Consul General Iliopoulos, Professor Nikos Alexiou and HALC’s Endy Zemenides Say Why.
By Vicki James Yiannias
While financial investment in Greece and building business partnerships with Greek companies are two ways that Greek Americans can help Greece during this economic crisis, there is a third way, one with particularly delicious summer potential…potential that does, indeed, include the most delicious food you can find anywhere (we’ll mention that first), and the inimitable feeling of breathing in the effervescent light of Greece heals, nourishes, and calms the spirit.
The Honorable George Iliopoulos, the very popular Consul General of Greece in New York, new in our city since January 2012, also recommends a third way we can help Greece: choose Greece as a vacation destination–not only this summer but throughout the year–and invite non-Greek friends to enjoy the amazingly diverse, unforgettable regions of Greece together with you.
“The simplest way to assist the country is by going on holidays there,” says Mr. Iliopoulos, “Everything Greek Americans have ever loved about Greece is still there…not only the sea and sun, but also the villages and cities. As they know better than all of us, Greece is a very diverse country, so instead of going only to their own villages, they can visit other areas as well, to learn more about the country. It’s the easiest way to help Greece. People will be going on holiday anyway, so instead of going to Puerto Rico, for example, why not Mytilene…or anywhere else, in Greece! Nothing, really, has changed besides the fact that now Greece needs them more.”
Asked what he feels is an appropriate answer when our non-Greek friends express trepidation about visiting Greece in what they might consider to be a troubling political climate, Mr. Iliopoulos was incredulous, “How can a democratic process, or election, be considered dangerous? I hear that too, sometimes, and I wonder: do people stop visiting a country because it is holding elections? It’s strange to me as a concept. We are talking about a Western democracy, not a country that is holding elections for the first time, when one might not know whether there will be clashes in the streets, or not. We are talking about a country that has been holding democratic proceedings for so long. I don’t see that there could be any danger.”
In answer to those who might be referring to street demonstrations, Iliopoulos noted, “There haven’t been any for so long, and those that did take place were confined to the center of Athens. What does an island destination, for example, have to do with a demonstration that ‘may’ take place–but probably not–in Syntagma Square? It’s irrational. Furthermore, even if there would be a demonstration in Syntagma Square, let’s say in the morning, by noon everyone has gone home. So what?I really don’t see a problem.” He added humorously, “Unless that’s the day you want to catch a taxi to go to the airport from Syntagma and the Square is closed!” The media can sometimes create a vicious circle of doomsday scenario-type coverage of these instances, he said, “I wouldn’t worry.”
Mr. Iliopoulos pointed out another incentive to visit Greece this summer, “Prices for airline tickets to Greece have gone down, and this cost benefit also applies to other prices the visitor will encounter in Greece, such as hotels. However, the expensive segment of the market does exist, as well.”
Mr. Iliopoulos’ comments on visiting Greece cause us to sit up and review our summer plans. Let’s go to Greece!
The GN notes that here is something for everyone in Greece, and that means for every generation. Very generally speaking, and of course, with exceptions, Greek American visitors to Greece fall into two groups, each with its own destination proclivity.
One group, those who emigrated here, and their children, who are first generation Greek Americans, basically plan trips around visiting their places of origin, their beloved chorio, where they will connect with their relatives and the past. The other group, usually second, third, and newer generation Greek Americans who may not have the same attachment to their ancestral villages are drawn to visiting other areas of Greece. And according to the findings of The Next Generation Initiative’s Got Greek? national survey for college students of Greek descent, the “new second generation of Greek Americans” and beyond, “do care about Greece–not necessarily about political matters–but to visit, the music, the food, the culture”, says Professor Nicholas Alexiou of Queens College.
Greece offers countless wondrous landscapes, an infinite variety of culturally fascinating sites, and simple, unbelievably relaxing, everyday pleasures that never fail to convey the joy of living.
Here is just a handful of suggestions. Tried and true: get on a boat to any island! Visit less traveled mountain destinations, such as Dimitsana, in Arcadia, or Mt. Pelion, in Thessaly–one of the most gorgeous places in Greece in this writer’s estimation, (both are places in which traditional architecture prevails by law).
Let’s Go to Greece This Summer!
“Thank you to Greek News for re-launching the “This Summer We are going to Greece” campaign.
All around the U.S., Greek Americans are asking how they can help Greece. There is no more immediate and satisfying way to help Greece this year than by spending your vacation there.
The negative media portrayal doesn’t change the deep blue of Greece’s waters, the way the sun energizes you in Greece, the beauty of Greece’s landscape. Nowhere else can your Hellenic soul get such satisfaction as you can visit historical sites, hear the Greek language every day, and just be around millions of fellow Greeks.
It is always important for those of us in the Greek Diaspora to keep our ties with Greece strong. This year it is more important than ever. Enjoy your vacation AND help your motherland – visit Greece this summer.”