Closing down (a bit like 2015)

Visitors gone

It was a great deal – the reason we went to Rhodes for two weeks rather than, one as the cost was little more. We didn’t question why, vaguely thinking it was due to the lateness of the season, a quieter interlude before ramping up again for Christmas.

During the first week we merely enjoyed being there. But then we began to hear stories from staff of the hotel closing down at the end of the month. End of the summer season they said. They talked of longed-for holidays after working hard all through the summer. After that they would work on the land, pick olives, see what else became available, spin their money out and hope they could find another job to see them through to May when the hotel opened again.

Sun but no visitors

Empty chairs by the pool – one of the signs the hotel was closing.

The sky was blue, the sun beat down, we couldn’t believe the hotel was closing. Surely it didn’t make economic sense. Turned out it wasn’t just our hotel that shut up shop for the winter. In Rhodes most hotels and businesses seemed to close.

Into the second week and there were decidedly less people in the hotel than the previous week. Each day saw busloads leave, and the number of tables used in the dining room reduced to a small section rather than two large areas. The entertainment staff left. For a few days little had been offered as insufficient visitors wanted to take part in the quizzes or bingo.

Drinks but no drinkers

Even the outside bar is empty, no customers queuing for beers or cocktails (yes, these were drunk all day long).

We watched from our balcony as the umbrellas and sunbeds on the beach were gathered together, and the makeshift huts from where sunbathers could buy water or soft drinks, or hire jet skis or arrange paragliding, were dismantled, their tables, chairs and paraphernalia loaded, after much discussion and extravagant hand gestures, onto a succession of cars, vans and trucks. Looked as if favours had been called in from friends to help move businesses to winter storage quarters.

Sun umbrellas huddle

A huddle of unwanted umbrellas. Few remained seeking shade.

With fewer and fewer people around the pool, stacks of sunbeds grew beside a fence bordering the road. Umbrellas stood together like stands of albino trees. The entertainment having finished, a crew of electricians sauntered in to dismantle the lights for the stage and the sound equipment. It all seemed quite surreal, watching the pack-up as we lounged in our chairs, wondering again what this did to the economy.

Sun, but no sunbathers

It was a bit like sunbathing in a ghost town.

When we broached the subject we were told of much colder weather, bad storms when ferries didn’t run to other islands. One afternoon and evening we had experienced one of their thunderstorms, and yes the rain pelted down. But coming from Scotland where our weather year round is unpredictable, and where cold weather, rain, storms, frost, sleet and snow are normal for winter, we weren’t totally convinced by the arguments. If Scotland can have a vibrant winter programme of events with visitors flocking to see in the New Year in Edinburgh (75,000 visitors flew in this week) and other cities and towns, we thought perhaps Rhodes, the rest of Greece, might give it a whirl.

Shadow sun-worshipers

Only shadows, no sun-worshipers apart from a handful of us.

As we watched vans coming and going, delivering foodstuffs, cleaning materials, clean laundry, all the materials necessary for keeping a hotel for 800 people going, it brought home to us that not only would the hotel staff be jobless so would many of those working for those companies. One of the two supermarkets beside the hotel packed up and pulled down the shutters, as did the other businesses beside it.

Visitors abducted by aliens?

Still no people. We’re beginning to think we’re the last ones left!

Rhodes was saying goodbye to the world, closing down, wholesale, for six months, until the beginning of May. Tour operators withdraw, flights end, and the island economy must surely fall off a cliff. Shops in Rhodes old town close because they have no customers. The place must become a ghost town, returned to the Knights for their ghosts to roam the streets unhindered, pining for the good old days before they were kicked out and had to start anew in Malta.

Cruelty to animals.

They could almost be depressed and screaming at the lack of children to use them.

None of this affected our enjoyment. For us and a handful of guests everything (bar the entertainment) went on as before. We rather enjoyed the peace of the place, the quietness without the screeches of water polo players, and the whoops of children as they jumped into the water. We watched mesmerised. The close down provided us with a different form of entertainment.

Modern sculpture

Harvesting sunbeds. Each day the piles of plastic grew higher.

As no guests were coming in after us we were able to retain our room until we left at six in the evening. And as our bus drove off to the airport, the lights in the hotel’s reception went out.

Ripple free

No bathers to cause a ripple on the pool leaving it to reflect trees and sky.

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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15 Responses to Closing down (a bit like 2015)

  1. carol1945 says:

    What an eerie experience! Once again, both your lovely words and photographs have transported me to another place, this time Rhodes. I am getting the sense of an Agatha Christie mystery. I feel like something must happen next!!

    • I hadn’t thought of that – but it does seem rather like an Agatha Christie mystery. It didn’t feel eerie at the time – just odd, and peaceful. The staff had time to chat and everything was more leisurely.

  2. mybrightlife says:

    I spent a few summers on the Islands some years back and met a lad and went back to visit over Christmas. The Isand which was a busy and packed holiday island in the summer was also ghost like over Christmas with just one little hotel open…and the weather, damp and miserable, including a horrid , turbulent ferry ride – just as the Rhodes staff that you chatted with said! It is hard to believe though when one sits in the calm sunny weather. We are back in Bahrain after a brief period home and having left the incredible heat of summer, the weather here is blissful. Mild but sunny. The country has gone from an ‘indoor society ‘ to an ‘outdoor’ one. What a change a month or so can make! Hope your Scottish weather isn’t too rough this year! Seasons Greetings..

  3. Yes, I realised it wasn’t warm and sunny all year, but given the publicity Greece has had in the European media this year about defaulting on debts and whether or not it would be tossed out of the Euro, and with banks closed for a time and severe austerity measures imposed, I suppose I thought that perhaps there would be some signs of the country trying to improve its economy. If the tourism season had been lengthened, even by a few weeks it could have made a difference.
    Rhodes is very much a summer destination, though as it has an airport, with the creation of some indoor attractions it could easily lengthen its season. It has such a great history what with the Knights of St John, the influences of its time in the Ottoman Empire and the whole Italian influence, not to mention all its ancient ruins, it has much to build on. Malta makes much more of the Knights than Rhodes. Not everyone wants heat and lying by the pool so I’m sure the potential is there for attracting visitors outwith the summer.
    Lucky you enjoying mild weather. We’ve had a series of storms with torrential rain and many places across the UK flooded. Thankfully we haven’t been affected, but I feel for those whose homes are under water.

    Hope 2016 is good to you.

    • mybrightlife says:

      I read about the flooding and was wondering if your area had been hit! It would make sense that Greece try extend their season. I know that the family that I was involved with had businesses in Athens as did many other families apparently so many local people went back to the mainland to attend to that side of things in the winter but I wonder now what the prospects are and where unemployment stands in this regard. Perhaps a lower cost historical exploration winter season would work!

      • mybrightlife says:

        Back in Chintsa, RSA, we LOVE it as locals when the high season ends and the beaches suddenly clear and we get the village back. Selfish, I know!

      • Lowish parts of the Borders (around the rivers mainly) are prone to flooding if we have heavy rain, but we stay about 700 feet above sea level so tend to be fine, although we’ve had so much rain recently that the ground is sodden and roads are edged with deep puddles. We’ve just stayed in and kept warm.
        I’m fairly sure the rate of unemployment in Greece is very high, especially amongst young people, though that is the case in many countries. But with the austerity measures the Greek government has been forced to implement in order to receive EU loans, many businesses have been hit by rising costs and an increased VAT rate. Government departments have also been forced to cut back, adding further to unemployment. Greece has fallen from newspaper headlines at present (partly due to the refugee crisis), so not sure what is happening, but it’s only a matter of time before the issue of unpaid debts raises its head again. So Greece does need to find ways of improving its economy.

      • Ugh, added my reply to the wrong post. Can understand why many local people enjoy having their village or town back so they can enjoy it again. But guess many also like high season when the money is made. I know many holiday places in Scotland rely on the profits made during the summer months to keep them afloat during the leaner winter months.

      • mybrightlife says:

        Yip…bit of a catch 22. Our season is so frustratingly short for business owners…who have to ‘leopard crawl’ through the tough months in between. It would be a whole different story if our summer was a solid 2 to 3 months such as the Med. But good for the local retirees I guess!

  4. Nice post Dorothy, and it’s reminiscent of some of our travels in Greece in the shoulder/off season. There’s something sad and lonely about tourist areas that close down, but with a bit of preparation and the right mindset, they can be wonderful. We were in Santorini in late November, and it was fabulous. We’d go for walks and hardly see any people, and certainly few tourists – not the case for the rest of the year. The only caveat is that it takes some planning to make sure that we have access to the basics (eg is there a restaurant and market open). We wish you all the best for a happy and healthy 2016. ~James

  5. Hi James,
    Yes, we tend to like places outwith high season when local people have more time to talk and the experience is more leisurely. We’ve spent a couple of holidays in the eastern Algarve (November and March) when the weather was very good and when we visited beaches we were the only people walking along them. It provides a chance to see the real place rather than the tourist gloss.We like to explore and invariably that is more comfortable when heat is less fierce. But, as you say, you have to ensure the basics, including transport, are available. All the best to you both for 2016 and hope you have happy travels.

    • carol1945 says:

      I am enjoying reading other people’s comments on your post, Dorothy. One of the best vacations I ever had was in the off season, mid week, October, camping in the Sierras. We had the entire campground to ourselves, normally in the summer, people are blasting their radios and spoiling the “nature” experience. Another time, we got rained out. Well, that is the chance you take when you do off season, and it is worth it. It sounds like you were lucky you had the good weather when you were in Rhodes at that time of year.

  6. Off season offers definite benefits, Carol, as you yourself have experienced. Many years ago, when the family was young, we used to camp – often early and late in the year. Muffled up in our sleeping bags drinking hot soup, braving Scottish wind and rain. But we had a great time. Now, we prefer more comfort, but are more than happy to trade high season heat for low season peace, even if we have a few showers. A good book can be read sitting on the balcony, or you don a lightweight rain jacket and venture out. We enjoy the experience of being in another place – not just the weather. Have a great 2016.

  7. What a lovely way to look at this! Sounds like the sort of quietude I’d like too. I love that the reception lights went out after you left – a real sense of an ending. Hope you’re having a happy new year!

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