Saturday, September 12, 2015

Greece: Worst Country Ever?

Being a German, I am fortunate to be in people’s good lists when traveling; Germans are always super popular, I don’t really know why. Every traveler has a cool story with a German, and almost all people who have been to Germany loved it because it’s apparently cheap, friendly and pretty. Have you ever had anyone tell you “now the Greeks are a crowd I’d invite to my party”, or “oh my, Greece is just such an awesome country I will never go anywhere else”? No? Let me tell you, there is a reason you have never heard that, that reason being it’s simply never been said. On my ranking of 30 countries of this world I have visited, I have a new 30th place, and I don’t even know who or what to make responsible for it. Vain and rude people? Underwhelming countrysides? Extortionate prices? Let’s see…

On our first appearance in Greece, we were hitchhiking from a toll station. Before we even arrived at the station, an employee came running towards us, telling us we couldn’t hitchhike here, we’d have to leave the highway with our backpacks and massive loads of stuff. Fine, I said, how are we leaving, man? He obviously had no answer. How does one leave a highway? Walking? So we stayed for two and a half hours waiting for someone to at least take us to the next gas station, only to be ignored or laughed at by hundreds of big cars. After two hours these guys even called the cops on us who showed up and banished us from the highway. Same question, I asked the police officer where I should go. He said, 5 kilometers down the highway we’d find a gas station, so I asked him if he could take us there. The guy’s response is so paradox it’s almost funny: he told me he wasn’t a taxi, and left!

Another time we arrived at a toll station to hitchhike and were immediately banished “for our own safety”. It was pouring, we were two girls in the middle of nowhere but we were not allowed to stay. Instead, we had to walk along the highway in search for the next road. Completely soaked, eventually a truck driver took us to Athens. Ironically, the Highway officer had told us that the only people who would take us at the toll station would be trucks, and that would be very unsafe. Thanks, safety lad, for forcing us to go with what you were apparently saving us from. We eventually made it to Athens alive but certainly not due to the help of Greece’s amazing people. Nobody stops, nobody smiles, and nobody even tries to help. People are apparently scared. Of what? Two soaked girls who are cold? Thanks, Greece.

The next thing that we waited for in vain was to be vowed by the countryside of a country that cost us triple the amount of money the same time frame cost us in all our other destinations. We paid ridiculous amounts to go to the island of Zakythos which was no more than a 4 on the scenery scale. Macedonia, which charges nothing to look at nice views, cute beaches and amazing mountains, cost us zero. Just saying! Sure, there are nice spots, and we’ve seen some, but we’ve also seen more. Not everything that is great is equally great! Athens, out of all places, is the biggest joke. Every street looks the same, and none of them are pretty except for the ridiculously touristy Acropolis neighborhood which all boosts traditional Greek atmosphere. I sure hope that’s not is because I have yet to find someone Greek hanging out there.

Maybe these neighborhoods are too expensive for Greeks who are broke right now, you may think, but no, Greeks do not appear to be broke. In fact, everything is super expensive and every cafĂ© is hosting large crowds, no matter what time of the day. Not having money looks different to me. Good for them! In conversation with Greeks they tell me they reject austerity because it destroys their quality of life which I guess is true considering they’re all spending money like there was nothing else to do. And one person even said he does not understand why he should be paying for the government’s mistakes. Instead, he prefers the Eurozone to pay for it. While the politics of austerity are definitely not a fair business, I may have said it differently. 

I do admit that our sampling size of Greeks is too small to make accurate scientific conclusions. We would have loved to meet some Greeks, but all of our pick-ups were not Greek. In the street, people seem more interested in make up or clothes than each other. Even the smallest places looked more like a runway show to me. Worst of all, however, was probably the fact that coffee was so expensive and gross I was having tears in my eyes when I spotted the relieving sight of the Starbucks sign. Two weeks in this country could have just been an unlucky representation but we agreed that Greece was definitely not worth the visit, and I'm pretty sure that I'd rather give every other place a second chance than Greece. Others may disagree, but my list has a new lowlight!

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