A history of holiday habits in Greece: Some head for seaside, others for mountains

«Don’t go in too deep,» shrills a woman at her offspring in one of the daily seaside scenes that represent holidays for most Greeks – who have been luckier than other nations in this respect. After the terrible war years of the 1940s, the country began to return to normal. The beaches at Palaio or Neo Faliron, Alimos or Glyfada gave way to concrete. But Greeks began to buy seaside plots of land, with the better-off buying them on the coast toward Sounion, on the Evian and Corinthian gulfs; some of the more daring headed toward Aegina, while the hoi polloi turned Salamis from a chic seaside resort into an island of numerous tiny plots. Sea or mountain? The big question, for those who were able go on holiday, was whether to strike out for the mountains or for the seaside. It should be remembered that children born from the end of the 1940s to the beginning of the 1950s had a greater need of fresh mountain air, which helped them overcome the effects of a poor, inadequate diet. Tuberculosis and glandular problems were rife in schools and parents opted for the mountains at any price. Not to mention the fact that practically no one knew how to swim. Over the years, things began to change, nutrition improved, country houses became the fashion, people acquired more money and holidays became a standard in their lives. The early 1960s saw rapid economic development taking off in Greece. The inhabitants of Athens, whose numbers had begun to increase at an alarming rate, rediscovered their villages as summer resorts. The two-week holiday led to trips back to their places of birth, where, apart from bathing in the waters of tradition, the family enjoyed both the countryside and cheap, almost cost-free, holidays. ‘The sea, the sea!’ The 1970s saw the populace savoring the fruits of the restoration of democracy. The sea became a refuge from an increasingly unbearable existence in the city, as though the Greeks had suddenly remembered Xenophon’s «Anabasis» and the shouts of «Thalatta, thalatta!» (The sea, the sea) that greeted the sight of the waters. Prosperity and the EC changed things. Magazine layouts introduced a new type of Greek, promoted by private television. The overnight stars discovered – and developed a following in young people – that Myconos, Santorini and Ios were an essential ingredient in life. Greeks thus changed lifestyles and became Europeans, dismissing all the beauties the country had to offer and concentrating exclusively on the islands. Whether student or worker, employee or employer, each Greek citizen who can afford it heads for a short stay on an island every summer.