Greece’s high points and flaws

20 Feb

The view from Mycenae

Greece is the country I visited over the past week. I’d been to Crete before, but had never been to the mainland. Over the past week, I had the opportunity to travel around the mainland. I visited the major sights in Athens, the ruins in Delphi and Mycenae, and hung around Nafplio.

I love Greece. I loved the laid-back attitude of the people, the ruins, the natural beauty, and the food. But while Greece is a great country to travel in (especially in the winter without all the tourists), I don’t consider it to be one of my top choices in Europe.

There are some major flaws in the Greek travel experience that will have to addressed before I love it as much as I love Italy, Spain, France, Austria, or the UK. The recent economic crisis certainly has not helped.

What I loved about Greece

  • The Ruins. They really are that incredible. The Acropolis is my favorite historic sight I’ve visited in my life. Not only are the ruins spectacular, but the views from them are spectacular too. The ruins in Greece are remnants of the civilizations that founded the “The Western World” as we know it to be today.
  • The Food. Menus are long and ingredients are fresh. The Greek food in Greece is far superior to the Greek food in America. When it comes to Greek cuisine, I think the disparity between the food in the home country and food in other countries is bigger than many other cuisines.
  • The Scenery. Greece, outside of Athens, has incredible scenery. The mountain peaks, dusted with snow in the winter, rise in the distance above beautiful ocean inlets. Bus rides here are some of Europe’s most scenic by far.

What I didn’t love about Greece

  • Athens, outside the Acropolis area, is an ugly city. What you’ve heard is true. The city is vast, sprawling, polluted, full of pickpockets and scammers, and reckless drivers. Athens’ sights are amazing, but the city doesn’t have the beauty and charm of Rome, Paris, Madrid or even London. For Athens to be on par with the great capitals of Western Europe would have given me a much better first impression of Greece.
  • Service is slow, and not the friendliest. I get that Greece is laid back and this is part of its charm. I don’t want a waiter to constantly rush around to every single guest and ask “how is your food” every 10 minutes like they do in America. But Greece is too far on the opposite end of this spectrum. Waiters just sometimes don’t seem to care about serving their guests, and when you make eye contact with them to signal that you’re ready for the bill, you can’t help but feel they are doing everything they can to avoid looking back at you.
  • The Public Transportation is severely lacking, compared to most of Europe. The economic crisis has made it even worse. In the area around Nafplio in the Peloponnese, even the major ruins have little or no bus service to them. Many tourists opt for taxis, as even Mycenae has only a couple of public buses go there a day from Nafplio.
  • The museum scene is limited. Athens has three fantastic museums. The Archaeological museum, museum of Cycladic Art, and the Acropolis museum are rightfully well-regarded. The other cities have smaller museums, but I think that Greece as a whole needs more world-class museums. Even the museums of Athens just aren’t as great as the Met, Louvre, British Museum, or the Prado. Also, the hours of the museums are far more limited than in other European countries. The Archaeological museum in Nafplio, for example, closes at 3pm.
  • There are other countries in the region with more bang-for-the-buck. Greece is more expensive than Eastern Europe, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, outside the highlights like the Acropolis, I don’t think the sights are any more interesting than in many of these other places.

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