After a rousing start to keeping up on the blog while on vacation in Greece, I failed miserably after the first week.  So it’s catch up time.

When we said we were planning to go to Greece again this summer, so many people said one of the following things:

  1. Is it safe?  Why yes it was.  I never felt nervous or threatened on either of the islands or in center of Athens.  Not even a little bit.
  2. Are you getting a great deal because of the economic problems.  The simple answer to this is no.  Just no.  We paid as much (or more) as we did the previous year and airfare was much higher.  I sort of thought the airfare would drop at some point to encourage people to go but it never happened.
  3. Are things still open or are all the businesses closed down.  Pretty much everything was open for business.  I did see a few stores shuttered that weren’t the prior year when we were in Athens. But on the islands, everything was pretty busy.  We did notice that folks maybe weren’t necessarily eating out in the main town as much, but perhaps eating at home more and then heading out for drinks.  But the mood was still quite festive every night.

The one thing I can say, without a doubt, is that the current economic crisis is not the fault of the regular people of Greece.  Just like the U.S. downturn, the problem lies (in my opinion) more in the hands of the politicians and the policy makers.

Overall we consistently found hardworking regular people everywhere we went.  The hospitality was top notch. From the hotel front desks to the housekeeping staff to the maintenance workers, everyone was exceedingly friendly and helpful and seemed genuinely happy to help.  Our business was welcome.

Restaurants were much the same story.  The waiters and waitresses we encountered worked their butts off for whatever salary they made and smaller tips than American hospitality workers expect.  We had been admonished by our Greek relatives for overtipping.  “The rules are different here. It’s not like America.”  But in my mind, good service is good service and it should be rewarded.

The friends and relatives (and strangers) we spoke with about life in Greece given the crisis referred to it simply as “the crisis” but there was no sense of panic.  People spoke of 10 percent pay cuts coupled with increased work hours with a kind of “what can you do” attitude.  But they were on vacation and I didn’t want to press with annoying “but aren’t you worried” kinds of questions.

The one part of the Greek economy that I wish we could mimic in the U.S. is the ferry system. While we rode ferries last year, we were more or less taken by the hand by our relatives.  This year we rode four times on our own.  And never have I seen a more efficient process than the loading and unloading of these monster ferries.  They were on time. Did the quickest turnaround I have ever seen and were overall comfortable and a pleasure to ride.

Contrast that with our return flight when we connected in Philadelphia and had seven – yes seven – time changes on our return flight all in the course of 45 minutes. It became comical as my cell phone rang each time to “alert” me of this change in schedule.  I think USAirways should head to Greece and study the ferry system.  Or just give up and go out of business.

Bottom line for me.  Don’t blame the Greek people.  They are working as hard as ever, often for less money and putting in longer hours.  They are each doing their part to keep the economy going.