Tuesday, July 21, 2020

In Greece ~ So, where you from?

'So, where you from?" our waiter asked as he set the cappuccinos to the side of the hand sanitizer bottle and ash tray; the ubiquitous centerpieces of outdoor tables at restaurants and cafes in Greece these days.

Coffee on Hydra island 

It is a question so routinely asked of us in our travels in Greece that we didn't even think about our answer. We are assumed to be tourists, never residents.

'We live in The Mani,. . .Peloponnisos," replied The Scout, adding, 'we are originally from Washington -- the state, that is -- in the United States.'

'Americans! I thought so!' exclaimed our server as if a mystery had just been solved. 'But you live here! I had wondered how you got into the country.'

Hydra, a Saronic island

It was a good question on his part because travelers from America aren't yet welcome in Greece or elsewhere the European Union for that matter.

The conversation took place shortly after we'd arrived on the island of Hydra (also Idra, Ydra) last week. The island had been a scheduled stop on our June 'holibob' but we were a bit too early. Hotels and restaurants there hadn't opened yet following the COVID19 prevention lockdown that kept Greece closed most of the spring.

Our home to Hydra in less than five hours

Since we can get there with a short road trip of four hours and a ferry ride of 30 minutes we decided to complete the 'holibob' with a three night stay last week on our favorite Saronic Island.

While we consider ourselves fortunate to be able to travel (and know that many of you reading this aren't yet able to do so), I must say there is a definitely a 'new normal' to it in this country, where we live as American expats.

Masks on public transportation - new normal for travel in Greece

The new normal includes the absence of tourists coming from America. The Covid19 numbers in the United States have landed it among countries on the 'not invited list' in the European Union. A mid-July review of that list, didn't change things - the list will be reviewed again on July 31st.

 As a result of that action American, Delta, Emirates and United Airlines have cancelled their summer flights linking Athens with a number of U.S. gateway cities.

No wonder our waiter was wondering how we'd managed to get in!

Our waiter explaining the fresh catch to 'the American'

The following evening at a restaurant overlooking the Saronic Gulf, the waiter serving us (pictured above) also asked, "So where you from?"  We gave the same response.  He flashed a big smile and said, 'You are the first Americans I have the pleasure of serving this year!'

View of the Saronic Gulf from the Sunset Restaurant - Hydra

So good was the meal and the setting that we returned to the restaurant the next evening. This time the waiter quipped, "Ah, I have the pleasure of serving the first Americans again."  We suggested he could count us twice - once for each visit. We all laughed but then he said, in an almost wistful tone, "Where are the Americans?"

Every table has a view it seems on Hydra

COVID19 prevention efforts have negatively impacted tourism here. Visitor numbers are down. Officials quoted in Greek media say they hope to see an upswing in August and an extended season into September and October.

Summer, especially on Greek islands, is decidedly a busy time even in times of less tourism. While there were many tourists, there were far fewer than we recall seeing during our summer sojourn to Hydra last year.

Metoxi ferry connects mainland with Hydra

The small Metoxi ferry that the we take from the Peloponnese mainland to the island was running at 30-minute intervals during a portion of the day last summer. On this trip it was running on the off-season hourly schedule. And five of those hourly runs each day had been cancelled.  We took the 10 a.m. Saturday ferry back to the mainland, had masks ready to put on until we realized we were the only two passengers on the boat.  We sat outside at the back of the boat. Two crew members were at the front. Three people were waiting to board the ferry on the mainland side.

Self distancing not a problem with fewer tourists - Hydra Island

Greek tourism folks are predicting that COVID19 is going to result in at least a 20 percent reduction of Greece's tourism revenue; a  revenue that was between 18 and 19 billion euros last year. Tourism accounts for about 20 percent of the country's GDP.

Masks are required on public transportation including high speed ferries

Greece finds itself in a delicate balancing act of opening up tourism for those many whose livelihoods depend on it while maintaining a determined approach to COVID prevention.  Just reading headlines last week we found celebratory stories about the first flights arriving at regional airports appearing next to headlines reporting spikes in the numbers of COVID cases.  Here a spike is considered going from a daily -countrywide count - of say, 24 cases to 50 or 60. It happened a few times since borders were opened and as a result, prevention measures have been stepped up. A mandate to return to wearing face masks in grocery stores was issued on Friday evening.  The populace has become a bit relaxed and it was time to tighten up again. Now, if caught not wearing a mask, we will be fined 150 euros.

Masks, I should add, are also required on public transportation, ships, planes, beauty salons, all offices and clinics providing medical services.

Just today a two-week closure of several border crossings with neighboring countries has been announced for non-essential travel. Again, a spike in numbers prompted the action.

Hydra harbor at nightfall
After I last wrote about the prevention measures taken at the Costa Navarino resort, I was asked if we were able to enjoy ourselves with such protocols in place.  The answer is a resounding, 'Yes!'  It does keep COVID19 at the front and center of awareness, but it also reminds you that prevention is being taken seriously by the Greek hospitality industry.

In other words, we have felt safe traveling in Greece.

Until next time. . .

We had plenty of time to think about travel during those long months of lock-down. One thing that became obvious was not to put off taking trips while we are able to do so.  We know how quickly opportunity can be taken away. And the headlines continue to remind us of how fluid the situation and how easily such lockdowns can be put into place, thus ending travel again.

Our thoughts are with those of you who are still traveling by armchair - we wish you well. Stay safe. Thanks for being with us today. Hope to see you back here soon! We hope you'll add a comment or send an email and let us know how life is going in your part of the world ~

Linking soon with -

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs but lived in the South for 2/3 of my life, I know I'll never be accepted as a true 'southerner.' My answer to 'you're not from around here, are you?' forever labels me as a Yankee, i.e. 'not one of us.'

    1. I know we aren't known to many in the village as anything other than, 'the Amerikani'!!

  2. Like you, we are also traveling again. We go to low-risk states to visit family.And in those places, almost everyone wears masks.

  3. So happy to have just discovered your site via my old friend Matt’s site! Blond haired blue eyed American living in Santorini 20+ years and I STILL get the tourist treatment, esp right now! Love this piece, I spend a month on Hydra almost every summer, my favorite place on earth! Last Sept spent the month sailing around entire Peloponnese also a huge favorite!!��

    1. And so nice to have you with us! Do keep in touch! Hope you make it back to Hydra this summer!!

  4. Jackie, Thanks for sharing your little trip! I have to say that I am staying home this summer. The safest way to travel I think is motorhome and that is not an option for me. I stick to day trips where I don't have to stay in a hotel or other accommodation. Have a great week. Sylvia d.

  5. There was talk of a travel bubble for Aussies to go to Greecce but we're a little out of control at the moment (not by world standards but for us it's heartbreaking) so I don't think we are going anywhere.

  6. Covid has certainly messed up my travel plans in a big way. I'm glad you were able to slip away and enjoy your trip!
    Thanks for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2020/07/sleeping-and-stretching-fulltime.html

  7. Oh, how lucky you are, to go to beautiful Hydra!
    We are not planning to go anywhere this year, except for trips here in Norway. We don't need to wear masks yet, but everything is organized to avoid Covid19 infection.

  8. How wonderful that you were able to get away and enjoy your trip! Love the photos!

  9. I spoke to a non-English speaking tourist in the big gardens in our capital city on Monday and wondered "how did you get into the country?". I think you are much safer where you are than in the USA and it must be lovely to travel around Greece without the usual summer tourist crowds. We have been staying close to home, but are planning a driving trip very soon. Western Australia is locked away from the rest of Australia and the world, so we are happy in our little bubble. Take care and happy travels!

  10. Hi - Just discovered your blog. I'm an American expat too - been living in Saudi Arabia for over 12 years now. I usually summer in Washington State in a small town called Olalla, near Gig Harbor. Looking forward to following your adventures.

  11. interesting intro about "residency"....
    love first and second photos...wonderful views.

  12. I wonder whether international travel will ever return to what it was. Under normal circumstances I would have returned from Australia last Thursday, but of course all my plans had to be cancelled. I was just reading a fairly dire report that projects that many airlines will go out of business, and that some countries may not accept overseas visitors until a proven vaccine has been implemented - and who knows when that may occur?


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