Greece, Switzerland, and Italy

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Trying to see three countries in eight weeks is a bit daunting. It was only possible to see bits of each, but the general impressions gained are:


A generation ago the people seemed so warm and friendly. Now, some of that remains, but there is the overlying sense that the need for money is a much greater priority. The increase in the number of tourists visiting all the hotspots shows that this very important industry is performing well in economic terms, but a little too well for the comfort of the tourists. The biggest shock was to see the decline of Athens. Once a beautiful and relaxed city, it now has a multitude of people, who are definitely not of Greek origin, on its streets trying to sell suitcases, handbags, toys, umbrellas, squashy plastic tomatoes, watches, and various other items. The police occasionally chase them around, but in a half-hearted sort of way that is obviously intended not to catch them - they probably would not know what to do with them if they did catch them. In and around Omonia, once a thriving and pretty part of the city centre, a collection of rather unsavoury characters lounging on the streets and the desolation of abandoned property makes it now a scary place to be (Greeks don't go to Omonia these days was the message from three different people). On the walls there is graffiti: much of it shows such anger that one must wonder what is brewing in the under strata of society. Are the politicians listening? The recent demonstrations that turned deadly indicate they may not be.


This is a country surely designed by a landscape gardener, at least in the Alpine areas. And the ongoing care that the Swiss provide makes them worthy custodians. And to get around and see it there is an excellent transport system, all accessible with the Swiss Pass, which for a set number of days gives unlimited access to trains, post buses, lake boats, some cable cars and mountain trains, the urban buses in many cities, and discounts on many other systems. This Pass was particularly useful as the variable weather meant criss-crossing the country in a rather inefficient manner, in terms of travel, to stay out of the rain: a practice that was largely.

The food was the disappointing factor in Switzerland. It seems to be based mainly on meat and cheese. Vegetables and fruit are absent from most menus; the fruit on the breakfast table was almost always from a can. Yet the country has a well developed agriculture. Perhaps there is a reason, but it is not obvious.


It was always a joke that Italy had had as many governments since World War II as there were years. This has perhaps bred into the Italians the ability to get on with life despite government, not because of it, which has become a rather overt and unattractive attitude of putting themselves first. The rail pass for Italy is not worth the cost unless it will be used for a lot of long distance journeys. The local trains are not expensive, and neither should they be for the quality they provide. The food in Italy was a bit mixed. Venice, as expected, was just terrible. Milan, surprisingly, seemed to have little to offer except rather unpleasant pizza and similar fast food. But the quality and variety did seem to improve with the distance in going South.

  • The Journey Out
  • Home Again
Trip Start Aug 13, 2010
Trip End Oct 07, 2010

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