Retracing my route back through Vitoulade to the main highway and glad it is easier in daylight, I go in search of breakfast, then a store where I can buy some drinks and simple snacks to have at my studio rental. Heading south on the main highway, I notice the open businesses, the new businesses and the closed and shuttered businesses. I think about the crisis of the Greek economy, and hope the tourist season is exceptional this year.
The village of Lefkimmi is on the eastern side of lower Corfu. I drive around what appears to be downtown… the street really is one way in a loop, which helps because its awfully narrow. I pass a school, an Greek Orthodox Church, some businesses like clothing stores, mini-markets, and a couple of bakeries. I debate trying to find parking and going in to a bakery for breakfast, but don’t happen to see a good parking spot. I ended up deciding to try another town and go back down the highway towards Kabos
Kabobs turned out to be full of fancier resorts, downtown chock full of loud signs and people, businesses trying to outdo each other to get tourist business. I would say the demographic they were aiming for was young, materialistic, shallow and insensitive to native Corfu culture. I hated busy Kabobs, but determined to drive to the end of the road, exploring.
Out of town I managed to find The Rose Tree Taverna- a quiet, traditional open air establishment. I was the first guest of the day, and had a chance to visit with the gracious host and owner, Dimitri. He recommended a dish his wife Aliki cooks, that was grilled eggplant stuffed with minced meat and cheese, covered with a béchamel sauce. It came with cucumber & tomato salad, and a Greek version of fried potatoes. I also had hot tea – when I requested lemon instead of the offered milk (like the Brits enjoy), I got a smile out of him. I also choose baklava for dessert… it had more honey and was gooier than what I’ve had in the States, also more cinnamon. It was really good, but, as Dimitri had warned, very sweet.
Dimitri has owned the business for 14 years, buying and remodeling it, adding a side play yard for children. Dimitri tries to cater to those who want a more authentic Greek dining experience. He plays Greek music, or sometimes 80s music – he does play Abba, whose music was made into a Broadway musical and later play set on a Greek island. Right now he is worried about staying in business with the economy so bad and so many other business going bankrupt.
I have been keeping up with stories of the Greek economy, the election of more progressive, socialist government officials, and the efforts of the European Union to keep Greece from defaulting on loans. Dimitri didn’t vote for those newly elected, and is worried about Greece’s downward economic spiral. He is now cynical about all politicians and elected officials, describing some Secretary of Defense who ended up with millions of dollars and 22 houses from serving in government. He also views the Greek government as bloated, describing family members and supporters of politicians being rewarded with government jobs. Inflation is out of control – last year Dimitri got a school loan for his son’s college expenses at 14.9%; this year the bank wouldn’t lend him any money for educational purposes. The business costs, including utilities, have all gone up.
I enjoyed our conversation before other guests started arriving, and was tickled to find I’m regarded as a Yankee – English speaking American as contrasted with British or Aussie. I may plan to go back for another meal, because the food and company were both good. I left a generous tip – although I am not wealthy, my country is, and I am glad the Rose Tree Tavern was around for me to patronize.