Friday, 4 March 2016

More Besmirching

Y'know, many of us who live out here, plus many who resolutely (to their credit) continue to visit this country, are getting heartily furious and fed up with the way the UK (and no doubt other countries') media seem to be continuing with their campaign to make it seem as though a holidaymaker would be quite deranged to want to come here.

I, along with all sane and decent people, am distressed beyond words by the plight of so many of those refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Whether all of the refugees are genuine or whether some are following some secret agenda to convert the west to Islam is neither here nor there really. The fact is that one can see young children and babies living in makeshift shelters at international borders because of a distinct dragging of the feet by rich politicians when it comes to sorting our how to help such poor unfortunates.

But, here in Greece, where there has of course been a huge problem with the sheer numbers of people washing up on the shore of the islands, there remains a rich wonderland, a paradise for holidaymakers to enjoy, notwithstanding all of the foregoing.

What prompted me to write this post is the fact that already I'm hearing the same old unreasoning fears from folk who are sensible enough to ignore the hype and book their visit to Greece for this coming summer season. They're telling me (and we've heard all of this for six or seven years now, even before the refugee crisis began and it was owing to the financial crisis) that their friends and family are saying when they tell them that they're coming to Greece, "What are you going there for?" Shock horror!

The reason, of course for such comments is that they are willing to swallow the distorted picture being presented once again by the media: that if you come to a Greek island you won't be able to move for people sleeping rough, causing problems in the streets, begging, doing their 'business' by the side of the road, perhaps you'll be swamped under the weight of discarded life jackets along the coastline. Whatever, most of it is grossly overstated and far from accurate.

There are even people who were holidaying on Lesbos (for example) last year who lent a hand in helping the local Greeks to care for the bedraggled folk being washed up on the shoreline and even went home feeling fulfilled that they'd done something for their fellow suffering humans. OK, one could argue that when you're on holiday you don't want to be confronted with the suffering of others, at least not while you recharge your batteries before getting back to reality. Yet that hasn't stopped millions from taking their holidays in countries in Africa or Asia where such things have always been a feature and yet the tourists still go there.

I was moved almost to tears by this letter from a very erudite Greek from Lesbos. Those words eloquently demonstrate why it's even more important for tourists to support the Greek islanders this season. For the fickle tourist to abandon Greece in its hour of need is adding insult to injury and will cause yet more suffering and hardship, this time not only to the refugees, but to those who so valiantly helped them (and continue to do so) during all of last season and into the new year.

Anyone who knows Greece well is of course aware of the irritating and frustrating bureaucracy one has to deal with here. Lots of British who live here have paid out untold extra cash for unexpected paperwork in order to legalise their properties for example. The goalposts seem to be always moving this way and that. All of this aside, the day-to-day experience of meeting and interacting with local, humble residents is always an enriching experience in Greece. Τhe culture of giving your last morsel of food, of opening your home to complete strangers, runs very deep in this society. It's what brings true Grecophiles back here again and again.

This year, more than ever, Greece needs tourists to come, especially to the eastern Aegean islands. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that those who do come, in the face of their friends and family raising their eyebrows in amazement at their apparent recklessness, will be the ones who come off the winners.

Come here, have a good holiday, then go home and tell your friends how they've missed out. Hopefully, you're one of those who doesn't let propaganda make you swallow half-truths and distorted pictures.

Kalo Taxidi, kai kales diakopes.


  1. John, as someone who lives in Greece permanently, I couldn't agree more. I've not seen a refugee despite visiting other Islands that I know have had them... I tell people 98% of Greece and its Islands have had no refugees/migrants/asylum seekers etc. But the UK media has got its knife well and truly into Greece.

  2. Indeed a heartbreaking letter and one that left me wracking my brains wondering what I could possibly do to promote Lesbos as a holiday destination. 'Anonymous' above, I find it sad that you have to tell people that most places have seen no refugees/migrants. To me, it shouldn't matter a bit if one encounters them whilst on holiday. But then so many cannot function outside their own particular comfort zone.

    1. To be fair to "Anon" though Vicki, he/she was probably thinking what yer average tourist would or would not like to encounter, and the fact is, the vast majority of holidays would go without a hitch.

  3. Couldn't agree more John. As you say, disregarding the wrongs and rights of the whole migrant situato
    in, to think that Greece is not STILL the ideal place to come for a holiday is horse feathers! 6 weeks and one day until we fly and then 7 weeks of giggles, food, drink, gossip, sun, putting on weight, walking, dragging up the Greek words I know from the ever decreasing grey matter--all within 4 hours of our house!

    PS. I'm the "anonymous" who asked you about a collecting tin for the medical centre and to whom we could give a donation. Dil Nottingham

  4. I have been coming to Rhodes for 20 years and have booked privately twice again this year. I have been to other greek Islands too and would never abandon greece, I love it more each time I go and have made friends with Greeks and English that live there that will last a lifetime not to mention the holiday makers that I see year in year out. Greece will always be in my heart. Roll on June :-)

  5. Well said John, I will be visiting as often a I possibly can. Thank you for putting it so clearly.

  6. We have been coming to Greece for over 30 years, the last 10 years being mainly Rhodes, booking direct with accommodation providers. We, and people like us, will not be put off by the refugee problem as we were not put off by Greece's financial problems. The problem is, we are the minority, the great majority are travelling on package deals, many staying all inclusive. These are he visitors who are being discouraged by the scare stories. It would be better if the tour companies campaigned to encourage them, rather than cut down on flights as they are rumoured to be doing. Greece deserves our support and we'll be there in July, as will all the regulars in our particular favourite resort.