Sunday, 20 March 2016

Sorting the Fact from the Fiction

Sadly, it seems that a lot of the time nowadays those of us who actually live here are having to try and counter the steady stream of misinformation that goes out through the media in other countries about the situation here in Greece regarding refugees from Syria and other countries. Not too long ago it was "You don't want to go to Greece for a holiday because there's no cash in the ATMs, no food in the hotels and people are starving. Oh, and the crime! You'd be robbed no sooner had you got through passport control." Everyone who was sensible enough to ignore all that rubbish and actually come here for their summer holiday found all of that to be utter tripe. It didn't stop their friends asking them when they returned home though, "What did you want to go there for? How did you survive?"

I'd never want to patronise or chide the budding reader, but sometimes a few tactful words in the right place can help immensely. I'll tell you what I mean by hopefully exploding a myth or two about what's going on over here:

1. A Geography Lesson
You really don't have to be a qualified rocket scientist to check out a map. I was recently in communication with an ex-pat living on the island of Poros, which, in case you weren't aware, is an island in the Saronic Gulf...

The Saronic Gulf, see it? It's actually just above the caption on the map.

My correspondent on Poros told me that they'd already been told of the fears someone had of taking a holiday there this year owing to the refugee crisis. Ahem, take a look at the map folks - Poros is about as far from the Turkish coast as you can get without nipping through the Corinth Canal and out into the Ionian Sea, west of the Greek mainland. You'd be more likely to see a refugee on Wimbledon Common than you would on Poros.

I know, I'm going to sound sooo smug here, but it does disturb me sometimes how little research people do when thinking about going somewhere, by checking exactly where that somewhere is on the map. 

Let's get a few basics agreed here. The islands that have born the brunt of the refugee "invasion" have primarily been those tucked up close to the Turkish coast yet as close to Pireaus as someone fleeing a war could hope to be, owing to the fact that they really don't want to stay on a Greek island, but rather move on to Athens and then to Northern Europe. The islands in question are Lesbos, Chios, Kos and a few others.

If you believe the hype on the UK media you'd be forgiven for thinking that to go to Lesbos (for example) you'd be looking forward to spending a week or two among a throng of tent-dwelling ne-er do wells and wading into the sea for your swim through a mountain of discarded life jackets. the willingness that some people display to accept this picture is truly dumbfounding.

Lesbos has probably born the brunt of the "invasion", true, but that hasn't changed the island anything like as much as the media would have you believe. For starters, there are resorts in parts of Lesbos where you can go for a holiday and not see a single refugee. 

Lesbos is the beautiful island it always was and, owing to the media tripe, this year it faces an economic meltdown as tourists stay away in such numbers as to threaten the livelyhood of thousands of islanders whose only "sin" is that they've tried to render  humanitarian aid to thousands of frightened and bedraggled people fleeing a vicious war that's destroyed the infrastructure in their home country. For this reason alone, were I still living in the UK I'm dead certain that I'd probably be booking for Lesbos in 2016. 

I hope you'll check this Facebook page out. Maybe take a look at these too..

Photo courtesy

If you are sensible enough to be considering a holiday on a Greek Island this year, then I strongly suggest you take a good look at a map, then you'll see that not only are the vast majority of islands still offering the same experience that you'd always have had, but even those in the news have plenty of "resorts" which are not overrun by the homeless itinerants in the manner that the media would have you believe.

2. The Situation on the Ground
Of course, it would be daft to suggest that anyone visiting the islands in question would not expect to see some evidence of what's been going on this past 18 months or so. That, however, is a far cry from having one's holiday ruined. Right now though, following the sluggish politicians of wealthier countries elsewhere in Europe finally having made some kind of agreement with Turkey, there are navy vessels patrolling the waters between the Greek islands and the Turkish coast, intercepting boats carrying migrants and either taking them on board if their vessel is in a dangerous condition, or turning them back to Turkey.

Here on Rhodes anyone arriving for a holiday is very unlikely to see anything that would indicate that the largest mass movement of refugees on the planet since World War 2 is going on. Right now, you can stroll Mandraki Harbour and may even walk past one or two of the relatively few refugees that have come ashore here and you wouldn't even know who or what they were. 

3. Where do They Get Off?
I'm not alone in wondering if there is some kind of agenda to smear Greece as a holiday destination being adopted by the media in north and west Europe. The picture painted, when the news was all about Greece's economic problems and her potential "Grexit" from the European Union, was woefully distorted and had many tourists who believed it staying away for the reasons I mentioned in paragraph 1 above. All through the six or seven years of the media hype ripping into Greece there were folk taking their holidays here as per usual and going home having had a wonderful time.

If you'll take it from someone who lives here, you'll not let all the overblown hype that's gone out on the TV and in the newspapers put you off from coming to the land that still offers you a most unique holiday experience.


  1. shared to my facebook page Maria Apartments Pefkos.....

    1. Check 'em out folks:

  2. John--you are so right!! We have been coming to GReece since 1980, since 1982 to the Dodecanese. The scare stories are unbelievably bad--indeed, almost libellous. We holiday on Tilos, and over the past 5/6 years, they've probably had 5000 illegals, but they do NOT intrude on the village, and are shipped out via the big ferry as soon as possible. When all the scare stories about the ATMS being closed--yes, ours was--that's because we are on a remore islad, the bank was moving to another building and the bloke wuld fit the new one when the move was completed. In the meantime, you just walked into the bank and got monay as normal, but from nice Nana behind the counter! NO one wanted to believe this though--some folks THRIVE on doom and gloom!

  3. These days too many people are "sheep" and only believe the media - most of which should come with a health warning!! Yes, agree, I think that certain EU countries and another large non-EU country are heartily enjoying the problems in Greece...

  4. How right you are! I agree totally with your comments,firstly about the financial crisis, we live in Parga and constantly told friends that what they read and heard in the media was garbage,as visitors discovered. I also have a friend who has visited Lesbos and reported exactly as you have said.

  5. Spread this well balanced article as far and wide as possible.

  6. Totally agree.It makes my blood boil to see the rubbish that's printed in the newspapers and spouted in the media about Greece. Do these people not know,or care, that they are affecting the livelihoods of thousands? I know the struggle many of my Greek friends have had over the last few years,with falling tourist numbers but they have kept going with their usual humour and supported each other throughout. GO TO GREECE, you won't be disappointed.

    1. How well you put it Flyn... people's livelyhoods seem to be of little concern to the scumbags in the media who continue to push this false impression of Greece. Incidentally, Greece it still one of the safest places in the world to take a vacation.

  7. Might miss you in the autumn John as you've practically convinced me to go to Lesbos instead of Rhodes! The only solution will be to do both.
    PS Apparently, according to the gutter press, we are due to have 10 simultaneous attacks on London by ISIS (Daesh).

    1. Aaargh. What am I gonna do for sugar-free polo mints?

    2. I can bring you some later in year lol and some oats

  8. So glad I came across your blog! I'm re-patriated and mainly geared on foodblogging. I have a lot of friends from abroad who love Greece and visit no matter what. They are shocked by the huge difference on the news and actual reality. It's great to see an article that's so much more than the casual tourist spots.

  9. How very well said John. Found your link through Symi Dream. The Greek islanders are amazing and should be given awards for their care and empathy with the refugees - also the expats and many visitors who have also volunteered to help. It's typical scaremongering by the press and god knows who else. Greece and her islands have been and will always be one of the best places to visit and I for one will NEVER stop. Coming back to Symi in September, first visited in 1990, love it more than any other island but they're all special.