Greece: A series of culture shocks

Beautiful Island Santorini

I am at the Greece Embassy for the mandatory visa interview. I am going for a wedding in Santorini – one of the many spectacular Islands in Greece.
The consular attaché advises me that Santorini is very cold at this time of the year and I should try going in the summer. As he gets ready to return my documents, I politely insisted that I love the cold weather (big lie!). A few days later, I was on the plane to Greece.

Despite being the only black visitor in sight at Athens International Airport, immigration officials were very friendly. A surprise for me was that the trolley did not come free. I had to part with Euro 5.

The domestic flight to Santorini took 20 minutes from Athens. As soon as we landed, our party of five was ushered into a van with a capacity of 12. Like our matatus in Kenya, our driver was in no hurry to leave. He dillydallied, apparently waiting for more passengers. We realised later that in Greece you have to notify the driver that you want it express otherwise; he will keep picking and dropping passengers without any warning to you.

 Greece Islands

Donkeys, Cats and Dogs
Our hosts were anxiously waiting for us with a sumptuous meal of lamb steak, a popular delicacy in Greece, and drinks. This journey was going to serve two purposes. First, we were here to attend the wedding and secondly it was a reunion of university mates. Much as we had a lot to catch up on, we had all travelled far, from different countries. We opted to retire early on day one.

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful blue sky. The landscape here is breathtaking. Seeing it from our villa all I wanted to do was to declare my undying love to someone. The day started on an upbeat mood. Thira Village in Santorini Island is situated on a cliff. It has a narrow sidewalk and is certainly, not a place for those afraid of heights. As the day unfolded, we decided to explore the picturesque village.

Someone suggested we try a local tavern. The only way to get to the tavern in town was either to walk or ride on a donkey. Now, please imagine a 6ft, 130 kilo Kenyan male trying to hop onto an ass. I had not been on anybody or anything’s back since I learnt how to walk. After some (very brief) consideration, I decided it was a suicidal exercise and opted to walk.

In Greece Heineken is served by the litre as opposed to the export 330ml we enjoy in Kenya. The population of stray cats and dogs in the city is astounding. Hotel’s even offer plates for cats and dogs in the rooms for those visitors who feel ‘sufficiently philanthropic’ to the animals.

I got the feeling that these animals enjoy the tourists’ visits as much as the country does, and the council has a silent policy that guests must feed these animals. Santorini is definitely a smokers’ paradise with no regard to the non-smoking visitors. They puff away anywhere including the dinner table.
Wedding festivities in Santorini last 3 days, with lots of food, drink and dancing.

AcropolisCulture shocks in Athens
En-route back we decided to sample Athens for two days. It has a beautiful heritage and some of the ruins of the oldest temple of Athens still stand. The ancient Acropolis (city on a hill) is a must see.

Like other major cities in the world, traffic is a menace in Athens. I could not fail to notice the contrast between the superb highway from the airport and the very narrow streets in Athens. Perhaps the 2004 Athens Olympic Games account for the difference.

Protestors in Athens are also part of the tourist attractions. Protestors permanently camp outside Parliament and our informal guide commented that they are part of the tourist attraction as there are protests 24/7.

In stark similarity to Kenyatta Market where one samples pieces of roasted meat before one decides where to eat, in Athens restaurant agents who look no less than 45 years old beckon one from the doors to come in and eat. That was a complete culture shock for me.

In Athens do not take toilet signs too seriously; otherwise, you get the shock of your life when you meet members of the opposite sex in the male toilets.  In addition, once the cab driver discovers that you do not speak Greek, he will take the longest route to your destination. Another lighter side of Greece is that you will always get your bill right after you order, before being served.

The nightlife is the real deal in Athens. We sampled their music and moves, hoping that Eros – the goddess of love – would strike. Greece is a treat for those who adore nature, appreciate God’s marvelous creativity in designing nature and its serenity, and makes one’s spirit settle.

Flights to Greece cost Ksh46,000 from Nairobi to Athens
Hotel Rooms cost from Ksh 6,000 per night
Holiday Apartments from Ksh 7,000 per night

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