|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|
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 -
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday