Greece's mixed feelings about outsiders

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Greece's mixed feelings about outsiders

Greece's mixed feelings about outsiders
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Tourism in Greece had earnings down 15 percent in the first three months of the year, and on the eve of its desperate elections tourists are clearly shying away from the country traditionally associated with an enviable place in the sun. Even parts of Athens usually prized by tourists are becalmed.

Apostolos Georgilis, who has been waiting tables since he was 15, said: “I’ve never experienced this before. I am 72 years old. I don’t think Greece has ever gone through this. It reminds me of the occupation.”

Tourism in Greece earns the country 15 percent of its total income, and provides work for every fifth person in the labour force. But with its debt trouble, visitor crowds are smaller.

German tourist Jurgen Stegner said: “We even avoid wearing typically German clothing. We don’t want to stand out because I believe Germans are seen critically just now.”

Greece’s financial and political torment has driven many people to try to pinpoint the causes. For decades, modern Greece has welcomed modern Germans, but places haunted by wartime suffering, like the village of Distomo, evoke a dread of fearsome outside forces.

Mass killing took place here in 1944, commemorated every year since.

Villager Nikos Papaleonidas gave his view: “Again it is the Germans who have brought these bailouts and troikas on us. They brought the troika that has trapped us, and we are starving. Many are starving.”

Ilias Nicolaou, also in Distomo, gave his painful personal analysis: “After 68 years, Germany is again about 70 percent to blame for our horrible situation, not through the warfare of the Third Reich, but by economic means.”

Some Distomo residents said they feel uncomfortable with the rise of the Greek New Dawn fascist party.

Another villager laid the blame squarely with the Greek political parties PASOK, New Democracy, SYRIZA and the communists.

In fact, Russians are more in evidence in Greece now, interested by a fall in property prices by as much as 30 percent.

Yannis Revithis, an expert in the business said: “There is an increase in demand of at least 200 percent from Russian buyers. The demand for tourist accommodation from Russians has increased by at least 100 percent.”

With the health of the Greek economy at stake, Russian investors unafraid that Greece might leave the euro group are likely to be welcomed.