Sunday, 25 September 2016


We were sitting at a table outside the bakery in Kalathos, happily enjoying a frappé together, our loaf of fresh village bread, still warm, sitting on the table between us, when I watched four young tourists, probably Scandinavian, possibly German, get up from their table and walk out to their parked hire car, a little white Nissan Micra. Parked four or five feet behind it along the kerbside was another car. Same model, same make. You see a lot of white Nissan Micras around during the season, usually with colourful hire company decals on the drivers' and passenger doors. The second Micra was in the charge of a more mature British couple, who were sitting at a table in the souvlaki joint next-door, which also does morning coffees. The British couple were sipping at their cappuccinos, also relaxing while they took their short break before continuing on their sightseeing adventure no doubt.

The car in front of the one that the two young couples were now climbing into was ours. Our car belongs to us, it matters to us that we keep it in good condition. If we have a "prang" as we used to call it when I was a young motor racing freak, it'll be for us to sort out with the insurance company and that's not as straightforward here as it is in the UK.

Now, someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but from the experience of a few other UK ex-pats that we've known over the years, we've learned that although one has to have car insurance here in Greece, even if one has fully comprehensive cover with all the frills, it's much rarer than in the UK for the insurance company to provide a hire car while yours is being repaired. It's also more likely that the insurance company will expect you to fork out for the repairs, which could amount to a painful four-figure sum, before they'll deign to reimburse you a few months (if you're lucky) down the line. Ouch indeed.

So, as I sipped at my straw I watched the young tourists climb into their Micra and promptly reverse it straight into the car behind, with a very audible crump! 

The car behind actually jerked back a few inches from the impact and the more mature couple leaped from their seats in alarm and strode out to the kerbside to confront those to blame and inspect the damage. Since our car was only a few feet in front of the offending vehicle and there was yet room in front of that, I also leapt from my seat, strode out to my car and pulled forward a few feet to be sure that once the two parties in the collision had sorted out what they were going to do, the driver wouldn't slam his foot on the accelerator and prang my car up the rear end before they sped off.

See, the thing is, the summer season is smash time folks. It's crash, bang, wallop and collide time. This little incident thankfully didn't amount to anything since by some stroke of luck neither car had sustained any damage of note, nothing that the hirers would be wanting to point out when they dropped the keys back on the hire company's desk anyway. So, after some consternation, then some tugging of the forelock in deepest humble apology, the young foursome drove off, without hitting our car (phew), although not without stalling the engine once whilst half out into the carriageway, and the older couple returned to their cappuccinos. This was one of the lucky ones. There haven't been many of those.

Since the season began I personally have seen cars upside down, wrapped around trees, lamp-posts and electricity poles, wrapped around other cars or buses and trucks and sitting beside the road with just about every panel smashed in. I've also read reports almost daily in the two main Rhodean newspapers (well, on their Facebook pages to be precise, with photos though) of people being killed on motorcycles, mopeds, and especially those lethal quad-bikes that have no business on proper roads anyway. Sorry if you're the type that hires these highly dangerous contraptions, but it's true. They're designed for off-road use and are often to be seen in a well-pulverised state along the roadside, their "riders" having been rushed to hospital with half their skin missing along their arms or legs. Their centre of gravity is much too high and the riders often try and take corners too fast and they simply flip over on to their side. It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration too for this to happen. RIP Rik Mayall (read it all folks!).

Plus they only chug along at about 40mph, thus causing immense frustration to the vehicles behind them, especially Rhodean residents who aren't out for a pleasant holiday drive but actually have somewhere to go in a specific period of time. With my work I travel on coaches every week during the season and I have every sympathy with the coach drivers on this one. To find enough space between oncoming traffic to pass one of these things is a major logistic problem when your vehicle is 40 feet long. Frustration builds!

This year for some reason there has been a crash-fest, sadly. There have been numerous holidaymakers from various countries shocked, maimed, concussed, or killed on the roads of Rhodes. Of course, the larger islands like this one do have substantial road systems, thus enticing those coming here on vacation to hire a vehicle and get out exploring. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems that for some odd reason many such folk leave their sensible brain behind at home. They often fail to use their mirrors at all and make last minute manoeuvres without signalling, thus causing other vehicles to collide with them. Perhaps surprisingly too, many ex-pats living here seem to think that because we're on an island it's fine to drink a skinful then drive home. Several ex-pats here have wrapped their cars around trees and barely survived in such circumstances. I can only say I'm glad they didn't wrap themselves around some poor innocent pedestrian or their car in the process.

One element too, although it only accounts for a very small percentage of the carnage, is the number of ancient old Greeks in their nineties who refuse to give up driving. One I've talked about on this blog before now, who lives in Asklipio, still drives a pickup using any part of the road he feels he wants to, even after his fifty-something year-old son has hidden the keys, threatened his old dad and even tried to block the pickup in so it can't be extracted from where it's parked. Yet sooner or later there he is, head barely higher than the steering wheel, trundling down the lane with all and sundry fleeing for the kerbs and banks in a desperate bid to avoid a collision, with often only limited success.

The majority of serious accidents though involve tourists. Often a wreck can be seen beside the road, having been left there (I almost believe intentionally) for a week or two before being towed or lifted away, in order to alert other drivers to the dangers.

One of the problems is that holidaymakers seem to think that since we have no rain for months on end then the roads will not be slippery. Bad mistake to make. Firstly, the sun converts the tarmac into a skid pan all too often and secondly, rubber dust builds up, especially on the corners, and there is your instant cause for caution, often sadly unheeded. Also, at this time of the year when we may get the first cloudburst of the autumn, rain on rubber dust equally makes for a very slippery road surface. There are so many pieces of car bumper and shards of shattered glass on some corners that you'd think it might just wake up some of the folk driving around these unfamiliar roads in hired vehicles, but it only takes one...

Then again you'll see these couples wobbling along, snakelike on a scooter. I could be quite wrong, but I get the distinct impression that many who never ride scooters or motorbikes in their own country hire them when on a Greek island. I wonder how many of such people either know that their travel insurance small print tells them that they're not covered if they do so, or indeed that they are many times more likely to have an accident out here than they would be in the UK. Riding a two-wheeled machine is dangerous. I know, I have my motorcycle license and have owned some quite big machines in times past. You can be the safest rider out there and still not be seen by distracted drivers of vehicles with a few more wheels.

It's not an exaggeration to say that almost daily this summer we've seen reports of, or seen first hand, some pretty awful accidents. It's such an unnecessary way of spoiling one's holiday, even of not surviving it at all, as has been the case for quite a few this year.

Be safe folks, be extra vigilant when you're driving abroad. Have a smashing time if you're over here for a holiday, but not for the wrong reason!


  1. Really enjoying reading your blogs John as we are close to finalising our own six month "staycation" to Rhodes next year. For me some visiting drivers seem to leave common sense at home when driving or riding in Rhodes. The young couple we saw looking very grazed and ruefel near tsambika beach after their fishing rod had wrapped around the wheels of their scooter probably won't try that again!

    1. They may not have caught any fish, but they certainly "caught a cold" eh Martin?!