Due to a family obsession, many of my childhood holidays were spent on Greek Islands under big white umbrellas, avoiding the harsh sun and playing Pokémon on my Nintendo Ds.
It took a while to appreciate what Greece has to offer. Unlike other holiday destinations I heard kids in school talk about, the island of Poros did not have waterslides, safari drives and ‘kid’s clubs’.
Six times we have visited Poros, inside of a decade. Same hotel, same bars, same restaurants, same owners. Why?
Well, I only realised what my parents were so drawn to when I finally got my wish and found myself in a sea of obnoxious tourists in an unmemorable area of the Algarve that lacked one thing; Culture.
I remember standing at the bottom of the imposing Epidaurus Amphitheatre watching tourists looking rather pleased with themselves, franticly clapping and looking up steps that could once seat 14,000 Greeks. I remember standing above the profound Corinth Canal, not really grasping the fact it was constructed in the late 1800s by hand.
As a kid, the world is an extremely small place, usually consisting of what you can see in front of you, and what you can touch around you.
But even at such an ignorant age, Greece’s culture seeps in. Their kindness, their history, , their identity their culture.
You see, after six inconsecutive visits we are recognised in restaurants, the owners of the hotel we frequent know us by name; the sort of familiarity that breeds irregular moments requiring basic evasiveness, which you can take as you wish.
But this isn’t to be confused for a weak attempt of flattery or a coercive way of getting you into their restaurants; a country that boasted 26 million tourists in 2015, I doubt they remember everyone but it wouldn’t surprise me as this seems to be a Greek thing.
A country that has nothing to sell but itself, they are used to visitors and have a hospitable aura around them.
I can’t speak for every island. We haven’t visited the overpriced and over crowded streets of Santorini or Myknos, simply because it was never that sort of holiday. But you are better off visiting Greek islands that don’t have an airport (although the cruise ships will still find you) as you’ll avoid the toxic type of weekend get-away tourism.
A Greek Lesson
On a full ferry from Piraeus to Poros we all poured aboard since it was already 15 minutes late. We flashed our tickets to a tired attendant who wasn’t looking and made our way inside.
Cases were taken and clumsily piled into a corner. Once seated I noted a Greek man who was already dozing in a seat to my left. After a couple of minutes the cabin began to fill. An American man approached him and said, “I think you’re in my seat.”
The old man didn’t look up at first, but when he realised it was him he was addressing, he looked up and with the faintest glint of a smirk told the American, “this is Greece, you sit anywhere you want.”
In a society obsessed with rules and regulations and tourists who look for authentic Instagram experiences, Greece offers a different pace.
Don’t rush, here is not the place. Stop. Talk. Look.