Price of a sweet with a view of Athens — for only 9 euros

Dr Byron Salmoukas, a Greek physician who runs a private clinic in Hanover, Germany, was visiting Athens recently and stopped into a cafe for a coffee and a slice of apple pie. When the bill came, he was shocked. At 14 euros, the cost of his coffee break was much higher than anything he had ever paid – even in Hanover, otherwise known for having a higher cost of living than Athens. Salmoukas was unhappy enough to send a letter to Kathimerini. «I consider it my urgent duty to send the newspaper a receipt from a central Athens cafe dated April 24, 2005,» Salmoukas wrote. «As you will see, a cappuccino cost 5 euros and a piece of apple pie 9 euros.» Five euros might sound a lot for a cappuccino, but this is a common price for a cup in Greece. A cup of coffee is more expensive in Greece than in any other country in Europe. Consider this price survey of products and services that Kathimerini recently published. For example, the average price of an espresso in Greece is 3.50 euros, compared to 1.80 euros in Germany, 2 in France, 1.70 in Belgium and 1.45 in England. And it’s not just the coffee that is turning Greece into one of the most expensive countries in Europe. Greek prices for quite a few other products and services surpass even traditionally expensive cities such as London, Paris and Brussels. A pair of women’s shoes, for instance, costs about 110 euros in Athens – nearly twice as much as in Paris. An hour in a parking lot in the center of Athens costs 8 euros, more than twice that of any other country in the EU. According to Eurostat, the cost of many products, such as clothing and entertainment, is higher in Greece than in Germany, France or Britain. Many of these price rises resulted from the euro’s introduction in 2002, but they are still rising. According to consumer group INKA, in December 2004 a four-member family paid about 160 euros for electricity and phone bills. By April 2005 this had risen to 165 euros, while fuel and transport costs had gone up by 29 euros and food and drink by 18 euros. Such outrageous prices are turning consumers off. Salmoukas, for one, said the cafe prices left a bitter taste in his mouth. «I often visit Greece, either on holiday or to attend a medical conference,» he told Kathimerini. «The last time was at the end of April. My wife and I, along with another couple, went to a central cafe one Sunday morning. We paid 50 euros for four coffees, two ice creams and two pieces of apple pie! In my view this amounts to profiteering. The only way to wipe it out is for every outlet to have a sign posted with the telephone numbers of the authorities where these cases can be reported.» Salmoukas says he knows many Greeks in Hanover who are concerned about the high cost of living in Greece. «Many of them visit my clinic and often tell me stories about their latest trips back home that are not at all flattering to the country’s image,» he said. He also said that he has been to other major European cities, and places next to major tourist sites, where the coffee was much cheaper. «I have had a coffee opposite the Eiffel Tower and in Rome’s center,» he said. «In both places they were cheaper.»