If you’ve been following my earlier posts on this year’s trip to Greece, you’ll notice that this was my third visit. The previous ones were in 2001 and 2003. From past experience I’d found the Greeks, for the most part, to be dour. Not deliberately unfriendly, but seeming not particularly to care about tourists.
I confess, I don’t know how I would feel if I lived somewhere popular like Delphi, and I saw my town overrun every day for six months of the year by foreigners. Would I resent them, or would I appreciate the business they were creating? I think the latter, but I can’t be sure.
The effects of the Balkan War, the World Wars, and the subsequent and messy Civil War must have had an effect on the Greek psyche. The continued turbulence culminating in a coup d’état in April 1967 wouldn’t have helped.
And the current economic problems in Greece can’t be ignored. The people are getting poorer by the minute, as the Government increases taxes on everything in sight. Reports of General Strikes, and riots in Athens, don’t help tourism – a major source of income for the country – and I admit, had us a bit spooked.
So, I was pleasantly surprised, shocked even, to find on this trip how helpful and friendly the Greek people had become. Everywhere we went people welcomed us. Everyone smiled and seemed happy to see tourists. Speaking English was no problem, although in one hotel most conversations were in French for some bizarre reason.
I think the most surprising encounter we had was with a guy at a checkout counter in a supermarket. Amongst other purchases we had popped a couple of apples into a plastic bag and had forgotten to have them weighed and priced. The guy wasn’t interested in apologies. He apologized to us and then rushed off to get them weighed, apologizing again, in perfect English, for keeping us waiting! If that had been Malaysia, the bag would have been waved under our noses, and some odd grunting noises made, which roughly translated would have meant “get these weighed you morons.”
Europe is expensive, and Greece is probably about average for European prices. I had remembered meals as being very pricy, but on this trip was pleasantly surprised. No, they’re not Malaysian prices, but Malaysia must be one of the cheapest places in the world to eat. Provided you don’t want haute cuisine, the taverna fare is adequate and affordable.
A Greek Salad, along with a good quantity of fresh bread, can be bought for € 5, or less. It’s fine for lunch. In fact usually too much. In one restaurant I saw four guys happily sharing one salad. For a more substantial meal, seafood is plentiful. Beer and Greek wine are cheap, and so eating and drinking were not the major expense I was expecting.
Gasoline on the other had is downright frightening if you are not used to European prices. A tankful of “95” for our diminutive Audi A1 cost as much as a weekend at a Malaysian resort! How people can afford to drive anything larger is beyond me.
Hotels booked on the internet were also far cheaper than I’d expected. Again, not Malaysian prices, but still, not silly prices. It’s necessary to visit many websites to get the right deals, but well worth the time this takes.
So, overall, Greece was full of pleasant surprises.