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Letter from Athens: Welcome to Greece: Overcrowded, Overpriced, Overhyped Chaos

Don’t know about you, but to me a vacation is going where people aren’t, not where they are, but most of those coming to Greece seem to take their advice from influencers and Instagrammers and Tik Tokkers who are in the same spot.

The idyllic picture of Greece you see in your mind – a little cove with a big shade tree, and cool calm water and few people around – does exist if you know where to find them (I’m not telling).

But most people seem content to rub elbows in crowded alleys on Mykonos and Santorini and Rhodes and Crete, some of the islands that have long lost a sense of being Greek.

Successive Greek governments, including the recent New Democracy, are hell bent on bringing in as many people as possible because of the money, and the environment be damned, largely looking the other way as unlawful construction took over public beaches.

Just ahead of the first round of May 21 elections, the government conducted the expected usual crackdown on unlawful building on Mykonos, AKA Mafia Island, ruled by the underworld and not any Prime Minister.

So there were some photo opportunities of a few demolitions but nothing about the gouging of tourists, especially by the notorious DK Oyster Bar that has a rating of 2 out of 5 on Trip Advisor but should be 0 and be on Rip Advisor.

It’s so bad that British media put out an alert warning visitors from the UK that they will be fleeced, and with deceptive menus hiding costs that brought bills of $700 for a few drinks, a salad and appetizers.

No government has done anything about that, or exorbitant prices on islands that keep Greeks from visiting and turn them into overcrowded, overwhelmed places to avoid at all costs in the summer.

Some customers who complained said they were harassed and felt intimidated by the staff, so where’s the squadrons of police that were sent to the island to make your visiting Greece experience safe and happy?

If Greeks could afford to travel – many can’t – they prefer places where you won’t find drunks dancing on tabletops to screeching music, paying $100 for a sunbed on a public beach usurped by private businesses, or hordes of Americans bumping into British soccer hooligans and loving it.

Writing for the site Travel OffPath, Christen Scalfano pretty much summed up what Greece has turned into, and why she preferred Albania instead, which could be the future Greece is facing in seeing people so turned off they head to other countries.

“I was ready for hillsides overflowing with cinematic white houses adorned with blue shutters; for some of the best beaches in the world; for fresh seafood and moussaka; for a peaceful getaway of a lifetime,” she said.

“Instead, I got overpriced, overdeveloped, overcrowded, and influencer-saturated disappointment,” but you won’t see that sentence in any of Greece’s campaigns to get you here so your wallet and soul can be emptied.

“The crystal clear waters of the Greek islands just didn’t live up to the hype when the price tag on a beach chair was over $100 and I couldn’t move two feet without bumping into another American tourist. Give me the Albanian Riviera over that any day,” she said, noting that country’s beaches and lack of crowds.

It’s not just the islands, as Athens is mobbed and Thessaloniki, the more cosmopolitan second-largest city and northern port, is becoming popular as an alternate destination and worth it.

So the Tourism Ministry and the long-dormant Greek National Tourism Organization are trying to get people to go to places like the northwestern city of Ioannina that’s on Lake Pamvotis and has some architectural gems.

“We’re moving beyond sea and sun. We want to prolong the tourism season in both time and space,” Olympia Anastasopoulou, Secretary-General for Tourism Policy and Development at Greece’s Ministry of Tourism, told CNBC Travel.

That includes more remote locations and overlooked islands such as Syros, Amorgos, and Milos as part of the All You Want is Greece campaign, and there are many more. Try Halki, near Rhodes. There’s no cars there.

″It’s our goal for those islands to expand more in seasonality, too. We would like it for the tourism flows to be expanded in other months,” GNTO Director of Tourism Promotion told the news site.

It’s too late to save Mykonos (Scamos) and Santorini and you’d have a better experience, and cheaper if they were reproduced in Las Vegas or Disneyland because that’s what they are now.

All those celebrities who visit or live in Greece in the summer don’t have to worry about the crowds because they’re on yachts or one of the many 5-Star hotels and luxury resorts being built to keep out the riff-raff in favor of the rich-raff.

So if you’re coming, go to Kavala in Eastern Thrace and Macedonia where there’s a Medieval fortress and old town, or Kalambaka in the north for the monasteries on cliffs, or islands like Kefalonia, Karpathos, or Folegandros.

There’s so many more, where you can sit in charming spots for coffee or lunch or at a seaside taverna that’s not a rip-off, eat where the locals and Greeks eat and be able to hear your own conversation. All You’d Have is Greece.

 

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