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The bright side of Greece: lower prices, fewer tourists

All the things you're looking for in a trip to Greece — mouthwatering food, deep-blue water, striking scenery and the thrill of connecting with ancient history — are all here waiting for you; at a cheaper price.
BY RICK STEVES Modified: March 15, 2013 at 12:02 am •  Published: March 17, 2013
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Political protests are indeed a common occurrence, and not just in Athens. Demonstrating is woven into European democracies. And, while protesting is generally just too much trouble for most Americans, Europeans are quick to hit the streets when they want to raise their collective voice. I think it's healthy.

It's my hunch that for many years to come, Europe will be sorting this out, and travelers will encounter parades and rallies in front of parliament buildings — and anarchists wanting to hijack these events to get on the news.

As the TV news media loves vivid footage, this is easy to do. But most rallies involve zero violence. When violence has broken out in Athens, it's been between police and protesters, not bystanders, and certainly not tourists out for a stroll.

It's pretty easy to steer clear of any unrest. Protest rallies are generally scheduled in advance: Your hotelier can tell you if anything's likely to be afoot in a main city square during your visit. Strikes are another nuisance, but generally not prolonged — just a day or two here and there. (Strikes have long been a way of life in Greece; most Greeks see a general strike as an excuse for an impromptu holiday).

What's the biggest impact of the crisis on visitors? It's the satisfaction you'll get from contributing to the economy of a nation dealing with tough times — and the joy that comes from a tourist industry that really appreciates your presence. Sharing a beer or a coffee with a talkative native can provide you with a lesson in contemporary Greece that's every bit as fascinating as the Classical stuff.

Greece has, it seems, more than its share of troubles right now. Still, Greeks are optimistic by nature. Most believe that they'll get through these tough economic times. They're quick to point out that, regardless of the economy, the olives remain just as tasty, the water just as blue and the sun — like the Greek people — just as warm.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at rick@ricksteves.com and follow his blog on Facebook.