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Report from Greece - Family trip, June, 2016

Seeing all of the press reports in the US over the winter, I worried that taking my family, including grown children of 18- 24 might not be a good idea. Isis, refugees, the Greek economy, ATMs out of cash, credit cards not working, pickpockets....all rumors that were a bit scary. I consulted with a few friends who had recently been in Greece and they said, "no problem, GO". We did, are in Greece now, and it is SPECTACULAR. Not the slightest threat to personal safety. Athens and the Peloponnese; no refugees, no problem. So you understand the dynamics of my comments below, I am 65 going on 49, my girlfriend is 50 going on 40, my kids are mature and well educated. We are active and fit; living in a ski resort in the Colorado mountains.

I can't think of a better time to be in Greece. First, the people are exceptionally friendly, helpful and 85% of the locals speak at least some English. Prices are off the chart low. It is still June which is the beginning of tourist season but Greece level 4 star Boutique Hotels run 40-125E with most being under 100E. High end dinners run 10-22E. The Parthenon had crowds created by tour buses but the rest of Athens was not tourist crowded. I was led to believe I would need a straight jacket to protect myself from pick pockets but I never felt threatened...not to say one should let down their guard, though. Nafplion was 25% of capacity so restaurants and hotels were easily accessed.

Greece is amazing. Very beautiful. Much to see. Lots of history...lots of today's vibe. The water is bluer than Blue. If you decide to come, make liberal use of the various on line booking websites for rooms. Most are offering discounts to attract visitors. Very little traffic on the highways once you get out of Athens. No issues whatsoever driving in Athens. If you can drive in Denver, you can drive in Athens.

If you are a "take a tour" type person, there are plenty to choose from. However, if you prefer to strike out on your own and just explore, you will have no issues. We had no advance reservations and made decisions on the fly, usually booking the next night's room on line the day before.

Had a positive experience at 999 Luxury Boutique Hotel in Nafplion. 4 star, $70E, very nice with very friendly staff. 1 1/2 hr massage for 45E....find that in New York City! Old Town Nafplion is not to be missed nor should your stay be less than 2-3 days. It is old Rome and old Athens on a more intimate scale. I could spend a month there. Great restaurants, very interesting shops, upscale lines at all. Dancing and live music were a bit lacking but the classy bars were abundant. The castle was very interesting and reasonably well preserved.

The archeological sites that we saw were a bit over rated, particularly if you have toured Italy, where much is preserved. Much of the Greek sites are columns or foundations which leave a lot to your imagination. I suggest seeing a few but after a while, they kind of all look the same. You will visit the SITE but the buildings are truly ruins.
We headed out towards Lefkata today and drove the North coast of the Peloponnese. Do not miss the Corinth Canal...absolutely an engineering marvel particularly since it was built in the 1800s. You MUST stand on the bridge and look down. Not enough to drive over it on the Freeway.
Prices are even more reasonable in this area. We discovered a gem for the budget traveler who wants to have 4 star features. The Florida Blue Bay Resort in Psathopyrgos, Patra is directly on the beautiful Gulf of Corinth with a huge seaside swimming pool. All rooms have a sea view balcony, the dinner buffett was tasty for 10E, and happy hour was 2 for 1 on Mohitos, Pina Coltas and such from 9AM to 7PM. Double room on-line discounted to 40E.
Living in a tourist town, I travel a lot. Greece is a value like Mexico 40 years ago and the Greek people need our dollars to recover economically!

Posted by
6174 posts

Thanks for posting this! Hopefully the title will attract readers who may be anxious about going to Greece now.

Our trip was last fall and wonderful too, perhaps better for being cooler weather than now. We found warmth and hospitality everywhere, and never felt the slightest anxiety about safety. (We were careful about our possessions in the Athens Metro.)

You make an interesting point about the ruins. Of course much is left to the imagination, and I'd rather have that then bad reconstructions like you see in some other parts of Europe (Carcassonne's pointy towers, anyone?). Gotta remember it's been many thousands of years, during which Greece was occupied by multiple foreign powers who didn't put a priority on historic preservation.

I hope your travels take you to Delphi, where the buildings may be partial but the setting is magical.

Posted by
1207 posts

We went to Greece in 2014 and it was wonderful, economical, and full of fabulous Greeks! Great time to go.

Posted by
9 posts

Dick's reply is very true and the condition of the archeological sites is understandable. The Greek's however, are doing a great deal of maintenance on their sites particularly the Parthenon which appears to be in some state of "restoration" and which seems to be authentic. However, the condition of the sites that are basically "ruins" alleviates for me the pressure to see each and every one. I think a visitor can pick and choose which site to visit without feeling that they are "missing out." I am much more enthralled with the Greek culture and it people today than looking at the every stone of yesterday

Posted by
87 posts

Thank you so very much for writing this! I wasn't concerned about the issues the news was hyping up and so this is the next trip I am going to book but to hear your first hand review was awesome!! Safe travels to you! Margaret

Posted by
9 posts

Heard today from new friends who were in Athens several months ago that they observed refugees sleeping in doorways of the Plata (Old Town Athens). In mid June we observed no refugees whatsoever in the Plata or any other area near the Acropolis. Very clean, very safe feeling.

Posted by
1113 posts

When people talk about "ruins" regardless of where they are . . . that's just what you'll be getting. Mostly foundations, walls and if you are lucky remnants of temples and buildings. Athens is a World Class Archeological Area and worthy of a visit. The Acropolis is amazing with the Parthenon even in it's "ruined" state still impressive. There's more to the Acropolis than the Parthenon, however, there are numerous other structures, stairways, ampitheaters and so much more still in a very good state of condition to see. Go to the Agora and you'll see the Temple of Hephaestus in even better state of preservation than the Parthenon. You'll find the Agora an amazing place to wander around and visualize what it must have been like more than 2,000 years ago. Wander off to the Kerameikos Cemetery and you'll be awed by a little known area of Athens that shows the beautiful monuments and grave stones to loved ones. There are a number of little known sites all over Athens that shows the history of that Great City going back 2,000-3,000 years ago. There is Hadrian's Library and the Roman Agora, Hadrian's Arch, the Temple to Zeus and many other sites that are never mentioned by tourist agents. While they don't rival the Acropolis they still give you an idea of how it use to be for Athenians centuries ago if not longer. Athens is sometimes criticized because of protests, demonstrations and all the graffitti but it's still one of the World's Best Cities to visit and at prices that are so much lower than most anywhere else to make it a great bargain!

Posted by
298 posts

Thank you very much for writing this, OP! I've been looking for a family vacation spot that will be safe and that won't break the bank (me) and now I'm super psyched! Can't wait to start planning! More happy travels to you!

Posted by
195 posts

Thanks for the feedback. Greece is the last place left on the very top of my bucket list, but I had given up on going due to the state of things. However, I'm finding myself feeling a little let down planning a trip elsewhere instead, so perhaps Greece could be a possibility after all. I'm not at all a risk taker, so the tumultuous news has had me worried about safety. Glad to hear your feedback.

Posted by
3257 posts

Commilla, like so man others, I wonder where you have seen these "tumultous news" ... in 2016, that is. The main news about Greek contention with the EU about the Euro were almost all in 2015, and in fact, protests were 99% in the form of demonstrations (marching in groups, with signs -- whooo), not "tumult." There have been some 2016 "wildcat strikes" by a few groups, but short, and do not involve tourists. I can only think y ou've stumbled onto some outdated news sources -- often from the Tabloid Rags in the UK, that blow up & distort everything.

You do NOT have to be a risk-taker to go to Greece... far from it. It has a record as just about the lowest serious-crime rate in Europe. I have visited 12 times since 1999, some times with others, but at least 4 of the times I was all on my own, and I'm a retiree. I've spent most of my life in US big cities, including 35 years in New York. I feel safer in Athens than any other big cit y I know in N. America OR Europe. I've walked 6 blocks to the airport Bus in Syntagma Square at 2 AM... and the streets are full of people... Greeks are night owls, and often are still dining at midnight. I'm prudent of course, but in Greece have never experienced petty theft or any kind of perceived threat. Instead, old ladies pick apricots off their trees and hand them to me, Farmers have invited me to watch their sheep-shearing. At a cafe in the heart of athens, I asked my waiter about the name of a blossoming tree; so he leapt on a wall to break off a blossom and gave it to me, with a bow. Happens all the time. Banish your anxieties, and get ready for a wonderful time.

Posted by
9 posts

If you have fear of Greece, don't feel alone. The person who ridiculed this fear lives in a different world than we do in Colorado. Many, many press reports and discussions among friends who are word travelers brought up the theme of whether traveling to Greece was a good idea this year. I am a bit of a risk taker and I was concerned. However, all of these reports are COMPLETELY off base. We are currently sitting in Crete, have been in Athens, Peloponnese, and Lefkata and Greece is one of the safest places I have ever visited. People are extremely friendly. Prices are amazingly low. There is absolutely no reason to not travel to Greece. Also, there is no reason to not have felt a little apprehension before you read this post.

Posted by
195 posts

Janet, to reply to your comments, I admit my feelings were possibly based on assumptions. With the economic crisis in the past, plus the proximity to Syria and the migrant crisis, as well as the state department's general advisory about increased terrorist threats throughout Europe, I must have had a misconception that the area would be a bit unsettled right now. I also remembered hearing on the news about a terrorist-based plane crash and Greece, but it looks like the plane was not coming from or leaving Greece...some of the debris just happened to wash up on Greece's shores. Great to hear everyone's reassurances. We had set the possibility of Greece aside, but I think we may bring it back to the top of our travel list :)

Posted by
1272 posts

We just returned this week from a month in Greece. I have to compliment rsj for his comments. They are right on. Greece continues to be a wonderful vacation destination. It has it all, history, ruins (more on that in a minute) beaches, sun, sea, friendly people, great food and all that at an affordable price.

We did notice that tourist numbers seemed to be down a bit this year and asked some of our Greek friends what was happening. Their universal response was people who have been to Greece and know what it is like, are returning. People thinking about coming to Greece for the first time are being affected by the news of the financial crisis and immigrants and are not coming this year and tourist numbers are well below normal.

This posting and subsequent thread is an accurate picture of what a great vacation awaits you in Greece.

Oh yes about the ruins. I have to admit that ruins that are just foundations really don't spark my imagination. The Acropolis, Delphi and Olympia deliver as promised but much of the rest of the ruins are just a shadow of the past. When we refocused our attention on the Roman, Byzantine and Venetian period starting in the 1300's the past is still alive, intact and exciting in Greece.
Cities such as Chania, and Nafplio Rethymnon even Heraklion have Venetian era old town centers where it is easy to feel the past and one can easily imagine all the lives lived in those back alleys.
Venetian Eras Castles abound and most are in good shape ready to draw you back to the past. At Monemvassia, a small walled 13th century town is still essentially unchanged. It features hotels offering restored period rooms throughout the town. Even our Greek friends say "one just has to play pirate when you pass through the bullet scarred door through the city walls."

Perhaps I have been a bit carried away but these are the things that make Greece very special.

Posted by
8 posts

Many thanks, rsj, for your nicely written trip report/guest editorial on the current state of traveling in Greece. We have a long-planned small ship cruise in the Cyclades mostly coming up in September, and it's good to hear how wonderful it is! Looking forward to more reports.