Underated Greece

Old Sep 21st, 2004, 11:17 PM
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Underated Greece

Ive noticed a lack of knowledge and inquiry regarding holidays to Greece. This is particularly so with North Americans. I was wondering why this might be. The Greek villages are just as beautifull and rustic as any in Provence or Tuscany, the Greek islands are unchallenged in their beauty a. The Greek weather is sunny, dry and superb. The Greek cuisine varied , fresh and tasty, the Greeks friendly and the most hospitable people on earth. Grrece has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It's history, museums, night life , beaches and infrastructure are second to none. The Olympics proved that Greece is a vibrant, exciting, safe and varied tourist destination yet most posts are referable to France, Italy and England. I understand that in the USA its citizens have been bombarded by false and slanderous misrepresentations of Greece, yet I believe the astute reader can see through such and understand that Greece presents a wonderful holiday destination.

I would like to hear from Fodorites who have not been to Greece or do not intend on going as to why they have such a position. Regards to all.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 01:50 AM
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You're comparing a first-growth claret to a bottle of that turpentine Greeks pass off as wine.

Few of us decide where to holiday on the basis of nightlife: sadly far too many of those that do, actually DO choose Greece. And the result - from Cos to the Ionian islands - is some of the most lout-infected, overbuilt, concrete resorts in Europe.

It's downright nonsense to claim that Greece's "history and museums are second to none". With the exception of the glorious Pantokrator in Dafni, I'd challenge you to name a single artefact in Greece erected or created later than the Stoa of Attalus that's in the same league as the most minor works even in the Glasgow, Milan or Lyons museums, never mind in the real first-division British, French, Italian (or Spanish, German, Dutch or Russian) places.

Greece has been close to an artistic desert since the Romans left (and there's little left of what was produced even while they were around). Some of its museums are rich in the products of the period between 700BC and 200BC - but, however important a period that is for the world, those possessions hardly even hold a candle to the two thousand years and more of continuous, accessible, meticulously preserved human creation that mainstream Europe is stuffed with.

Even in the field Greece is meant to be outstanding at - "classical" buildings -there are better-preserved examples in the places the Greeks colonised such as Sicily, Calabria and Ionia (now Turkey).

Comparing Greece's food and wine with the glories of France and Italy, to be honest, is just silly. Maybe it's possible these days to get decent food in Greece (though I can count on the fingers of one hand how often I've succeeded in over 30 years, except when we've been doing the cooking). But it's hardly on the same planet as the serious gastronomic meccas.

None of this stops Greece being a pleasant place to holiday in: I've spent many happy weeks there. But you don't need to invent theories of slander or misrepresentation to explain why so few people get excited by it.

If you're a northern European teenager, off for two weeks of sex and stupor, Greece has some outstanding resorts. If you're especially interested the classical era, ditto. If you want a pleasant, undemanding, cheapish, self-catering holiday in the sun, Greece can be great if you choose your location carefully (yes, there are Greek villages just as nice as anywhere in Europe). And if you want to understand Europe's history you have, at some stage, to make a serious visit to Greece.

But if you want to be exposed to a lot of mankind's greatest achievements in a short period of time, Greece just isn't the place.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 01:57 AM
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I absolutely LOVE Greece and have been several times, but I live in Europe. When I lived in the states it seemed sooo far away.

I agree with everything the original poster said. It's a great place to visit!
Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 03:22 AM
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Wow! I'm planning a trip to Greece in March, and I've never heard the description of it posed by flanneruk. Hoping to avoid the teenagers off for sex and stupor, the lout-infested concrete, and turpentine of all varieties. Hoping to find what I have always thought of as Greece: fabulous scenery, friendly people, ancient ruins that are sending me back to reread my Plato prior to the trip (and maybe my Thucydides afterward), food like the great food I've enjoyed in Greek restaurants and at the homes of Greek families in the U.S.

Any suggestions?
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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 03:32 AM
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Athens is a superb city, none of these vulgar tourists as described, and indeed do exist. The Parthenon is a universal icon, and the museums are nearly as good as London, but of course are much smaller. Several michelin starred restaurants offer fine cuisine. I agree that it is vastly underrated.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 01:28 PM
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Flanneruk, what a load of b******ks!
It's absolutely true that the Greek villages are just as beautiful and rustic as any in Provence or Tuscany. OTOH, we shouldn't compare apples and pears.

The Greek islands are unchallenged beautiful. Unchallenged in their bueaty, might be a bit of an overstatement.

The Greek weather IS sunny, dry and superb. The Greek cuisine IS varied , fresh and tasty, the Greeks ARE friendly if not necessarily the most hospitable people on earth. (That's clearly the Scots)

I've no idea what the crime rates are. It does have amazing history, museums, (who cares about the night life?) and beaches and the infrastructure is certainly indescribable.

How dare you suggest, flanneruk, that Glasgow is not a first division place. Second city of the Empire I would have you know.

I'm not as Greekly travelled as some- say, Bill Barr- but apart from a quick whizz through Malia, I saw none of what you represent.

It might not do well for the Renaissance (indeed, to be fair to your otherwise unjustified rant, it doesn't), but it's still a super destaination for whatever type of holiday you aspire to
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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 02:13 PM
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Why are people, especially North Americans, wary about travel and vacationing in Greece? you asked.

Well, I've never been to Greece. I am planning to go next May/June. I've always been fascinated with ancient Greek history and culture, and the archaeological sites and museums are a strong draw. So is sitting outside at a taverna at mignight eating dinner and watching passerbys.

I live near Washington, DC. Greece is a LOOOOOONNG way from here, and I am on the East Coast of the USA. Add up to another 4-6 hours for those out by California. Cheap flights are few and far between from US to Greece. For many, the language and alphabet are intimidating. Remember, most Americans live in a monolinguistic English language society -- foreign languages are just so damn, well, foreign to many of them.

And, it is difficult to get information about things very far in advance. Try getting a ferry schedule for next May...

However, knowing that Athens area infrastructure got "spruced up" for the Olympics also reassures the more timid that they shouldn't hesitate to go.

I think seing the scenic beauty and the culture and nightlife as portrayed during the Olympic coverage will go a long way to making more Americans want to visit Greece.

Athens is not Paris, or London (or Glasgow). And that's the point. It has its own charms and beauty.

I for one can't wait to go.

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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 02:25 PM
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I've been to Greece three times and I love it and feel a strong connection to it. The main reason I don't go there more often is that it is quite far from the US, the airfares are never cheap, and the flights are usually not convenient. But another reason is that at this point there are particular places where I'd really like to go in Greece that are a bit off the beaten track, e.g., Karpathos. But because I don't speak Greek, beyond a few limited constructions and a bunch of isolated words, I think it would be difficult to travel independently to less touristy places, and also probably difficult to find tours that might go to those places without also including visits to places I've already visited one or two times.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 02:02 AM
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Well, flanneruk, if you can afford to drink first growth claret with your meals, congratulations. For the rest of us, Greece is producing some excellent wines these days. Not, perhaps, the equal of Chateau Latour, but certainly on the level of many French regional wines. The "turpentine" you refer to is probably retsina, which not many people drink nowadays. Incidentally, I've drunk some local wine in France that would have made good paint stripper.

Yes, there are islands plagued by the package holiday crowds in July and August, eg Kos, Rhodes, and Corfu, but there are many quieter ones as well. If an island has an international airport, it will be busy in high season. Greece has about 160 inhabited islands, not to mention the mainland, so you have plenty of choice.

Many of us who enjoy visiting Greece (I've been twice this year) like the simplicity and friendliness of the country. If you want haute cuisine, go to France, but if you enjoy a simple, well cooked meal, in a sidewalk cafe overlooking the harbour, Greece is the place to go.

And yes, many of the best Greek artifacts have been spirited away to foreign museums, but you can't duplicate Delphi, Olympia, Delos, or Knossos anywhere else. Frankly I'd rather visit the actual site, whatever state it is in, than go to a museum. I've seen the Elgin marbles in London, but they don't compare to the Parthenon itself.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 02:22 AM
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cmt, Karpathos has less tourists than many other islands, but it is not really "off the beaten track". I have been there on an ordinary package holiday, and I certainly don't speak Greek. People in Karpathos speak the usual languages, and English in many cases very well, because many of them have lived even decades in Australia or US. So no languages problems in Karpathos.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 04:12 AM
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Elina, I had assumed it would be more like Basilicata (in Italy), where if I wanted to see and learn about traditional folk celebrations of ancient origin, it really would've been hard without speaking Italian, since no one in the small towns spoke English. What kinds of things did you try to do in Karpathos?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 08:59 AM
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Wow, quite a thread. As a Seattlite who has not yet gone, but has reservations for this winter...Greece is a much more expensive flight than say Paris or Rome. I have always heard that Athens is dirty (sorry but there it is). We are giving Greece its shot because I heard that it has been nicely cleaned up for the Olympics and lets face it Paris hotels even off season are just astronomically expensive.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 10:28 AM
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I read flanneruk's posting and have to agree. Sure there are ruins, but I kept thinking, "What have they done lately?" Greeks are certainly not the friendliest people in the world, the food is mostly horrible and travel around the country is often awkward. It was an interesting place to visit, but I think my money would have been better spent somewhere else - Italy or Turkey perhaps.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 10:33 AM
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One reason I'd be more reluctant to go to Greece is the use of the non-Latin alphabet. I can figure things out pretty quickly if I'm looking at something in an Indo-European language written with the Latin alphabet, but it would take longer to figure things out in Greece. If I'm visiting as a solo female traveler, it's just one more factor that makes the country a little more intimidating (plus the sexist reputation, etc.)

I find it hard to believe that Greek food is generally bad, though. I go to Greek restaurants all the time and have fabulous food. (I'm sure someone would say that isn't authentic, but it seems to be.)

You can also get cheap budget flights from London to Greece, and even cheap charter air/hotel packages, so that doesn't need to be an impediment.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 10:57 AM
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Willtravel, I wouldn't let the alphabet put you off. Tourism being by far Greece's largest industry, everything (and I mean everything) is in the latin alphabet as well. I have yet to see a menu that isn't also in English. Economics dictate it.

Whilst Greece may be off the beaten track for North Americans, it is enormously popular as a cheap sun and sand destination for northern europeans, and the Greeks have adapted accordingly.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 02:36 AM
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If you like Greek food in restaurants outside Greece, you'll love Greek food in Greece! IMO the food and wine in Greece are a million times better than what I've had in Greek restaurants elsewhere, and it's not just being in Greece that makes it so good.
Old Sep 24th, 2004, 11:25 AM
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After recently spending a month in Greece, I have to strongly disagree with comments about the food and transport.

Food was generally wonderful, but I benefitted greatly from new friends who live there. Ingredients are far fresher than many places in western Europe and the U.S.

Transport was fine, even though the winds shut down our ferries from the Cyclades for nearly two days.

Athens' new transit works well. I used the new suburban rail (Larissa to the airport), the metro (all over), buses and the new freeways. Hospitality there is rarely equally elsewhere.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 04:41 PM
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I enjoy Greece a lot. I find that more people speak English there than in other European countries. Usually the signs use both alphabets, so it is not too difficult to travel around on your own. I have not been there in August, but I have been there at the end of June and beginning of July, and I have been fortunate not to have incountered the rawdy beer crowds. Greece has a lovely relaxed charm. Give Greece a try, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 12:25 PM
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odesseus wrote:
"Ive noticed a lack of knowledge and inquiry regarding holidays to Greece. This is particularly so with North Americans."

What exactly is this expressed "lack of knowledge" you speak? I can hardly fault anyone for not having detailed knowledge on a faraway place that they have never traveled and are making simple inquiries to the experienced folks who have lived or traveled there in order to maximize their time-limited journey (nor have I read replies warning them to stay away). Are these questions any different than a European asking about crime-rates, nightlife, culture, sights, et al, of, say, California?

As for the comment that Greece's only contributions to western civilization was 2000+ years ago: when Europe was in the throes of the Dark Ages, Greece's 1,100 year long Byzantine Empire preserved and reintroduced classical history, culture, literature, and knowledge to the west when it was ready. Greece is loaded with well preserved sites and museums of this era, too. Just because Eastern history is discounted by many Westerners, it doesn't make it any less of value to the progress of man.

Greece is not about Renaissance art galleries, sipping Château Margaux, or walking around in an ascot. Like most destinations, the best parts require you to get off the tourist trail, explore, and meet the local people. Yes, there are vile package-tourism centers just like in many places, but a little research will allow you circumvent them. If you land in one, well, you have only yourself to blame.

Nikki, Rick, goingwithbaby, you will have a terrific time. Please post your thoughts when you get back.

Been three times, and looking forward to more. It's the goods...

Bruce from North America
Greece Photo Gallery - http://www.brucegcollier.com/galleri...level2_all.htm
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 04:17 PM
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Even from as far away as California, I've visited Greece four times in the past 15 years. Can't get enough of it. I can't imagine what you are talking about, flanneruk. Such a pity that you obviously did not have a wonderful experience there as many of us have.

Each time visiting I found the people to be warm, honest, and friendly. I enjoyed the Greek food more than many other places I've been in Europe, and the charm of the islands is worth the trip. Athens is smoggy and gray. But, Athens is not all there is to Greece -- just like Disneyland is not all there is to California.

For those who are concerned about traveling alone -- don't be. I went alone the first time and felt safer there than in many USA cities. English is spoken/written most of the times you will need it.
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