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Return to Greece after 40 years

Return to Greece after 40 years

Old Sep 18, 17, 11:50 am
  #1  
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Return to Greece after 40 years

Hi all.
In 1972, after graduating University, I decided to backpack overland to India and Nepal. My idea was to be away a year. In the event, I was overseas for 7 years. On my way, I fell for Greece in a big way. I ended up renting a small house on the Tepe in Kokkari on the island of Samos. No running water or electricity (filled amphora at the tap in the little square, used oil lamps).Overall, I stayed for a year (1973/74) in Greece. In that time, maybe a dozen travelers passed through Kokkari. On my return from Asia, I lived on Crete for another year (1977/78) in Ano Stalos, a village outside of Chania. In both these villages, I was the sole foreigner. In the year I lived there, not a single foreign traveler visited Ano Stalos, unless I invited them.
This upcoming May, I'm finally returning to Greece for the first time since 1978.
My plan is to be there a month with a week each in Western Crete and Samos.
I'm well aware that Greece has enormously developed over the last 40 years. I know that Kokkari, a sleepy fishing and farming village in 1974, is a pretty major tourist center now. And even Ano Stalos, which, unlike photogenic Kokkari, was really a back-of-nowhere kind of place (nice view of Agioi Theodoroi though) now has half a dozen hotels. And the Samarian Gorge I hiked on a summer day without seeing another soul (I skinny dipped in the stream) is now a Would Heritage site, well-visited and can even be over-crowded. This I've gleaned from web research. So I'm not expecting the kind of untouched local life that I found in the 70s. At least not in the places on my itinerary.
For this trip I've chosen the beaten path, because I'm traveling with the missus, who has never been to Greece. I originally tried to incorporate Karpathos and Alonnisos, to get more off the tourist grids, but transport became too laborious. However, I'm a flexible traveler and could change plans midstream with ease. As it is, I'll be visiting in order (Athens), Naxos, Santorini, Crete (Rethymnon and Chania), Rhodes, Kalymnos, and Samos (Pythagorion and Kokkari).
What I'm wondering is what these places are like in May. Relatively crowded or relatively empty? Most things open or closed? Most of all, to anyone who knows what Greece was like in the 1970's, how will 21st century Greece compare? One of the things that struck me most about Greece was how happy and outgoing the people were compared to villagers in Spain or southern Italy. I characterized this as the difference between being poor and living in abject poverty. I wonder how modernization has affected happiness on the Greek islands.
Any thoughts or insights you might wish to share about this would be welcome for sure.
Thanks.
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Old Sep 19, 17, 6:19 am
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Originally Posted by rickg523 View Post
...{snip}...
What I'm wondering is what these places are like in May. Relatively crowded or relatively empty? Most things open or closed? Most of all, to anyone who knows what Greece was like in the 1970's, how will 21st century Greece compare? One of the things that struck me most about Greece was how happy and outgoing the people were compared to villagers in Spain or southern Italy. I characterized this as the difference between being poor and living in abject poverty. I wonder how modernization has affected happiness on the Greek islands.
1) Santorini will be relatively crowded, the rest will be relatively empty,
2) Most "things" open in all places.
3) In a sense disappointing, but there will be lots and lots of improvements. I'll list only one here: most toilets will be clean, functioning and they'll have really soft paper in contrast to what you certainly remember. Still, lots of cars everywhere, tourism has made everything less personal, but be glad that in May people have not yet had enough of the tourist season.
4) I agree 100% with your explanations!

In spite of the above, you'll love it. Think of Greece as Claudia Cardinale. Think of her in 1978 and today. Still a very good-looking woman, but not in the same sense as 40 years ago...

PS I forgot: Greece has the highest per capita consumption of scotch, really!
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Old Sep 19, 17, 1:43 pm
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Originally Posted by KLouis View Post
1) Santorini will be relatively crowded, the rest will be relatively empty,
2) Most "things" open in all places.
3) In a sense disappointing, but there will be lots and lots of improvements. I'll list only one here: most toilets will be clean, functioning and they'll have really soft paper in contrast to what you certainly remember. Still, lots of cars everywhere, tourism has made everything less personal, but be glad that in May people have not yet had enough of the tourist season.
4) I agree 100% with your explanations!

In spite of the above, you'll love it. Think of Greece as Claudia Cardinale. Think of her in 1978 and today. Still a very good-looking woman, but not in the same sense as 40 years ago...

PS I forgot: Greece has the highest per capita consumption of scotch, really!
Thanks!
Yes, I expected Santorini to be crowded. I've just been seeing articles about the little island being overcrowded. Like recent reports from Venice and Barcelona. As an aside, I was in Venice last June and it was really obvious when the mega cruise ships came in. But as always, before 10 am and after around 6 pm, the city reverted to a more normal, though popular, place. And of course, things were actually wonderful just a few hundred meters away from San Marco/Rialto. (If this wasn't my wife's first trip to Greece, we would have skipped Santorini, regardless of it's natural beauty. No less choosing to stay right on the caldera in Fira). I am glad to hear that I guessed correctly about May in general being less crowded, while many things will still be open.
And of course, I've been back to many of the places on Europe that I visited in the 70's, so I expect changes. On that first trip, I rushed through France to get to affordable Italy. As anyone who's been to both recently knows, just the opposite is the case now.
It's my opinion actually that the Euro has been responsible for more fundamental societal change than anything else, and much to Greece's disadvantage. I never believed that the Greek worker in the Greek economy could compete for goods and services with the German worker in the German economy. How could they afford to?And yet, a box of breakfast cereal or bag of pasta will be priced based on the overall European economy. It's just a lot harder to come up with 6 euros in Greece than in Germany.
And because the economic dislocation has been so severe in Greece, I asked that question about happiness.
OTOH, during the 70's, some of the time I spent in Greece was while the nation was under the Colonel's Junta. I saw pitched battles in Syntagma between police and students/ workers. Athens was not a happy place. But the islands were almost unaffected. I say "almost" because, even in Kokkari, I was warned about "collaborators" in the village and to be careful not to say anything political around them, or risk expulsion or worse. The attitude of the Greeks toward the dictators is a major reason I considered them admirably different than Spaniards, who, after generations of the fascist bootheel, were pretty downtrodden.
I look forward to improvements to plumbing and electrical in Greece. I expect because they are recent, they'll be among the best in Europe. (In 1974, Britain had indoor plumbing and France was still using squatters. In 1992, France had upgraded and suddenly Britain seemed antiquated by comparison ).
Thanks again for the reply. I am absolutely thrilled to be going back to Greece and expect to fall in love with the place all over again. (Back in the day, I sold my return ticket to the US to a stranger at the American Express for cash. Can't do that anymore, but I did make sure my ticket is changeable )
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Old Sep 22, 17, 8:34 pm
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Is there anywhere in Europe that hasn't changed significantly in the last 40 years? I lived in Ireland for a couple of years in the 70's and recently returned for the first time and in many ways hardly recognized the place I remember. It was a pretty poor country when I was there, but it has since become one of the most affluent nations in Europe. So in many ways the changes have been for the better, but in other ways... The visit left me sort of disappointed. I guess we're all nostalgic for "the good old days" and I was sad to find some truth in the old saying "you can't go home again."
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Old Sep 22, 17, 9:10 pm
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I have a similar story. My family lived in eastern Crete ( Aghios Nikolaos) in 1970 when I was a child for a year and I returned 30 years later. In 1970 this " village" only had tourists in July and August..otherwise we had the place to ourselves the rest of the 10 months.

When I returned with a friend ( who would eventually become my husband) the childhood memories of the place and the excitement of the return over shadowed the HUGE changesin A.N. (Cruise ships, fur shops, stores that let minnows nibble on your toes ) But I loved it...subsequently we returned two more times over the last decade and finally the dramatic changes erased the romance of the place and I swore last time we would not come back.

There is one place in Crete where time has not changed since our first visit in 1970....that is the small village of Kato Zakros. ( far eastern coast). Yes...tourist buses come during the mid day...but they stay for an hour and then the place is yours......I could easily go back there again and again.

Enjoy your journey.......I envy you for the excitement of the return.

Last edited by david55; Sep 22, 17 at 10:43 pm
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Old Sep 22, 17, 11:26 pm
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Originally Posted by IDM79 View Post
Is there anywhere in Europe that hasn't changed significantly in the last 40 years?
...snip
I'm amazed every time I'm in Central Rome at how unchanging it seems. Physical changes over the past half century, sure. But, to me at least, that city still feels almost exactly the same to me as the first time I came.
Eternal City, indeed.
I'm actually feeling optimistic about Greece in this regard. I've been in email conversations with a number of independent innkeepers and I'm sensing the same easy welcoming friendliness I remember so fondly. The Greek islands are beautiful, but it was the people that kept me there.
And as david55 has pointed out, memory can apply an overlay onto reality, allowing you to sort of filter out the changes, or at least the objectionable ones.
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Old Sep 23, 17, 3:34 am
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If you want to come close to what you remember from40 years ago, you should chhose islands that are still light years away from the standard tourist trek. For example Paxoi and Ithaca in the Ionian, Samothraki in the North, Sikinos and the likes in the Cyclades, etc. Also, do that when the hordes of visitors are away (September, October and May). On big islands (Crete and Evoia) and the continent choose, again, remote places as suggested by david55. Obviously, there are still touristy places that one can visit even during high season and have a nice vacation, but one never really knows how bad it will be. Unless, of course, one goes to Mykonos, Faliraki, Laganas, Malia, etc where disappointment is guaranteed...
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Old Sep 25, 17, 7:46 pm
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Originally Posted by KLouis View Post
If you want to come close to what you remember from40 years ago, you should chhose islands that are still light years away from the standard tourist trek. For example Paxoi and Ithaca in the Ionian, Samothraki in the North, Sikinos and the likes in the Cyclades, etc. Also, do that when the hordes of visitors are away (September, October and May). On big islands (Crete and Evoia) and the continent choose, again, remote places as suggested by david55. Obviously, there are still touristy places that one can visit even during high season and have a nice vacation, but one never really knows how bad it will be. Unless, of course, one goes to Mykonos, Faliraki, Laganas, Malia, etc where disappointment is guaranteed...
The party islands are not being considered. We're meeting friends on Santorini, or I'd spend those three days elsewhere.
We'll have a week in western Crete, and will spend at least 3 days in the mountains, where I know some very remote places.
Also, we'll be a week on Samos, obviously a much smaller island but I found hidden gems there.
It'll be interesting to see if these places have been "found" and are now being regularly visited.
If the more remote areas of Greece strike us the way they did me last time, we will be returning to one of the less visited islands for an extended stay.
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