Here are my top ten impressions of Greece from our trip during the summer of 2011. Needless to say, they are just those of one person, based on anecdotal, non-scientific research, and they cannot be used against me in a court of law.
10. The land is quite picturesque with its rugged hills, small mountains, and olive trees everywhere (it looks very biblical)—but it is the water that is absolutely spectacular! I had a window seat on our flight into Athens and the contrast between the dark blue water and the white sailboats was striking. The water along the shoreline was a translucent aqua. Most of our time has been spent along the coastline: Porto Rafti, Athens, Corinth, and out to Santorini. At every place, the varying hues have been as pretty as anything I’ve ever seen.
9. The vehicles are small but they make up for it by being aggressive. No SUV’s or trucks over here. Gas is about $9 a gallon so small is in. Motorcycles are especially popular and apparently have no rules to follow as they will move ahead of everyone at lights, weave in and out of lanes at will, and generally practice vehicular anarchy. We rented cars for our trip to Corinth and my son-in-law drove a smart car—now that’s a small car! I’m pretty sure it would fit in my truck bed and maybe even in the glove compartment.
8. The Greek people have worse problems than their finances. How can I say this . . . you can’t flush the tp here (apparently the pipes are too small). The cradle of western civilization and they haven’t figured this out! No wonder their economy is where the tp should be.
7. The food is pretty good. If this is the Mediterranen diet, count me in. Everything we’ve had so far has been tasty—gyros, yogurt, bread with olive paste, calamari, mousaka, octopus, pastries, etc. Speaking of pastries, bakeries are all over the place. My son estimated that there are about half a dozen within a mile of where we’re staying. You can’t not like a place where people put such a high priority on crepes, creme puffs, and baklava.
6. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they should be the national animal of Greece (they’re not, it’s the owl). I read that Greece has about 150,000 stray dogs. And the dogs I’ve seen are big (none of those little toy dogs here), but they are non-aggressive. Wait, did I say non-aggressive? How about comatose? Most of the time you see them sprawled out in the shade somewhere like someone pulled the battery out of them. But in fairness, the three or four lounging by the front of the place we’re staying usually get up and follow us if we go somewhere on foot. In fact, they seem to have this weird sixth sense because they’ll periodically move ahead of us and turn to the right or left—in anticipation of where we’re going.
5. People in Greece apparently don’t feel the need to ink themselves up. We have seen thousands of people and maybe a dozen have had tattoos. Remember, we’re in Europe during the summer (and we’ve been to the beach), so you can’t say that we missed too many “hidden” tattoos. What is the significance of this? I have no idea. I just thought it was interesting.
4. Santorini is overrated. This will be regarded as heresy by many since about half the pictures you see of Greece are of this place, but it is just as commercialized as it is beautiful. They literally bring people in by the boatload to this Eden of an island and proceed to retail the soul out of them. Bransorini—they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
3. Public transportation is convenient and efficient. We’ve gone most everywhere on either the metro subway system or on a bus and both have served us well. Our only transportation glitch has been a ninety minute wait for a rental car. Yesterday the taxis were on strike but it didn’t seem to affect things much, most people just worked around it.
2. I’m pretty sure Greece is where they invented claustrophobia. The houses are bunched together. Flying in, they looked like white pebbles in a driveway—much different than flying over most of America where you will see houses on definite tracts of land. But then again, everything is bunched up over here. We’ve packed onto subways, buses, and boats. The streets are narrower and the vehicles travel in much closer proximity than in the U.S. Despite this scarcity of space, people still walk on the shoulder of the road (along with their guardian dogs). And yet everyone here seems rather oblivious to all this space invasion.
1. If you have any interest in history, this is an amazing place to be. Things in the States go back a few hundred years, things here go back a few thousand years (at least). Stand on the Acropolis and you’re standing where Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, and oh yeah, some guy named Paul, have stood. Ancient Corinth was incredible as was the Acropolis Museum. You can’t quite touch eternity, but you can see so much of the history that shaped our world.