by Dr. John M. Paitakes, Special to the Hellenic News of America
Despite Greece’s controversial financial situation, it remains a desirable and relatively reasonable vacation choice. My wife and I and four other couples (friends & relatives) recently returned from two weeks in Greece. We stayed three days in Athens, three days in Santorini, and eight days in Crete, the birthplace of my father. We, collectively, found in all three destinations, the Greek citizens and especially those in the hospitality venues (hotels, tavernas, tourist shops) to be extremely hospitable. My wife and I have vacationed in Greece on at least ten different occasions in the past 40 years. I can convincingly say that on this past vacation, we found the Greek people overall to be the most accommodating and hospitable.
Athens and Santorini, which are primary “tourist spots” for most travelers, prices for hotels and restaurant were reasonable but a bit more than when one compares these prices to some of the islands. I am most familiar with Crete as I have relatives there and have spent considerable time there over the years. Our group of ten stayed in Kalyves, Crete for eight days in a mid-sized village in close proximity to Chania, a larger city-like town. Kalyves is a beautiful village-like town. It is located on the seacoast and has two major hotels and numerous small family owned rental apartments. We have vacationed at this particular village on four prior occasions over the years and found it contains all the services one needs while on vacation (tavernas, pharmacy, food markets, banks, church, car rentals, etc.).
We tend to prefer the village-like atmosphere as compared to the big city areas. The local merchants were pleased to accommodate the tourist and went out of their way to please us. In every restaurant or taverna we dined at, we were always treated to either fruit, desert, wine or their famous “raki” (homemade moonshine similar to ouzo). The prices for a complete lunch or dinner (Greek salad, main course, wine and fruit or Greek deserts was 10 – 12 euros, or about $15 per couple. Although the hotels and rental apartments were almost all full, there was not the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities. Nobody seemed to be in a rush and as a tourist you should not be either.
The lifestyle of the residents in the villages as we observed, were less stressed then residents in the major cities and popular tourist areas. Most citizens in the village-like towns seemed less materialistic, as compared to the average American. They had older automobiles, limited wardrobes, and simple homes for the most part. Although politics and discussions is a major “trademark” of most Greeks, they don’t seem to be as involved in the villages as compared to the citizens in Athens. Stress burnout is commonplace in many American lives. These aspects can also, according to medical experts, affect longevity. There are many senior citizens living well into their 80’s and 90’s mainly due to diet and less stress.
Four members of our group had never been to Greece, but had traveled extensively to other venues locally and internationally. They all agreed this was one of their most enjoyable vacations.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that vacationing in Greece at this time, in spite of the economic challenges, continues to remain a safe and great vacation choice.
N.B.: Dr. John Paitakes is a Professor in the Arts and Sciences Department (Criminal Justice) at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.