Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

How I spent my Greek summer vacation

Most people who vacation in Greece have tales of equal parts debauchery and zen, great food and swimming in emerald seas. Not me.

After 10 years of enjoying peace and quiet during the city summer exodus, I’d been looking forward to more of the same by staying in Athens in August. Turns out my waiting was in vain. My list of “Pros and cons of Athens in August” doesn’t apply to coastal suburbs. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

As Betabug and I wrote previously, Athenian neighborhoods are typically empty.  Seaside? Not true. The vast majority of my neighbors – affluent or not – never went anywhere. Even the paliatzi and karpouzia trucks continue to circle like vultures. For the few that did leave, there were plenty of residents from the center and visitors from abroad to take their place because…

Nothing is closed. Clubs and cafes are pulsing on beaches only minutes away, boats jockeying for position, and the manavis, bakeries and grocery stores open. That means plenty of traffic, crowds of roasters and frenzied shoppers grabbing items like “it’s the last day of their lives” in the words of my fiancé. Well, at least our electricity and water weren’t cut like last summer, and we got to spend quality time with good friends.

On August 15, the only one sleeping was the Theotokos. Our next-door neighbor decided 7:00 was the perfect time to mow his lawn, and another fired up his chainsaw at 8:00. The streets were not empty, as is often the case in the kentro.

And if you’re wondering why I didn’t get the Hellas out of here and put myself out of my misery, it’s because both our bosses gave us last-minute notice that we were literally forced to take 2 weeks vacation. (Is it truly a vacation if you didn’t want to go?) Therefore, we had no way to plan or book anything without paying a fortune, and we both hate traveling in August because of the heat and crowds; the only time I’ve traveled in August in the past 9 years was to attend my brother’s wedding.

So for this period of rest and relaxation, I was presented with two lovely and equally enticing punishments packages:

a) “His vacation is my incarceration”: Stay home and do double the cleaning and cooking in a 32C (90F) kitchen because my male counterpart does little of the former (and even less while “HE’S on vacation”) and none of the latter, work on contracted projects and sleep on the couch because the bedroom is a furnace;

b) “Build by day, have breakdown by night”: Accept my future father-in-law’s invitation to the village where 10 days of renovation projects, a sleeping room with 3 other people, no AC and “the thing” (summer edition) awaited us.

In addition to package ‘a’ and sweating bullets, I dug up 5 years worth of documents — and the unpleasant memories they conjured — to prepare to file a lawsuit against someone in Greece who owes me a great deal of money, and attended a funeral.

So did anything go on vacation? Well, aside from our 3G connection (now fixed) and my sanity, the sweet gionis departed for greener pastures. Maybe he went to his village to find a mate since this seaside suburb hasn’t lived up to the hype. Lucky little nightbird. :)

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  maria v wrote @ September 2nd, 2008 at 09:46

hilarious – i fully sympathise with you.
in august, our neighbourhood here in crete is full of those blooming athenians – they take over the children’s park, watch tv full blast on their verandahs until 2am, and generally fill the air with their jabber. i can relate entirely to this post!

  thundera wrote @ September 3rd, 2008 at 23:34

The reason why the athenians didnt leave this year i believe lies to the fact that most of them had to “file” their applications for the Κτηματολόγιο.For us it was a bit different: we were able to distinguish a difference in the neiborhood. Less cars ,no people in the street and no people in the balcony’s and of course noone except us in the building :p we were able to play Guitar Hero III , Dance Dance Revolution and Wii really loud if we wanted .We didnt went anywhere like you but at least we enjoyed ourselfs as much as we could! Im looking forward to the time that we are able to take some days off and go somewhere.

  Cheryl wrote @ September 5th, 2008 at 11:14

We didn’t take a vacation either. We tried going to Halkidiki for a few days, but only stayed one night. Gigi wasn’t comfortable and the tired old sigrotima is actually hell. I don’t understand how those people consider that relaxing. They bring all of their crap from the city to summer locations. People just can’t live and let live here. I was happy to stay home even though like you, we were hot!

  graffic wrote @ September 8th, 2008 at 00:49

@T: we will go :)

This last week you could see “the” traffic jam in kifisias/katexaki. It was a mass of cars. In the tunnel, outside the tunnel, in the crossroad. Motorbikes through the pedestrian area, cars parked in the most strange places and the bus arriving 30 minutes late.

Athens is back to… life?

  Kat wrote @ September 12th, 2008 at 01:49

M – Well, if it’s any consolation, you may have them for August, but I’ve got them the rest of the year.

T – It might be that or the fact that 40 percent of Greeks in a recent poll admitted they didn’t take vacation due to high prices. I envy that you at least had some peace and quiet.

C – I hear you, girlfriend! My only days on the beach were spent with smoke wafting in my face, cheesy music blaring from speakers and people screaming at the top of their lungs as a result. Relaxing.

G – Welcome back to chaos!

  Katerina wrote @ September 12th, 2008 at 20:55

Hi there! I’ve been a big fan of your site and my (american) mom even more so while wading through piles of papers to get her citizenship here. Do you ever get together with your readers? It seems like you have a built-up fan base of really interesting people with whom it would be nice to meet up (without all the expat complaining) for coffee sometime.

take care,
Katerina (synonomatn, also american in Athens)

  KT wrote @ September 13th, 2008 at 20:28

When I moved to Greece, I thought I would find a job like I had in the States, where I can get a 4-5 weeks vacation and go all over Greece like I used to. Out of the 100s’ people I met, I think only 2 girls went to France for a 2 week vacation. All the others went to the near by beaches, and went to the village in the weekend. No one had money to spend on vacations. In my 2 year stay there, I only managed to go to the beach 4 times and twice to the village. Now I thank the Lord for moving back to the States, and can’t wait to come back next summer for 4-5 weeks..

  Voula wrote @ September 18th, 2008 at 23:31


I would like to know what is Greece like for the Christmas holidays?

I have not taken any vacation in over one year and was considering going to Greece for Christams.

Any suggestions.

Thank you,

  Siderite wrote @ September 24th, 2008 at 09:38

I enjoy your writing style and I am glad I could tear you apart from travel memoirs written by women only :). Thanks for the comment.

  Kat wrote @ September 27th, 2008 at 10:51

K – Hi and thank you. I have contact with a few people, but on the whole I cannot befriend everyone (unfortunately) because hundreds of people visit the site daily, and there’s no way I can keep up that pace, along with a full-time career, established long-time friends in several countries, everyday responsibilities at home and my family. People seem to forget that the site itself is maintained in my spare time and takes hours to update, write, code and comment, and I don’t get paid. I am not an organization with staff or unemployed, and therefore do not arrange or attend meetings outside my professional and personal circle.

I’d also like to say that there’s nothing wrong with expats complaining if they like. Sometimes it helps to vent/speak with people who have been through the same things, instead of getting a blank stare, being ignored/alienated or feeling alone. Further, the worst complaining I’ve ever heard are from Greeks, and they tend to be much harsher, which is completely their right, i.e., My fiance has lived all his life in GR and says things I never would.

KT – Most people I know in GR who can afford vacation, aside from the rich and connected, are people living off their parents’ money, those working two jobs or fortunate souls who were given a mortgage-free property by their family. The other thing to consider is many do like to stay in GR for vacation because they believe that nowhere in the world is better, whether or not they’ve actually had a different experience in which to compare.

V – You can read about Christmas and New Year’s traditions in Greece in separate articles on this website, however one’s experience depends on a number of factors, i.e., Where in GR you’ll be, what you expect, if family is involved, etc. Everyone has a different opinion, so you really need to decide for yourself since it’s your money and your vacation.

S – Hey thanks for stopping by. In my profile, it only says that I tend toward travel books by women. That means I enjoy writing by men also when I’m not…like yours, for example :)

  Sarah (American in Lykovrisi ) wrote @ March 21st, 2013 at 10:45

I have two small children ages 4 and 7, and I wanted to know if you or any of your readers know of daily summer camps. They are too small to send to overnight camps. I personally speak very little Greek. Therefore, it is important that I can find something that will continue their development of speaking and reading Greek.

Thank you!

Kat Reply:

Kindercamp is for kids 6-12:

Skouras Language and Sportcamp is for kids 5-14:

Sportcamp is for kids aged 6-14:

I don’t know if they would take a child younger than stated, but all are for multilingual children not fluent in Greek.

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