"You can observe a lot by just watching."
My trip to the Hellenic Republic was like no other. I arrived with a minimum amount of preparation and very few expectations. It was sort of like traveling in a jam session. I wasn't sure how or where this overseas session would end.
I'm happy to report, it all worked out.
During my time on the island of Naxos, the Big Mac-sized island of Crete and the capital city of Athens, I took mental notes and often Googled to learn more about the people of Greece.
Here's some facts and personal observations:
There's 10.9 million Greeks. In 2015, those nice Greeks entertained an amazing 26.5 million visitors. (I began to refer to Greece as the Mexico of the Mediterranean). Tourism contributes 18% to this economically hurting nation's Gross Domestic Product. Yet, unemployment is the highest in the Eurozone at 23%.
Greeks also score the highest in smoking rates in Europe and the rest of the world. Over 40% inhale cancer sticks. Ashtrays are as prevalent as Sagebrush in the Western US. The Greeks flick ash at the concept of non-smoking areas.
For a people who introduced the World to two major athletic events (the Marathon and the Olympics), they now abhor exercise. I rarely met locals on my many trail meanderings. My Greek Guide Anastasia summed it up this way, "Greeks will only walk if there's a coffee house as the destination." They pace themselves well.
Greeks don't move too fast, except when they get behind the wheel of their tiny sedans. Then these laid back, Raki drinking, olive eating people become the reincarnation of Dale (the Intimidator) Earnhardt. Competitive tailgating seems to be a major sport. Yes, the Greeks lead the Eurozone in accident rates too. In 2015, 1600 citizens lost their lives playing the ultimate game of "Chicken."
But Hey! Nobody's Perfect! I found the Greeks to be friendly, generous and helpful, even though their language was Greek to me! Many speak a passable form of English. They have to. The Greek language and alphabet probably isn't taught in many other countries.
Would I go back to this country of blue skies, white-washed painted villages, warm temperatures and sandy beaches? Heck yes! Although it would be better to arrive as a couple instead of a solo traveler. Towards the end of my trip, I got tired of eating my Greek Salads alone. Greece is a couples destination similar to Hawaii. Singles are as rare as a jogging Greek.
I just wish the locals could do something about all those elderly, overweight, naked German invaders. It's very unsightly.
I'm back in Colorado, (land of good beer, coffee and great friends and family members)
In case you missed my other Greek posts: