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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Beijing, China
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    To all the Greeks on the ground! (or anyone who has been to Greece lately)

    Hey all!

    I am thinking of taking a holiday to Greece this summer with my wife, and we are starting to make preparations.

    I guess I am wondering what a first timer to Greece may expect? I hear tons of great stories from Greece, but I want to get a little more in depth information.

    What kind of dishes are really common and make for a nice meal there?

    What might daily expenditures be if someone is reasonably frugal?

    Greece is in the news a lot lately about rioting and protests and whatnot, but I also hear that it's quite safe to be out on the streets.

    I am also curious whether or not the average Greek on the street is able to speak any English? I hear a lot of mixed things about this. I am currently learning the Greek alphabet to make getting around a bit easier, but I know that's not nearly enough to get by in talking to people.

    I am planning to go to Athens for the bulk of my stay, but also plan to visit Crete to trace my family origins a little bit (since my grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Crete about a century ago). I know that Crete has it's own regional dialect of Greek, but I was wondering if anyone of our great members from around the Mediterranean could provide a little bit of local knowledge about Crete.

    I am doing a lot of reading on the subject, so don't think I'm just being lazy and don't want to find my own information, I just hope to get more in depth knowledge about Greece from some fellow CA members.

    Thanks and kind regards,

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Now I am a Greek City Teenager, but seeing as nobody is posting here, I think I can qualify speaking about this.

    First of all, If you still haven't decided, choose an Island as one of your destinations. Those have top notch hotels and tour guides for all of your needs. They speak english and they have knowledge of the whole place.

    If you decide to stay in Athens there are a bunch of things you should know, based on my own expiriance ( I live in Thessaloniki but I have been to Athens ). I recomend asking younger people about the language. The average teen and youngster knows, at the very least, adequate English and are quite helpful, since they teach English at schools. Also, if you have any people that may be related to you or have ties with, personal or not, you should try contacting them. It doesn't go without saying that having a person that knows Greek and English will greatly help your search for your families ties. If you can learn it on your own, thats great, but Greek is one of the harder languages to learn.

    On the subject of riots, I don't really have a lot to say. Yes, there are riots a lot lately ( my personal opinion is that Greece will collapse as a country since it has collapsed as a civilazation) but most of them happen at the Athens Parliament which is at the center of the city. Thats where the riots are center stage, from what I have seen.

    Finally what to expect. Athens is...imagine it as a shittier version of a major industrial city. There are some places you should visit, like the Acropolis musuem (it closes at 8 by the way) and the Acropolis (Get a tour guide or go at early in the morning) and other locations reserved for the pretty tour guide pictures. Behind that, theres a lot of air pollution, seeing as this is a city that houses half of the country's population. There are also a lot of refugges and homeless people around street lights and corners. Generally very depressing stuff. Don't get cought up in any of the riots too. The cops aren't forgiving here, and if you the words "MAT" and "nearby" in the same sentence near a riot, get the hell out of there.

    Crete on the other hand is like paradise compared to Athens. The Cretean Diet especcially is one of the highlights of the Greek and Mediterenean Cousine. Get a tour guide or something and drive around the island, you will love it. It isn't overcrowded but most people outside of the major Cretean Cities don't speak English. Have a tour guide or someone that can speak the language well on your stay, rent a Car and enjoy the place with your wife.

    Beyond that I cannot help you. As I said, I live in Greece, which is in Northen Greece, so my knowledge doesn't spead that much. It it also my personal opinion that the country will collapse sooner or later, but don't let that fact get in the way. Enjoy what is left of the country and good luck.

    PSon't buy food from the hotels. We have small stores called Kiosks (Περίπτερα) on pretty much every street that sell food and drinks at very low prices. If you want water or a drink, get it from there. Water's only like 0.50 Lepta from what I have seen. This goes for major tourist attractions too. Don't buy anything from there because generally they are overpriced and you can get them cheaply on those Kiosks I told you about. Free tip, ask for the price of water. If its higher then 0.50 Lepta to 0.70 Lepta its overpriced and so will be the rest of the stuff.
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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Beijing, China
    Thanked 599 Times in 234 Posts
    Thanks a lot for the advice and information, it was insightful and helps in deciding what I want to do.
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  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Even if they don't speak English try to mime or even draw what you want - you can have a laugh with them. Always eat where the locals eat - the food will be cheaper and better. This isn't just for Greece, but pretty well anywhere. You should have seen my mother trying to buy a mincing machine in Yemen and knew she was being wound up in the nicest way or clothes pegs in Iran. Shop keepers like a challenge and appreciate a sense of humour.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    New York City
    Thanked 75 Times in 19 Posts
    Both parents are from Greece but I've only been there a few times (as an
    adult). I think the last time was 6 years ago, so this was well before the
    economic problems, rioting etc.

    I agree with Dollmaker, language won't be a prob. I also agree that Athens
    should NOT be the focus of your trip. In fact, it's almost a crime to fly all
    the way out there and not see the islands... some of the most awesome
    natural beauty on earth. So yeah, maybe pop into Athens for a couple days,
    visit the Acropolis, etc, but don't linger there.

    Small note about Athens: last time I visited, the locals warned me about
    pickpocketing, and lo and behold, it happened to me. Also, it was my
    experience that cabdrivers will often take the longer route and run up the
    meter. I don't wanna make you paranoid, just a bit of fair warning.

    Anyway, a trip to Greece is really about the islands. If you can visit Santorini,
    (and of course catch the legendary sunset there) it really is amazing. A
    total tourist trap of course, but definitely worth seeing at least once in your

    Crete, the big island, is where my dad is from. Yes, the culture is unique,
    though I wouldn't say they have their own full blown dialect. In some ways,
    Crete is to Greece like Texas is to the US - a unique culture with it's own
    accent and customs, but in fact, a very very American phenomenon (almost
    even an amplification of American culture), super patriotic, and could only
    exist in this country. Crete is just a bit like that, if that made any sense.

    Also agreed that Crete is paradise compared to Athens. I spent most of my
    time in Hania, which was great, and I also enjoyed Agios Nikolaos, and some
    other places. The food is good if you find the right places, fresh caught
    seafood especially.

    Knowing how to get around is important. The first thing is the boat network,
    which takes you from island to island, almost like booking a bus or train
    ticket. Once you get to an island, you need land transport and that's the
    second important thing: motor scooters. Generally speaking, you rent one on
    the first day, and return it on the last day of your stay on that particular
    island. (this may not apply so much in Crete, which is a much larger of

    And finally, the beaches.... summer in Greece revolves around beach life. I
    personally am not a beach person, but you can't help appreciating how
    beautiful they are there. Try to ask the locals where the good ones are.

    I think that covers it. Have a great trip!

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Beijing, China
    Thanked 599 Times in 234 Posts
    Thanks for the replies so far, a lot of good information.

    Islands were definitely in the plan, especially Crete as I said, at the very least for finding out where my family is from.

    I have to mull over all the stuff from Greg, very insightful.

    Thanks again!
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  8. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Thanked 71 Times in 38 Posts
    I was incredibly lucky to get to go to Greece through my school in the eleventh grade. Being a school trip we were guided around the entire trip, so my advice won't be very helpful.

    One thing I do want to recommend is that you make a trip out to Delphi. It was by far my favorite part of the trip. The mountain scenery was spectacular (this coming from someone who grew up in Vancouver) and the center of the Ancient Greek world is not something you should miss. It has enough ruins to fill your needs for the whole trip.
    If you do end up going to Santorini, make sure you take the donkey ride up. I was giggling like a school girl the entire way.

    The only really odd thing about Athens that I remember is the amount of stray dogs. There are a lot of them and they're all super friendly. Might not be the best idea to touch them, but know that they aren't going to attack you. Also, if you aren't afraid of a little bit of sketch, look around at the smaller restaurants for cheap food. I remember getting a good size soulvaki and gelato for half of the price of what the other people on the trip got at a sit down restaurant. (And damn, was it ever good!)

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