Our 27 days in Greece were terrific. A rest after trekking Nepal, the weather could not have been more perfect. Sunny days in the mid-60’s, azure blue beaches, great food and warm showers were exactly what we needed. The Greeks lived up to their reputation as big eaters and long talkers. We were told that this is why so many famous philosophers were Greek: they have always loved to sit around, enjoy the weather, and talk rather than work. After the economic collapse in Greece, not working is a serious problem now. Unemployment is over 25%, with youth unemployment (25 and under) at a staggering 51%. This has led to a handful of observations:
Not working – This is in the psyche here. Most shops don’t open until 9:30 or 10am. Then they close at 13:00 (1pm) for the shop-owners to go home and nap. Most things open again around 16:00 (4pm), but only operate until around 20:00 (8pm). You really have to time it right to get what you need. Even the Acropolis, arguably the main draw in all of Greece, allows in visitors from only 9:30-14:30 (2:30pm).
Night Life – Because of the working hours above, most restaurants really get going around 9 or 10pm. 23:30 (11:30pm) dinner reservations are the norm. I suppose if you get to sleep in every day then take a mid-day nap, this kind of starts to make sense.
Generosity – I have mentioned this before, but they really are gracious. Maybe this comes from knowing so many unemployed people as well. If there was not a deep-seeded empathy and giving attitude, millions would be in (even more) serious trouble.
Tagging – K says this is where my “crotchety old man” starts showing, because this one burns me a bit. OK, a lot. What happens when over half of all the young people are unemployed? Evidently, they fill their time writing/carving/posting graffiti. Everywhere. Subway car – tag it. Building – tag it. Electrical box – tag it. Subway tunnels and walls 30′ up for increased difficulty – tag it. Harmless cactus beside the sidewalk – yep, tag that, too. If it were “street art” and confined to walls or at least inanimate objects, I would feel better about it. Instead, it is some schmoe’s name scrawled across an otherwise beautiful item.
Markets – If you are in Greece, be sure to get to a market. The produce is amazing, and the costs are even better. In the US, fruits and vegetables have somehow become a niche market, driving up costs. A quarter-pound of veggies costs more than a quarter-pounder. But in Greece, the sellers at the market will load you up for next to nothing. Good stuff for the waist and the wallet. Awesome. Speaking of the wallet…
Costs in Greece were very reasonable. Food overall was very cheap compared to everywhere else we went in Europe (sorry, but Asia will forever own this category). We found fair prices and great locations and hosts for our two weeks in Santorini and in Athens. The children were usually discounted or free on everything from the museums to the Metro. We did hit that little snag when we had to book a flight to the island on short notice, and – warning – this is where the rant will begin. On the subway was not the only place I was robbed in Greece. That was only about $11. Expedia.com robbed me of ten times as much, and jerked me around as well. We booked our flights from Athens to Santorini the day before the flight. 4 round-trip tickets on Aegean Air = $220. Not bad, but here’s the rub. On the Expedia listing it said one free checked bag was included for each ticket. Great, we only have one each. It had another link that said click here to be sure of the baggage rules for each carrier. I clicked, and again read that each ticket included one free checked bag. You know where this is going. At the airport, we had to pay $150 to check 4 bags – almost doubling the cost of the flight. I called Expedia and had screenshots of both places that said a bag was included. They blew me off. After I called a few more times and asked for a manager, they gave me a $20 credit (to use only on Expedia) and closed my file.
I need to change the subject, so here is the breakdown. Prices are skewed for Athens due to the long flight in from Kathmandu. Drop it out, and the costs per day are virtually identical to those in Santorini, and are almost as low as some of the major cities in Asia. Caleb’s uber-cheap doctor, lab, and pharmacy costs are in Athens Misc. Overall, a very reasonable $5000 for over 4000 miles in the air and 27 days for 4 people. Think about it. – ALaff