This first-person article is the experience of Montreal student Ben Mulchinock.For more information about CBC’s first-person story, see common problem.
When I shared my plans with others, I first noticed my complicated feelings about booking a trip to Greece.
When I tell them, an undercurrent of guilt will spread. I oppose the government’s suggestion-to jump the gun for simple leisure. For some people, I skillfully took advantage of cheap deals and fewer tourists. In the eyes of others, I am taking risks unethically and unnecessarily.
But after Greece opened up to tourists and Canada announced that it would phase out its quarantined hotels, I took the opportunity to book my non-refundable ticket-not sure what would happen next.
My international flight was surprisingly smooth. I taxied past Montreal Airport, and the security officer didn’t take a second look. My flight felt like a Greek naming day celebration, and the Athens Border Guard couldn’t wait for me to set foot on their land. The negative result of my $150 COVID-19 test has never been seen.
The loosest rule is in the dormitory. After setting up 12 beds (half capacity) in my room and seeing the lack of measures, I started the countdown until my second vaccine was fully activated.
Over the next two weeks, my French travel companions and I discovered that the rules for keeping our distance ranged from strict enforcement to just mild advice—depending on where you are. The Plaka neighbourhood in central Athens and the tourist resort of Aegina are safe from COVID-19; Pagrati, which has more residents, and the smaller Agistri island, seem to be less vigilant about the virus.
Another thing that makes my experience so unique is how mild the usually chaotic peak season is. Anyone who has visited a European capital in July knows that there is no peaceful day in the city center. However, this is the birthplace of Western civilization and is sparsely populated.
Blogs and articles warn us that the queues for the most monumental sites such as the Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum are hard, but when we visited, we just waltzed through the main entrance and admired the spectacular ruins at our own pace. I began to reflect on myself: This may never happen again for many years.
But the most memorable thing is my conversations with the locals and their views on the coming foreigners. In my many conversations about drinking coffee or beer in various parts of Greece, I found a general trend in two views.
The first sentiment, mainly from baristas, shopkeepers and restaurant owners in the country, is optimism. A couple owned a traditional tavern in a small street in Athens. They spent a lot of time talking to me about how the recovery of tourism after 18 months of quiet has helped a lot. Another boss was very happy to see my friend and I sitting at his table, and provided us with more free snacks and shots than ever before.
Most people seem to be almost shocked to see the body of a Canadian, and are much more patient with my broken Greek than they need.
On the contrary, we find that the younger generation is more indifferent and even hostile towards the return of tourists. They are engrossed in their lives and struggles, and foreigners have little meaning to them.
In the historically radical Exarcheia neighbourhood of Athens, a student gave us an overview of police brutality against immigrants and continued radicalism against immigrants. He told us that there is a growing movement against Airbnb rentals — some see it as a symbol of gentrification and the government’s increased efforts (violent) to remove refugee shanty towns from tourism in the area.
In the end, this story made me reflect on my travel problems and put many of my benign complaints in the right place.
During the two weeks I traveled to a sometimes unprepared and usually mid-air state, I learned how people experience this epidemic in the ocean far away, and few people can see Greece.
I will do it again immediately.
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