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Here’s my completely baseless theory on why the European Union admitted Greece to the eurozone (despite what seems like overwhelming anecdotal evidence that perhaps culturally/historically the Greeks and the Germans have much different methods for dealing with things like debt and taxes): Greece is a fabulous place to visit. Wouldn’t it be even more fabulous if Europe’s favorite getaway spot used the same currency so no one has to waste time getting money exchanged on long-weekend island-hopping. Yes, yes, yes. That would be lovely. Welcome Greece! Here’s the euro. Nun, wo ist das Schwimmbad?
(If you need a quick primer on the Greek financial crisis, the BBC has a helpful Q&A. And if you want more insight on how the financial meltdown ricocheted around much of the western world, but prefer your lectures come in entertaining narratives, pick up Michael Lewis’s Boomerang.)
First of all, Greece makes you feel awesome while you are there. We spent two weeks in the country and my hair has never been so naturally voluminous and my skin has never been so radiant. I’m not exaggerating here. And I think I just figured out how the Greeks can solve their financial crisis. Figure out what’s in your water and air and bottle it. Seriously. Do you know how much Creme de la Mer goes for!? $150 an ounce. Sell 3 billion ounces of that kind of magic serum: goodbye $407 billion debt, hello surplus. Think about it. (Maybe you can work a few German scientists into the bailout negotiations?)
It’s odd visiting a country during a major financial meltdown not because you feel the crisis but because you don’t. You still go out to eat, shop, and visit the sites like you’re on vacation because you are.
Yes, there were the nightly protests in Syntagma Square while we were there. We actually arrived the day before pensioner Dimitris Christoulas committed suicide in the park in front of Parliament. His death seemed to re-ignite the hopeless feelings many have about the prospects for a prosperous future.
And yeah, it was a little odd when the student groups on the Athens Happy Train booed when they drove by Parliament.
But our airbnb hosts bent over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed during our stay. At both of our apartments (one in Athens and one on the island of Syros), we were treated like family.
Let me assure you that the unrest was thoroughly contained. Like I said, we didn’t feel threatened or even bothered by the crisis. I make a point to say this because in absence of my out-of-the-box skin care solution to the crisis, Greece could really use a few more visitors.