hello from the Zagorhoria

Wed 6 Jul 2011 16:21
Tonight we are in a high mountain village called Monodendri, in the Vikos National Park.  This is a really pristine mountain wilderness with ancient villages built of local stone.  The Vikos Gorge is said to be the deepest in the world (we haven’t googled it to compare the Grand Canyon), and the rivers are said to be the cleanest in Europe.  The area is home to an abundance of wildlife including wolves and brown bears.  The villages were once paid by the local Pashas to guard mountain passes. The name Zagorhoria means villages behind the mountains.  Some of these villages fell into disrepair more recently and some became ghost villages.  However, with the help of Euro money, the area has been redeveloped and now hosts pristine guesthouses and restaurants and welcomes hikers.
So far we have only seen the biggish village of Monodendri, but this village is interesting because it has been completely rebuilt over the last couple of years, is really beautiful in a Disney kind of way, and is almost completely deprived of tourists. Obviously, somebody at some stage decided that this should be a hot tourist spot but it has all gone wrong somewhere. It is very obvious that Greece has had a spending bonanza over the last few years.  We have seen new roads, marinas, villages that have had a total makeover, ancient sites with impressive visitor centres, etc, but virtually no visitors using any of it.  We were told by the very knowledgeable girl in the National Park Tourist office that a couple of years ago she would see 60 or 70 tourists per day. Today she sees 10 if she is busy.  Our hotel is empty apart from us, and they were prepared to negotiate the price down to persuade us to stay, its only 7 euros more than a campsite.  Our view is now that the campsites are vastly overpriced, typically about 23 euros a night.  (how much does it cost to camp in the New Forest?)
Huge problem for the local tourist industry.  There seems to be something very wrong with the pricing in Greece, we are finding it comparable to London prices.  Compared to Turkey, which is a really hopping place, Greece is pretty poor value.  No wonder it is so empty of tourists, both Greek and otherwise.
Besides that, it is great!  We had a wonderful walk today to a lookout on the edge of the canyon, saw nobody on the walk, and only 2 cars passed us when we were on the road to the lookout.  Tomorrow we plan to hike the Vikos Gorge, and our host will pick us up at the other end.