Questions of Security

by Melissa Brunner

A few footnotes on our WIBW/Holiday Vacations tour of Greece. The most common questions I've been getting are about the security and political situation in the country.

The country is seeing a lot of public demonstrations right now. To get out of its financial crisis, the government had to make a lot of changes, and many of them involved concessions on the part of public workers. Retirement ages went up and annual bonuses taken away.

Our local guides told us most of the demonstrations have been peaceful. However, there was one day in May when they got out of hand. Those are the images we saw around the world, including on our 5pm news. The guides expressed frustration with the international media for feeding the impression that Athens somehow remains a hotbed for riots.

Not that the demonstrations don't cause disruption to the daily routine. The day we arrived, public workers were to strike in the afternoon, which meant the airport would shut down - no air traffic control! So the local guide kept having his phone ring with people needing to rearrange plans. When we got our hotel, a large group of teachers was demonstrating at the parliament building, across the street and in the adjoining block. Authorities shut down the streets, so we had to walk a couple blocks with our luggage but didn't experience anything else unusual. In addition, when we were on the cruise portion of our tour, we heard a public worker strike forced the Acropolis to close. So, again, inconvenience And, perhaps, disappointment for some tourists, but no threat to personal safety.

As far as the terror alert issued just before we left, I have to say I didn't notice anything unusual about our trips through the airports or any of the tourist spots we visited. Amsterdam's airport did require several passport checks and a screening where the agent asked my husband and I a lot of questions that started to make us feel suspicious (wanted our hotel receipts and stuff), but we're told it's always that way there.

My biggest source of nerves through the trip came from not knowing the language! Most people spoke at least some English, so even that fear was largely unfounded. Street signs were in both the Greek and the traditional English alphabet we use, which was interesting, too!




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