Visiting A Country In Crisis And Getting A Warm Welcome

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Tourists take photos from the open top of a sightseeing bus outside parliament in Athens, Greece. (AP)
Tourists take photos from the open top of a sightseeing bus outside parliament in Athens, Greece. (AP)

Tourism is down sharply in Greece, where one in five workers depends on the industry for employment.

Many travelers have been scared off by the photos in the news of massive demonstrations, tear gas, smoke bombs, buildings set on fire and protestors trying to storm the parliament building in Athens.

Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee says the images are causing a type of "front page, headline, crisis tourism."

But he says that's not the experience he had while visiting the country for three weeks with his extended family — from his four-year-old daughter to his 68-year-old father.

As Smee writes in the Boston Globe:

That’s the strange thing about Greece right now. It is a country facing a crisis, without doubt. Unemployment is perilously high; fear, insecurity, and a sense of injustice are in the air; the future — after a period of considerable prosperity and optimism — looks grim.

Who knows what the coming months and years hold? But for now, violence and crime, although reported to be on the rise, are still nowhere near as high as in the United States. The Greeks themselves, we found, are warmly, casually, universally hospitable. And a block from Syntagma Square — let alone in the rest of the country — there’s no sign at all of the civil unrest that dominates perceptions of today’s Greece.

Smee continues:

We did all the things one should in Athens: the Parthenon — an indelible event in anyone’s life — and the nearby Acropolis Museum; the National Archaeological Museum; the funicular to the top of Mount Lycabettus; the superb Benaki Museum; the Temple of Hephaestus; the Panathenaic Stadium; and, outside of Athens, the site of the great battle of Marathon and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.

All of this I will remember, all of it I hope to revisit. But just as much, I will remember being with eight other members of my lucky family in a vast and modern city full of other people, other families, getting on with life, in every imaginable circumstance.


  • Sebastian Smee, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for the Boston Globe

This segment aired on June 13, 2012.


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