Tourism overseas is at an all time low. With the economic decline felt all over the world and the fear of terrorism threatening our travels, no one is venturing outside of the States. This is a big mistake. Never have I experienced such hospitality and gratitude in a foreign tourist city as I have this year in Athens.
I have recently traveled to Greece where this summer the Olympics are going to return to their birthplace. There is much anticipation for the long awaited games, but for now it is the calm before the storm. Normally this time of year there are queues lined up for miles to all the ancient attractions. This year it is different.
My two traveling companions and myself climbed to the top of the ancient Acropolis where the Parthenon and many other ruins still remain after two thousand years. In the past this is where the line would start its mile long procession, but not this sunny afternoon. We had failed to heed our guidebooks’ warnings and arrived midday on a Monday. This is right when the crowds would be at their peak, but we found no line at all. We paid our 6 euros (student price) and walked right through the gate. There were
approximately 40 other tourists scouring the ruins along with us. This time pictures did not have to wait until a 50-plus-person tour group moved onto
the next temple. With less Americans traveling to these ruins, you have the opportunity to meet the locals and dive into their culture.
In Greece the locals are more than nice. They are helpful, patient, curious and generous. While in Athens, we had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of many of the locals. Stavros, a young Greek man, found us struggling with a map and offered to take us to our destination. This one offer of kindness turned into two days of exploring restaurants and bars only the locals frequent. On most trips I’ve been on we naturally gravitate towards Canadians or Americans because that is who we are familiar and comfortable with. We encountered very few of our countrymen during this trip. Instead we were able to meet more of the locals. When anyone asks me what my favorite part of my trip was I always say the people.
The Euro has gone up, making it slightly more expensive for Americans to travel to Europe, but with the price of food and accommodations so low, it more than makes up for the rising Euro. A hotel on the island of Naxos, in the Aegean Sea, advertised a three-person room on the Agios Georgios Beach with amenities boasting a veranda, TV, hairdryer, plenty of room and an adorable ensemble of ocean blue furniture. All of this was 45 euros or 15 euros apiece. For only three extra euros you could have a breakfast that consisted of a hard boiled egg, four pieces of sesame bread, butter, jam, English tea, orange juice, teacake and a biscuit, all brought up to your terrace. Talk about hospitality. They even threw in a few little perks like transportation to and from the port and free Internet use. For three young, female backpackers free rides and Internet are like free nose jobs to aspiring actresses.
Since there aren’t as many tourists traveling this year the locals gave us a lot of attention. Everyone wants you to come and eat at their restaurant, sleep at their hotel or dance in their bar. You may have heard of free wine tasting to promote a winery, but have you ever heard of free wine with your dinner? Some waiters are grateful that you stepped in to sample their cuisine. Others are desperate to get you into their restaurant. Both offer free wine. In Greece you have to pay for the water that you order, but the wine is complimentary. You can save yourself about 18 euros a meal by accepting this offer of free wine. Sometimes it even comes with dessert.
These incentives should persuade you to take that well-deserved vacation in Europe. Statistics say that only one in 8 million will die in an airline accident, and only one in 9 million will die in a terrorist attack. The locals are not interested in harassing or harming you. In fact they did not even talk about the war with us. Do not let rumors and exaggerated stories scare you away from your dream vacation in Europe. If you are still hesitant to buy those plane tickets to Europe (Greece), don’t be. This is the best year to travel.