Civic Camouflage
(Along the European Route E65)

Hasn’t it been said that a traveler’s most highly anticipated moment is that first instance of arrival at an uncharted destination—a location where one might soon discover and experience a life changing (some might even say) magical event? And in the more talked about and promoted regions aren’t there actually an overabundance of such encounters to be had? And don’t the most touristed regions in the world actually rely almost exclusively on this ability to offer (or even somehow conjure up) such significant experiences?

Traveling the southernmost winding stretches of European route E65 (once E14), many foreign license plates can be seen mixed-in amongst the local plates of region. And during the long summer months these foreign plates usually even outnumber those from the area. Curious convoys of foreign camper vans, thrill seeking sports-car drivers, as well as the errant utopian in an electric-powered motorcycle & sidecar can be seen swerving in-and-out of line, overtaking and barely avoiding collision with the numerous lumbering village tractors that might suddenly appear here and there, often as visitors note ‘from out of nowhere’ or ‘in the blink of an eye’. (Or, shouldn’t we here now introduce the antiquated yet surely more suitable regional expression: ‘at the marten’s appearance’?)

Along the E65, after avoidance of the village tractor, almost all secondary side roads will in fact lead off into magnificent and picturesque fishing ports, and will often end at a scenic beachfront vista offering itself up as a final reward for the weary traveler. And don’t these (nowadays instantly shared) vistas each year draw in even further crowds of visitors at such a rapid pace that some villages have begun to report (or have at least quietly discussed) the overwhelming effects caused by all these so-called ‘honorable guests’ to the region?

And isn’t it the case that in one quiet fisherman’s village (found naturally on the other side of numerous twisting bridges, romantic ferry rides and at least one ‘state of the art’ roadway tunnel) plans have been concocted to quietly dissuade visitors from taking too many pleasures away from the local population. Amongst the neighboring hillside settlements, rumor has it that in this one specific village a series of ‘civic actions’ have been designed and put into place by a small cadre of self-described ‘old world anti-capitalists’, a mostly gray-haired group of residents now aging into their so-called golden years. Each core member of the cadre, it has been said, is at this point passionately dead-set against their last days of solitude being ruined by a seaside filled with floating unicorn rafts, while silent swarms of electric mountain bikes wreak havoc on the ancient inter-village footpaths. “And as with all great psychological warfare tactics”, stated one of the cadre, “we must accomplish our task without anyone from the outside having ever noticed a thing!”

And was this the somewhat unorthodox reasoning behind the recruitment of the village gardener to now appear in the high-season summer months (sometimes as early as 4:30 to 5am), uniformed in this instance as a regional street cleaner. And on these sporadic pre-sunrise appearances, wouldn’t he even briefly whistle a military-style staccato, to officially announce the subsequent activation of his bright orange Husqvarna 580BTS Backpack Blower (a powerful gardening machine known for its gasoline-fueled presence), used in this instance to thoroughly clear away any and all fallen leaves (from the dominant population of leafless palm, cypress and Aleppo pines?) found amongst the central square’s many corners. And some might also wonder—was it not coincidence that this was precisely the location where the village traditionally housed the majority of its overnight guests and travelers?

Secondly, in addition to this odd early morning cleaning action, weren’t there other inexplicable situations and ‘local recruitments’ at hand? Many visitors were often also perplexed by the village’s complete lack of vehicle parking options. Outside of the central square’s delivery & loading zones, didn’t it appear that every single parking space had been temporarily occupied by rows of informal market-style tables, which were at all times strangely empty of any wares, yet nevertheless guarded diligently by the island’s own wandering vagabond, here settled in for the season and playing his part with watchful eye and new-found tactic of inhospitable whistle-blowing. Adjacent to the market tables—in addition to the vagabond’s referee-style tactics—municipal street signs along the alleyway were also to be found, officially declaring the parking spaces to be unavailable between June 15 and September 15 (due to ‘ongoing seasonal festivities’). Each sign with a footnote type of emergency addendum (declaring both in the local language, as well as in universal English) that at all times, visitors should always use the official parking facilities found outside the center, along the regional bypass road. And weren’t the reactions of most visitors usually almost identical? “Three whole months and not one free space to park!” an Italian father once exclaimed dismissively to his wife, as their 2 small children slowly proceeded to crawl back into their seats, with the age-old child’s look of exaggerated dejection.

And what was to be found out at the recommended parking facilities? Upon arrival at the frugally-appointed, earthen tennis-court sized expanse (a location appearing more as public arena than parking lot, due to 3 sides being banked in and surrounded by a series of poured concrete risers) all visitors were met at the main entranceway not by a band of festive arena-trumpeters, but instead by an official red & white-striped closed boom-gate barrier and matching official signage announcing the parking facilities indefinite closure, due to ‘ongoing renovations’.

Then at inevitable wit’s end, what options actually remained for weary auto-travelers? “Wasn’t there somewhere a narrow sand-strewn gap at the top of the area’s infamous deadly cliffside escarpments? Didn’t we see a few mud-bogged open expanses adjacent to what appeared to be former military bunkers? But if even, wasn’t that back at least 10 kilometers from here? Or wasn’t that in another land altogether? Or wasn’t it actually a scene from a film we once saw about vacation disasters?”

And upon eventual arrival at the central square and marina (if parking was finally to be found), what then should one say about the village’s local pack of rabid dogs that also seemed to appear out of nowhere, at any given instant, just as a lone tourist might reach for their camera to snap a photograph of the picturesque marina, or immediately after a well-dressed couple would step out of the elegant beachfront restaurant, arm-in-arm for an evening stroll. As if on cue from a hidden wrangler, the dogs—always with dirty strings of hair flying in all directions, teeth bared, and sometimes even dragging from their necks what appeared to be old broken chains—would run circles around the unwitting victims, creating a commotion that did not let up until the victims had completely abandoned their positions and fled for cover in a nearby hotel or apartment house.

In most cases these events were quietly chalked up by visitors as “things that often happen in such ‘behind the times’ historic fishing hamlets” (to quote an English tourist who once tried unsuccessfully, for days on end, to find a public Wi-Fi connection in the central tourist district). Memories, or any type special experiences in this seaside settlement most often neither led to any thrilling social-media posts, nor exuberant emails sent to loved ones and friends. Most visitors recollections certainly didn’t give the village a prized name, yet were also so uneventful that they never really gave it a bad reputation as well. It left the village as a sort of forgotten place, a destination forever absent from those wishful bucket lists of would-be adventurers, never to be commented on again once one’s voyage was over.

In any case, if one did however deem it necessary (and who would deem such a thing?) to risk confrontation and reach out to residents of the neighboring settlements for more information as to the reasons for this one village’s peculiarities, it might easily be learned that one of the more pensive members of the village cadre (widely thought to be their ‘spiritual architect’) even once quietly remarked that all actions should “of course not only not raise any suspicion amongst the seasonal visitors, but they should as well certainly not drive away or dry up the little economic stream needed to support the local enterprises."

And with these remarks, the cadre’s ‘non-plan of attack’ began to lay out their guide posts and discussion points:

“An ice cream parlor for all? Indeed! … 31 flavors? Ridiculous! … Hotel rooms overlooking the square? Naturally! … Digital key cards? Not on our watch! … A sidewalk magician for children? Splendid!... Karaoke bars with flat-screen monitors? An insult!... And what about the cliffside hermit (trained guitarist): shouldn’t he continue to make his drifting nightly rounds? Of course! ... Should he cover those legendary pop songs beloved world over? Unspeakable!”

Then towards the end of the meeting, with the proverbial raise of a cane (actually this time a teacher’s telescopic pointing stick), the cadre’s unofficial chairman, the village pharmacist, would make it clear: “With the numbers of summer visitors strategically thinned out and wisely kept in check, how we will still find our pockets filled with coins!”

And with each summer’s passing, when the first days of September finally arrive, how the village then really starts to shine. The once so-called ‘rabid dogs of the marina’ (now with hair combed and in place) will once again appear along the promenade, this time only to precisely practice their best gallops & trots—old learned memories from their previous days performing in the region’s many dog show competitions. And as the final sliver of sun vanishes beyond the western horizon, as if on cue, the jovial miniature pinscher might also make its grand appearance—this time to perform his end of the day, one of a kind, high-stepping hackney gait. And tucked away at a lone ‘table for one’ at the farthest edge of the promenade, the cliffside hermit should even be seen, enjoying his well-earned glass of sherry. And with that, the nightingale’s final song of the season (long overdue in this story!) will gradually commence, as summer takes it leave and autumn assumes its quarterly post.


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