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A Greek Warning October 2012 PDF Printable Version E-mail


A Greek Warning October 2012

Based on the recent experiences of several motorhomers, personally known to us and reported below, this is a warning to take greater care now when camping or when leaving a vehicle unattended in Greece.

Barry and Margaret Williamson
October 2012

Please Contact Us if you want to share your experience

The unfortunate experiences recorded below took place in the southwest corner of the Greek Peloponnese, far from Athens. The major population centre is Kalamata, along with the towns of Koroni, Methoni, Finikounda and Pylos in the Messinian Peninsula.

We start with Rod's experiences on his way to, and whilst at a campsite near Finikounda, followed by extracts from other emails we have received. We have also added some general information about the financial and social situation in Greece, including a good source for keeping in touch with events out there.

Rod

On his way to Greece in his motorhome, Rod was robbed on a German Autobahn Service Area.

You can read his own account at: Motorhome Security. Arriving at Camping Finikes in Finikounda, Rod found that he was just about on his own. He then wrote to us the following:

“Since I wrote to you the last time, we had a group of Germans here on a seminar. They took two cars to the waterfalls (a few km northeast of Pilos) and when they came back to them, one car had a side window smashed and a jacket stolen, thankfully nothing in it. The other car had four windows smashed but nothing stolen. The Pilos police told Andrea (a court translator and the campsite's summer receptionist) that that was the fifth incident in 2 weeks between Pilos and Kalamata. So, caution is advisable.”

The campsite where Rod stays has started locking the gates at night, something previously unknown in a country where most campsites don't even have gates or locks. This action follows caravan break-ins on a nearby site.

Maggie

Maggie and her husband are very experienced motorhomers, spending many long summers in the southern Peloponnese. She wrote:

“After our Italian break-in (on a motorway service area), we learned to be more cautious even when we were tired. We heard about thefts from cars and motorhomes in the Gialova/Pilos area, when we mentioned perhaps going again to Camping Erodios (at Gialova), from an Austrian couple on Camping Thines (at Finikounda). They said last year a motorhome was broken into from the far side while the couple were having coffee opposite - they didn't see the culprits.”

Paul Strong

Paul lives in Greece, where he owns and manages the Saint Fridays holiday villas near Koroni. Maggie knows him and drew our attention to a video he made about the recent commemoration of Ochi Day in Koroni. This annual Greek public holiday commemorates with pride the 28 October 1940, when Greece said 'No' (Ochi) to an ultimatum from Italy, whose army had occupied Albania. This rejection of Mussolini's aggression led to the German invasion in April 1941and a 4-year brutal occupation by Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

In his video, Paul talks of the increasing crime in his area, coupled with a reduction in police numbers, the absence of patrol cars and the probable closure of the police station in Koroni. Watch: Paul Strong's Video.

Viv

Motorhomer Viv is currently in Greece, camped with her husband near the splendid Venetian port of Gythion. They know Greece well from a number of long-term visits and they have also worked in Bulgaria. Viv writes:

“A young German couple with two young babies, who we met here in the summer, had their traveller broken into and suitcases stolen when they left it to visit a beach.

Also, a German couple going down the Mani on their motorbike found themselves greeted by a large 'F*** Germany' sign in the road, so turned around and headed back to the campsite vowing, after 20 years of visiting Greece, never to come again. They wrote to their local newspaper advising others not to come!

We have had several V-signs from truck and van drivers. Being fair haired and with a Doberman, perhaps we look Germanic!”

It is important to realise that most European visitors to Greece, especially those in campervans or motorhomes including us, are taken for Germans - and that Germany (rightly or wrongly) is blamed for Greece's current plight.

Anne

Another motorhomer, reconsidering plans to visit Greece in the near future, writes:

“I've been warned off Athens by my cousins.”

Rose

Rose, an ex-motorhomer and now an ex-patriate, lives in a small village in the southwest Peloponnese. She gives some advice on how to safeguard an unguarded car.

“Surely the moral of the Greek car burglaries is not to leave anything in your car that you care about and never to lock it. I live here, never lock my car and have never had any untoward occurrences, as I never leave anything important in the car. I have arrived back to the car in touristy places and found the door wide open - but no windows or door locks smashed, so no inconvenience.”

It must be said that Rose has a Greek-registered Lada. It would be interesting to read a motorhomer's or caravanner's response to this advice!

Henry

Chef and experienced motorhomer Henry wrote from Spain:

"So Greece is not a place to relax in anymore, what a nasty experience. The German Motorway incident is a bit surprising too. I thought the Germans had greater macht over the crime scene on motorways than anyone else. We all expect this sort of thing in Spain, especially around Madrid and the French motorways wouldn't be the same without its crime reputation but Germany and Greece!"

"Your collection of Greek incidents is a salutary reminder of the need to be prudent when travelling. For those travellers who feel the reports and collection is 'neurotic' I can only say that ignorance is indeed bliss. I just hope they never have to eat the word 'neurotic' because it is very indigestible. Of course, if you stay in or with the vehicle a lot then the risks are reduced, but not everyone wants to do that and that is probably one of the reasons their perspective is different. That is understandable, but a break-in is more than just the sum of the missing and repairable. It has a very harsh effect on your trust and view of the people and surroundings where you are. It takes a long time, if ever, to get back to that lovely feeling that everyone else is 'neurotic' while you enjoy the bliss of ignorance. Unfortunately it is always a case of experience being different to theory!"

Joe

Planning to visit Greece in the spring, Joe writes from Scotland:

"It makes for melancholy reading; I sympathise with the poor Greeks who must curse these criminals not just for thieving but for damaging one of the few hopes Greece must have of saving itself - the tourist industry."

Background

Here is some background information that supports, and perhaps explains, this increase in crime in a country that was well known for its safety.

Immigration: In August this year, the New York Times wrote:

“The growing population of immigrants in Greece — about 800,000 are registered, and an estimated 350,000 or more are in the country illegally — adds to the anxieties of many Greeks, who are seeing the government's once-generous social spending evaporate. They complain that the foreign residents are depriving them of jobs and threatening the national identity.”

Immigrants add over 11% to the original Greek population of about 10 million.

Unemployment: After 5 straight years of recession (with a 6th forecast for next year), running at around 5% per year, unemployment stands at over 25%; with youth unemployment at 55%. Over a half of the workers in the construction sector have lost their jobs.

The Roma People and the Extreme Right: In August 2012, the Digital Journal reported as follows:

“A branch of Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi), in Kyparissia in the Greek southern Peloponnese, is considering establishing a security brigade in a village with a large Roma camp.

A party member of Golden Dawn has issued an invitation through local media for “men aged 15 to 70 to be alert and join forces” in the village of Oichalia, Messinia (just north of Kalamata), Ekathimerini reported. The ex-police officer is potentially recruiting men to form a security brigade.

The choice of Oichalia is significant as the village has a large Roma camp whose inhabitants are responsible for a crime surge in the area. Digital Journal spoke to a local Greek businessman who had information from the police in the area pertaining to Roma crime, and the reasons why police action is futile.

Homes and land in the area are frequently robbed, and cars stolen to be sold on as scrap metal. Petty crime is rife, along with begging and harassment. However, any attempts to arrest Roma perpetrators are thwarted by the mass arrival of armed Roma at the scene. Up to 100 armed gypsies arrive at the scene if police, who have limited man-power, attempt to make an arrest, outnumbering police and outranking them in fire power.”

Keeping up to Date: The latest on the unfolding economic and political situation in Greece can be found in the excellent online English language newspaper, Ekathimerini, updated daily.

This piece could be read along with our March 2012 article: The Greek Tragicomedy.

Finally, German motorhomer Bernd Pesch writes about a visit to Greece with his wife Anni in October 2012.

I am Bernd from East Frisia in Germany. I am retired and since 2 years my wife Anni and me are travelling through Europe with our motorhome. And searching the net I detected your webpage, the best I ever read up to now.

In October 2012 we stayed 4 weeks in Greece - as Germans. We did it, although we heard about too many bad 'facts' by the media, especially for Germans. From 2002 till 2004 we lived and worked in Larissa (Northern Greece) so we learnt a little bit how Greece is functioning, and your page is like a mirror of Greece for us. And today we are 'free' and so we wanted to see again our Greek friends in Larissa and the nice country. So in October we took the 'landline' to Greece via Serbia and inside Greece we drove about 3000 km cross-country. We heard about the changes, economy and security by our friends and we saw the changes during our travel.

Since 2004 the prices exploded by more than 150% plus. And the salaries dropped down during the last 2 years enormously. Our friend gets 800 Euros per month as a teacher and has to survive in Larissa with 3 children. She cannot afford diesel oil for the heating system of the house and installed 2 ovens, for which she needs nearly 3 tons wood in winter to warm up the house . 1 ton costs 1500 Euros.

In the northern regions, even in the nature parks, organized wood theft is going on, nobody cares about. We visited a Monastirio (= monastery or convent) near Larissa and heard by the chief lady that they lock the doors every night and leave the dogs out for protection. The amount of robbery did increase very much in that mountain region and the hunters of the small village, where the Monastirio is located, patrol every night with weapons through the hills to protect the village. I saw some of them by my own.

For me as a German, I must say I had not a single bad situation in Greece, although we did not often use a campsite, stayed overnight doing 'wilding' and spoke to many people. Maybe it was because we speak a little bit Greek or because we are 'shadowed' by our Rottweiler dog ... or simply luck. Everybody was super friendly, even the police passing next by our 'wilding location' gave friendly greetings. People surely do discriminate between 'higher politics' and 'simple people'.

By the way, I think we met Rod, the friendly British guy who wrote an article about security, in the Peloponnese. Best wishes to him, if possible. And we regret his bad experience in Germany; unfortunately the number of such incidents is increasing. But the German press is filtered, I guess. They do not name the real background and reasons for the increase in crime in German ... .always 'politically correct', a German phenomena. Sorry, but I do not want to become too much political.

Our intention was to stay during the wintertime on Peloponnese but we are back home presently, because our northern type dog could not stand the heat and got sick. May be we do another trial next winter to 'survive' in Greece some months, depending on the 'overall tactical situation'.

Your webpage with all information is outstanding, I love to read it. And please excuse that my English sometimes is a little bit peculiar, sorry, I am not a native speaker.