villages, taking our 7 year old son with him to translate, coming back with several blisters and the news that all were out, although one said they were expecting delivery on the 30th, we waited and waited, 6.30pm rolled around and we were able to get petrol from one station down the road, but I missed by 3.30 appointment to collect the keys.
Once I filled up that evening I had to get cash out, the move wasn't going to happen without it, fortunately I don't bank in Greece and cash machines don't have the restriction of 60 euro on foreign bank cards. I went to 5 cash machines, all out of money before I was able to find one that still had cash in it, I took out as much as I could, and I was able to rearrange my move the next day.
One time I stood in line and sheepishly took out 600 euro which is all the machine would give me, but got a 'talking to' in Greek from the lady in the line after me, who thought I'd performed a miracle to get more than 60 euro out. I replied "Sorry I don't speak Greek" and headed back to the car...
THE SITUATION TODAY...
After the initial 'Armageddon like' panic from locals, the situation here in Crete could be worse, although I can only really speak for where I am - while the withdrawal limit still applies to Greek banks, the banks are filling up cash machines and opening doors for pensioners who need to take more out and can't use a machine, the petrol stations are delivering fuel to the pumps, and the supermarkets are open and I see plenty of tourists enjoying the island, the sun and the sea as usual.
NOT THE FIRST TIME...
A while back in Cyprus where I have my bank account, a similar eurozone debt crisis happened and banks were closed. I wasn't able to withdraw any money when that happened at all, and when they did finally allow withdrawals, I had under 100k in the account so it remained protected under the Euro insurance policy for balances under 100k, when the bank finally did open. Others weren't so lucky.
I'M NOT "GREXITING" GREECE JUST YET...
Why am I telling you this? Well, I've been asked by several people if I'll be leaving Greece now due to the instability of the country's economic situation - I'm not a fan of politics, and don't really get involved with whether what the Prime Minister is doing is right or wrong, although I do see Greek people, many of them good friends and very good people, struggling to make ends meet, and something has to change no doubt. I've lived in countries in more turmoil than Greece, people adapt, unless services stopped in full, like there was no internet and I couldn't work, or no food availability and we couldn't eat, then I'm not going to abandon ship from an island I've come to love.