Travel warning for Greece

1. You may fall in love with this country. It is the easy for English speakers to visit because most people in the hospitality and transportation industry speak enough English to provide excellent service. I find Greek people very friendly towards visitors.

2. If you will check luggage, bring sun block location. I didn’t find it in supermarkets, and pharmacies want €18 for something I pay $8 in the US. There is a lot of sun even in October.

3. I felt very safe in Greece, and observed many locals don’t always lock windows and doors in the countryside. Unfortunately I did encounter some unpleasantry in Athens. I suppose it is not surprising for the anonymity in a large city to let some people think they can get away with doing crime.

I was on the way to bus terminal from Port Piraeus on Subway L1. Subway exit alternated between right and left side of travel direction in the first few stops. So I did not know which way to get out for my stop at Omonoia. I parked myself next to a door on the left side. I had my backpack against the wall and a small bag in front of me facing the crowd. It was about 16:00 and the train got even more crowded at the Monastiraki station. Before the train pulled into the next stop, two men moved toward me. I thought that was an indication for the door to open on my side, for I was getting off at this station. One of them looked like he was in a hurry to stand at the door. I crushed my backpack ever more tightly against the wall to let him squeeze past me.

When the train stopped in the station. The doors on the right side opened first to let out some people. No one around me was moving and I would be making a lot of commotion to surf across the crowd with my backpack bumping into everyone on the way. The guy next to me motioned for me to look to the door on the left as if that door would open any moment. It hadn’t. The guy at the door reached for up as if to find mechanism to open the door. I looked up with him, I looked out. The door opened, but for some reason the guy at the door paused. He did not step out onto the platform. I tried to say excused me… Next thing I know, there was a push from behind my backpack. I half stumbled across the door onto the platform. No one else followed. What was that about? I started walking towards the stairs. Wait, did I not zip shut the front pocket of my small bag? Hmmm. I don’t usually do that. I didn’t even pull out the phone since before I got on the subway train. Wait. Where is my phone? I paused. Searched for my pant pockets. I knew I placed the phone inside the bag before I got on the train. . Shoot! My phone is missing. Was I robbed? How could I be so careless? I even felt a guy’s hairy arm touching mine on the train. I had my left across the small bag. How and when did he reach inside? What story was I going to tell when I got home without my phone? I kept walking upstairs. There is no way I am going to get it back now. I paused. I turned back downstairs to the train.

A nice lady at the door of the next car motioned to let me squeeze in when she saw me walking casually towards the train. I shook my head to decline with a smile. The doors closed. I went by the window where the thieves stood behind the closed doors. I clenched my fists, gnashed my teeth, stared at them with all the disgust and rage inside me. I then pointed my right index finger at one of them and said “thieves”. My voice didn’t carry. It was probably more like I mouthed “thieves”… It was miracle that the train hadn’t pulled out of the station in what seemed to be the longest 30 seconds ever for a train stop. Even more miraculously, the woman that came onboard with those two guys extended her hand out toward me with my phone! Have I done enough good deeds and paid sufficient respect to Greek gods at ancient sites that something supernatural moved her? Was my angry stare scary enough even though they were safe inside the closed doors? Or did she just realized that it would be too much trouble to attempt breaking into my fingerprint protected iPhone? Whatever the reason was, I got out my first pickpocket victim experience rather luckily. I was so gleeful for getting my phone back, I forgot that I could have turned on the camera function and take a picture of the crooks.

After initially refusing to “buy” a packet of napkins from a woman shunned by everyone else in the bus terminal, I went back and gave her an euro. At least she asked for money instead of turning to pickpocketing.

A few days ago I notice a video clip on Facebook showing how robberies are done these days in Europe. The video clip is reported from Interpol. I haven’t found the source material on Interpol website, but it is definitely educational even if made up by actors. I saw something rather familiar to my experience in the shoving from behind technique. You should be able to view this video without signing onto your FB account.

I still have fond memories of my 2 weeks in Greece despite this incident, and I still have faith in Greek people. I just need to be more mindful when I use the subway next time.

Travel smart and travel safe.

Do not panic when you are cornered by people. Better get off at the next stop then to make it easy for them to pick your pocket.

Better yet, leave valuables at home. I saw many local Athenians use cheap flip phone. Avoid crowded subway trains if you have something thieves may like to pick.

Back to the index page for my travel in Greece series.


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